While eugenics today is castigated as ‘pseudoscience,’ the eugenicists themselves might say that the chief difference between progressives then versus now, is the latter is hindered by ‘sentimentality.’
E.A. Ross, Letter to Charles McCarthy, January 30, 1907. (As found in Rudolph J. Vecoli’s “Sterilization: A Progressive Measure” in Wisconsin Magazine of History, Spring 1960. LINK: wisconsin-sterilization-progressives-21585 )
For my own part, I am entirely in favor of [compulsory sterilization]. The objections to it are essentially sentimental, and will not bear inspection. Sterilization is not nearly so terrible as hanging a man, and the chances of sterilizing the fit are not nearly so great, as are the chances of hanging the innocent. In introducing the policy, the wedge should have a very thin end indeed. Sterilization should at first be applied only to extreme cases, where the commitments and the record pile up to an overwhelming case. As the public become accustomed to it, and it is seen to be salutary and humane, it will be possible gradually to extend its scope until it fills its legitimate sphere of application.