When I was in middle school, the bus route would take us past a mysterious, old campus with an array of decaying brick buildings.
I always thought it was dark and ominous looking.
Little did I know, a century prior, hundreds of people had been committed and sterilized there.See, back in the Progressive Era, the campus was known as “the Wisconsin Home for the Feebleminded.” Indeed, it was just one of many facilities like it across the United States.
These facilities were the policy of Progressive Era eugenicists who, in a practically religious way, saw the State as being the primary vehicle of social reform.
Their version of social reform, however, was to eliminate the “indigent, insane, epileptic and idiotic” from society by making sure they couldn’t “further their kind.”For the victims, just dancing at the bar could earn you a sentence in one of these facilities.
I’ve been fascinated with this place ever since the days I watched it go by outside the school bus window.
Just what was it? What happened to people there? Why was it made? Why did folks think this was OK?
All these questions swirled around my head every time I saw it.
So, two years ago, I decided to get as many answers as I could, and told anyone and everyone this story.
In this newsletter, we’ve been talking about how to find “what they’re not tellin’ you” out for yourself. There may not be a better example of it than the episode I ended up making.
Watch it today for free, below.
This article first appeared as an email to Patrick MacFarlane’s newsletter. If you liked it, be sure to subscribe here.