Vermont Eugenics Survey: The Impact of Henry F. Perkins

The state of Vermont had pride in its strong heritage and immaculate landscape in the late 19th and early 20th century. However, during this period, public leaders, intellectuals and members of academia, began to congregate amid concerns of a cultural deteriotation. The massive influx of French-Canadian, Italian, and other European immigrants posed cultural challenges to Vermont's vision of retaining the old colonial stocks. The integration of these new demographics were thought to compromise community traditions and institutional expression of protestant ideals. This fear led to the birthing of the Vermont Eugenics Movement. Before Henry Perkins's arrival, the movement consisted of various assistance relief programs, with the purpose of mitigating shortcomings in public education, child welfare, and poverty rates. With the arrival of World War 1 and the impeding health concerns due to the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Vermont Eugenics Movement truly took form. Vermont's extremely high rates of draftee rejections due to physical and mental abnormalities caused concern amongst state leaders. As the Vermont Eugenics Movement kicked into gear, the Children's Aid Society of Vermont worked to further develop and implement programs to increase child welfare, as well as to "rescue" children from unsuitable homes. By 1925, biologist Henry Perkins used his past knowledge of human heredity, combined with inspiration from his student's past work with eugenics, to take the lead role in the Vermont Eugenics Survey. Perkins's goal was to merge eugenics with progressive social reform in Vermont, which resulted in the implementation of policies which served to "cleanse" the Vermont genetic stock. Our goal here is to observe the differences in pedigrees from before and after Perkin's leadership and partnership with the Vermont Children's Aid Society. We have attempted to contrast the number, quality, and general relevance of the pedigrees pre and post 1925.