Scott Brown, Ladies Against Feminism, and Eugenics

Ladies against Feminism recently reposted a short article from Scott Brown’s blog. The article consists of a paragraph of introduction and a quotation from Teddy Roosevelt.

Today, the idea of having lots of children is looked upon with disdain, as if you hate the planet or have become one of those parasites of nature that needs to be restrained. Here is a blast from the past from a speech Teddy Roosevelt gave on motherhood in 1905:

There are many good people who are denied the supreme blessing of children, and for these we have the respect and sympathy always due to those who, from no fault of their own, are denied any of the other great blessings of life.

But the man or woman who deliberately foregoes these blessings, whether from viciousness, coldness, shallow-heartedness, self-indulgence, or mere failure to appreciate aright the difference between the all-important and the unimportant–why such a creature merits contempt as hearty as any visited upon the soldier who runs away in battle, or upon the man who refuses to work for the support of those dependent upon him, and who though able-bodied is yet content to eat in idleness the bread which others provide. (Quoted in What to Expect When No One’s Expecting, 174-75)

Theodore Roosevelt, “On American Motherhood,” National Congress of Mothers, Washington, 17 July 2013, Speech.

I feel like Scott Brown and Ladies against Feminism posted this before taking the time to learn what Teddy actually believed, in total, about parenting and childbearing—namely, about who should do it and who should not. Teddy Roosevelt didn’t want just anyone to have children, he wanted the right sort of people to have children—and he was quite worried that the right sort of people were going to be outbred by the wrong sort of people. Here’s a quote from a letter Teddy wrote six months before giving the speech quoted from above:

Society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind. It is really extraordinary that our people refuse to apply to human beings such elementary knowledge as every successful farmer is obliged to apply to his own stock breeding. Any group of farmers who permitted their best stock not to breed, and let all the increase come from the worst stock, would be treated as fit inmates for an asylum. Yet we fail to understand that such conduct is rational compared to the conduct of a nation which permits unlimited breeding from the worst stocks, physically and morally, while it encourages or connives at the cold selfishness or the twisted sentimentality as a result of which the men and women ought to marry, and if married have large families, remain celebates or have no children or only one or two. Some day we will realize that the prime duty – the inescapable duty – of the good citizen of the right type is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type.

In introducing his Teddy quote (the one at the beginning of this article), Scott Brown says that “today, the idea of having lots of children is looked upon with disdain, as if you hate the planet or have become one of those parasites of nature that needs to be restrained,” but what he is missing here is that Teddy Roosevelt actually felt just this way about the poor and those he considered “unfit”—that they were parasites of nature and needed to be restrained. In fact, he was in favor of preventing those he considered undesirables from having children altogether.

I wish very much that the wrong people could be prevented entirely from breeding ; and when the evil nature of these people is sufficiently flagrant, this should be done. Criminals should be sterilized, and feeble-minded persons forbidden to leave offspring behind them. But as yet there is no way possible to devise which could prevent all undesirable people from breeding. The emphasis should be laid on getting desirable people to breed. This is no question of having enormous families for which the man and woman are unable to provide. I do not believe in or advocate such families. I am not encouraging shiftless people, unfit to marry, who have huge families. I am speaking of the ordinary every-day Americans, the decent men and women who do make good fathers and mothers, and who ought to have good-sized families.

Teddy Roosevelt’s paean to parenting—the one quoted by Scott Brown and Ladies against Feminism—must be understood within its classist and racist context. Roosevelt very much wanted to deny “the supreme blessing of children” for those whom he considered unfit, and his efforts to encourage “the right sort of people” to have children were based in his fear that “if among the men and women who make up a people there is a selective elimination of the most fit, as a result of those men and women failing to marry and have children, the result must necessarily be race deterioration.”

If Scott Brown and Ladies against Feminism want a quotation about the universal importance and blessing of child bearing and parenting, I suggest they find someone else to quote—someone who didn’t ground the importance of having children in a racist desire to outbreed undesirables. Unless, of course, Scott Brown and Ladies against Feminism actually mean that Good Christians (TM) should be producing large broods of children so as to outproduce their spiritual inferiors—and if that’s what they actually mean, they might try being more honest about it. 

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A Letter from Jesus and Living in Fear
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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