In this article, Dorothy Roberts, the scholar I cited in my last post, links the long history of forced sterilization of poor Black, Brown, and Indigenous women to what is apparently occurring in at least one ICE detention center in Georgia. The past isn't past.
Think controlling conception and birth is a straightforward "women's issue"? Think again, taking sterilization as an example.
According to legal scholar Dorothy Roberts, sterilization became the most popular form of birth control in the U.S. in the 1970s, but a significant number of procedures were performed on poor women of color in coercive circumstances. A court case originating in 1973 discovered that 100,000 to 150,000 poor women had been sterilized annually in federally funded programs and that half of those women were Black. In Puerto Rico by 1968, more than 1/3 of women had been sterilized under the auspices of a "population control" plan begun in 1950. One quarter of Native American women were sterilized in reservation programs in the 1970s, 3000 cases of which occurred in 4 hospitals run by the Indian Health Service from 1973 to 1976. Many of these procedures were performed without adequate (or any) consent, under coercion or threat, with deceptive record-keeping, and/or for financial gain or training purposes. In the late 1970s, the Committee to End Sterilization Abuse developed a set of measures, described in the article below, to prevent further abuses.
At the same time, Roberts reports, many doctors were reluctant to grant white women's request *for* sterilization procedures. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advised hospitals and doctors to use the "120 formula" in determining eligibility for sterilization procedures: women could obtain a tubal ligation only if their age times the number of children they had equaled 120 AND they had letters of support from two physicians and a psychiatrist. Representatives from the National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood thus opposed the measures proposed by the Committee to End Sterilization Abuse because they would further limit white women's access to sterilization procedures.
Clearly, then, there was a two-tiered race- and class-based system governing women's ability to control their own childbearing. Mobilizing for reproductive justice must take these intersections into account.
(citation: Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, Vintage Books, 1997/2017, 90-98; article below from Mpls Tribune, July 17, 1981, 2B)
The Minnesota Historical Society's "Votes for Women" online exhibit is up! Check it out!
Unfortunately, COVID interrupted our work on the oral history project related to this exhibit, but two of the activists I interviewed -- Vangie Castro and Carolina Ortiz -- are featured in the short video on the exhibit's landing page. Take a look! At some point in the future, you'll be able to read and listen to their full stories, along with those of the nine other activists I interviewed. They have important words for us in 2020, as the right and responsibility to vote takes on ever greater importance.
#WomenandVotingRIghtsOHP #shevoted #theworkcontinues #votingismoreimportantthanever #vote2020
A good lesson in the limitations of the 19th Amendment, the intersection of race, gender, and class in advancing white women's political power, and the long fight for justice by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian American women.
The activists I interviewed for the Women and Voting Rights Oral History Project continue the work of expanding the franchise so that we might all have a say in our country's future.
It's been a while since I've posted, I know. My oral history work has come to a standstill thanks to COVID-19, but the shutdown gave me the time and space to focus on my book manuscript. We're steaming ahead toward a March 2021 publication -- and we have a title and book cover!!
I love working with the Minnesota Historical Society Press and my fabulous editor, Ann Regan!
#Boothgirls #BMHoralhistory #historymattersevenduringapandemic
At its core, oral history is about listening to others, about setting ourselves aside to imagine someone else’s world, to see through someone else’s eyes. It’s not about appropriating others’ experiences or speaking for them or claiming their insights as our own. It’s about recognizing the respect and dignity and authority that is everyone’s due. This listening is important work, especially for those of us who have power and privilege that is systematically denied to others, that bestows on us a taken-for-granted right to speak. Anger and grief and injustice demand a hearing. If we don’t listen to a whispered request or a reasoned argument or a logical claim or an emotional plea or an angry demand, righteous fury will erupt.
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