Constitution Day Virtual Talk Held

Marywood University’s social sciences department hosted a virtual talk by Erika Grimminger, ABD, lecturer in the social sciences department, titled “Go Forth and Do Not Multiply” as part of the Constitution Day events at the University.

In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individual states had the right to forcibly sterilize persons who were deemed “defective” by society. By discussing the case, Buck v. Bell, this talk will consider the implications for the woman and her family at the heart of this case, as well as the role that eugenics played in the federal government’s intervention in the private lives of people who were considered “unfit” citizens.

Ms. Grimminger said, “I learned about this case from a course in public health at Binghamton University. This subject has also been touched upon in other courses and is relevant to various other courses, including Disability History, Federal Government, and Sex and Law, to name a few.”

A case that has never been overturned and is still on the books, the facts of the case are that Carrie Buck, a “feeble-minded woman” was committed to a state mental institution. Her condition had been deemed present in her mother and daughter by state officials. A Virginia law allowed for the sexual sterilization of inmates of institutions to promote the “health of the patient and the welfare of society.” Before the procedure could be performed, however, a hearing was required to determine whether or not the operation was a wise thing to do. Did the Virginia statute that authorized sterilization deny Buck the right to due process of the law and the equal protection of the laws as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment? The U. S. Supreme Court found that the statute did not violate the Constitution. This conclusion and subsequent trials, including the Nuremberg Trial, where eugenics was used as a defense, will be examined and discussed.

Erika Grimminger is currently finishing her dissertation for her doctoral degree in the History of Medicine, Science, and Technology at Binghamton University. She earned her master’s degree in history from Villanova University and her bachelor’s degree in social studies secondary education from Juniata College. Ms. Grimminger teaches Ethnicity and Diversity and U. S. History courses at Marywood University.

Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by 39 brave men on September 17, 1787. For additional information on Constitution Day at Marywood University, contact Adam Shprintzen, Ph.D., assistant professor in the social sciences department at Marywood University, at, or call the social sciences department at the University, at (570) 348-6288 to learn how to log into the talk by Erika Grimminger.