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Eugenics and the poor law : the Minority Report

Webb, Sidney (1910) Eugenics and the poor law : the Minority Report. Eugenics Review, 2 (3). pp. 233-241.

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"The existing Poor Law operates almost exclusively as an anti-eugenic influence; notably in the laxity of its provision for feeble-minded maternity, in the opportunities for undesirable acquaintanceship afforded by the General Mixed Workhouse, in its inability to search out defectives and wastrels who do not apply for relief, and in its failure to provide any practical alternative to the Outdoor Relief now afforded to tens of thousands of feeble-minded or physically defective parents. To deal with one aspect only of the present system - as things stand at present the Poor Law Authorities cannot even try to check the continued pro-creation of uncertified mentally defective persons. Indeed, such influence as they exercise in the granting of relief to such persons is all the other way. It is not generally known that some fifteen thousand babies are born in the workhouse every year. To the feeble-minded woman, or to the woman who is mentally and morally degenerate without being actually imbecile, the Poor Law offers free and unconditional medical assistance at the time of her confinement. Thousands of these 'unfit' mothers treat the local workhouse or Poor Law infirmary simply as a free maternity hospital. They come in year after year throughout their child-bearing period; and having received, at the expense of the rates, the most skilfiul care that modern medical science can provide, they go out again, taking their infants with them, only to return as a matter of course and of right when their next confinement draws near." - Introductory paragraph.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: An extended précis of a lecture delivered to the Eugenics Society at Denison House, Vauxhall Bridge Road, London S.W., on December 15th, 1909. Follow the link for the full text of this article. Reprinted in The Eugenics Review, 60 (1968): 71-5.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
K Law > KD England and Wales
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2013 13:58
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2015 16:02

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