California's past and present display a public fascination with genetic science and engineering. Beginning in the early twentieth century, California was home to an extensive eugenics movement. Convinced that ideas of better breeding and genetic selection were central to settling the Pacific West, many European American migrants to California supported practices such as involuntary sterilization, immigration restriction, and racially-biased IQ testing. Some 1/3, or 20,000, of the 60,000 sterilizations performed in the United States from 1910 to 1970, occurred in California under the aegis of the state government. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, California has again taken the lead in marshalling public resources to explore the curative possibilities of genetic manipulation.
Despite California’s importance to the history of hereditarian thought and policies, there have been few cohesive attempts to examine of the state’s eugenic past and reflect on its implications for contemporary issues of health, genetics, and welfare. Bringing together scholars, legislators, artists, journalists, students, public interest advocates and community activists, this one-day symposium will provide an innovative forum for the exploration of the eugenic implications of the California dream.
A public university located in the state’s capital, California State University Sacramento is the ideal site to host this conference. In addition, this symposium will represent an occasion for the university community to discuss the legacy of Charles M. Goethe, a prominent Sacramento eugenicist (1875-1966) who made substantial financial contributions to CSUS, and after whom the campus’s arboretum is named.