A Special Hell: Institutional Life in Alberta's Eugenic by Claudia Malacrida

By Claudia Malacrida

Utilizing infrequent interviews with former inmates and staff, institutional documentation, and governmental information, Claudia Malacrida illuminates the darkish historical past of the therapy of “mentally faulty” young children and adults in twentieth-century Alberta. concentrating on the Michener Centre in pink Deer, one of many final such amenities working in Canada, a unique Hell is a sobering account of the relationship among institutionalization and eugenics.

Malacrida explains how setting apart the Michener Centre’s citizens from their groups served as a kind of passive eugenics that complemented the energetic eugenics application of the Alberta Eugenics Board. rather than receiving an schooling, inmates labored for very little pay – occasionally in houses and companies in pink Deer – lower than the guise of vocational rehabilitation. The good fortune of this version led to large institutional development, power crowding, and bad residing stipulations that incorporated either regimen and striking abuse.

Combining the strong testimony of survivors with a close research of the institutional impulses at paintings on the Michener Centre, a unique Hell is vital studying for these attracted to the irritating prior and troubling way forward for the institutional remedy of individuals with disabilities.

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As such, it permitted testing of younger children than medical diagnosis would permit, with a stronger ability to discern the level of defect (Rafter, 1997; Trent, 1994). Drawing on Binet’s scales, Goddard developed his own instrument, which despite being criticized even then for being too inclusive, too easily administered, and too inaccurate, was used by the AMO in its member institutions and by eugenicists more broadly (Trent, 1994, p. 137). Goddard’s instrument permitted a new set of categories based on Binet’s mental age typology and a new level of statistical (if not conceptually sound) accuracy, and included the following labels and measures: • idiots: individuals who tested at scores achieved by normal children who were less than one or two years of age • imbeciles: individuals whose tests scores were within the range achieved by normal children between three to seven years of age • the feeble-minded: those who tested at the normal 8- to 12-year-old level • morons: those who somehow were able to pass for normal but who were degenerate, criminally inclined, sexually profligate, or otherwise arrested at the level of puberty For Goddard and those who used his scale, this “upper-grade feeble-minded” or “moron” group was particularly dangerous because they were sneaky and difficult to detect through simple observation, and had adult capabilities, such as licentiousness, without possessing the morality to curb those propensities (Trent, 1994, p.

In its own history, the Michener Centre notes that vocational training provided students with skills that kept “permanent trainees constructively employed for part of each day” and gave trainees competencies in such activities as shoemaking and repairs, which were used for “the good of all trainees” since these skills were used to keep the institution running (Alberta Social Services and Community Health, 1985, p. 10). In addition, inmates were taught skills and given workfare opportunities in the community and in 14 A Special Hell sheltered workshops, performing menial and undervalued work that had little effect in making them marketable as workers outside of these arrangements.

In most advanced and industrializing countries,9 the social problems attached to urbanization and industrialization of the late nineteenth century gave rise to moral panics about dangerous classes who threatened the progress of these nations. Members of new immigrant groups, the poor, and single women were all disproportionately represented among those identified as socially or morally unfit (Brady, 2001; Dowbiggin, 1995; McLaren, 1986; Noll, 1998; Schoen, 2001). Women were particularly worrisome to eugenicists because it was widely assumed that being mentally deficient was tantamount to being morally deficient.

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