To whom it may concern,
As part of the University’s commitment to inclusion as expressed in its mission statement and the Moonshot for Equity Program, we thought it fitting to bring attention to some previously overlooked publications authored by Samuel Christian Schmucker, for whom the Schmucker Science Center is named. In those publications, Schmucker espoused reprehensible ableist, racist, and sexist views associated with the eugenics movement.
The Center was named after Prof. Schmucker in 1963 “…for his outstanding teaching contributions in the field of science.”1 Indeed, Schmucker was one of the most beloved science teachers in the formative years of West Chester State Normal School. He was recognized as a national expert in the field of evolutionary theism. Schmucker saw the purpose of science education as an education of “spirit. It is concerned with the child’s outlook on the world.” “The real purpose of nature study,” was “to uplift the moral life.”2 This dedication to teaching made him a popular educator, and his reputation in his own field made the naming choice, at the time, an easy one. But examining his career through a modern lens reveals a pattern of concerning statements which have no place in a modern academic setting.
As a science professor at West Chester, Schmucker authored The Meaning of Evolution in 1913. In its final chapter, “The Future Evolution of Man,” the professor talks about raising the pedigree of humankind to improve the world of the future. It is a future that has eradicated people with intellectual disability. On the subject of intellectually disabled persons having children and families, he predicts “It will not be long before society will learn to protect itself against such poisoning of the human stock.” He also theorizes “It will not be long before society will see to it that such a life leaves behind it no strain cursed with its fatal weakness.”3 He emphasized this idea again in a 1914 speech in which he proclaimed, ““The blight of feeble-mindedness is hanging over humanity. This tide must be stemmed: they must not be allowed to bring others of their kind into the world. We must segregate them, with profitable labor if possible, for life, and not for a few years.”4 These startling comments—advocating mandatory, life-long incarceration with forced labor to eliminate intellectual disability from humanity—demonstrate that as committed to education as he claimed to be, Schmucker neglected the education of those who needed the most help.
Schmucker’s views about intellectual disability were a part of his actions and publications on race, which show white supremacist viewpoints. As early as 1913 he spoke at a New York Conference on the subject of “Race Improvement”.5 After his retirement from West Chester from 1925, he expanded his commentary on his ideas of a racial hierarchy. His 1925 book Man’s Life on Earth is filled with racial profiling based on physical appearance, as well as racist stereotypes about how black people “are more emotional than either of the other types of people” and, in his clearest statement of white supremacy, that “The white race is probably the last evolved of the three, and also, in most respects, the most modified. It has certainly responded most rapidly to civilization, due not a little to its superior adaptability and to its inventiveness.” Finally, he claims “It is taken for granted by a great many observers that a mixture of any two of the three great races produces a hybrid with the bad qualities of both and the good of neither… There can be no question that hybrids of the dregs of each race are inferior, and it is the dregs usually that mix.”6 This despicable caricaturization demonstrates that Schmucker is an unfitting eponym for our science building.
Schmucker’s concerns for the future of the white race also are manifest in how his writings heavily featured concerns about preserving traditional gender norms. Discussing a new “type” of woman who is more independent, he pondered “Will she reluctantly at last confess that a woman is not a man, and a woman cannot satisfactorily live a man’s life to the end?” He also posits that a woman’s life is not complete without motherhood.7 With efforts to close achievement gaps among women and POC, these students deserve a space dedicated to a figure who shares their vision for success.
These statements were made by Schmucker in public writings and appearances, in which he identified and benefited from his standing as a professor at West Chester State Normal School. We would like to have an opportunity to publicly decry Schmucker’s eugenicist views, by renaming the building after another WCU facultyperson whose career is more aligned to our stated values.
Samuel Christian Schmucker Chronology
Context: 1907, First Eugenic Sterilization Law approved in Indiana
Lists the sequence of Chautauqua speakers. “August 11 to 16—Prof. Samuel D. [sic!] Schmucker, West Chester Normal School, West Chester, PA—Series of lectures, “Race Improvement.” [“Race Improvement” was understood as a euphemism for eugenics, and generally understood to be a discussion of how to maintain the supposed white biological supremacy over other races.]
- 258 “To a certain extent we are slaves to our heredity, but not by any means to any such extent as to make us hopeless, unless our heredity is miserably bad.”
- 259 – “There may be now and then a child so feeble-minded as to be unable to decide the course of its own life. It will not be long before society will see to it that such a life leaves behind it no strain cursed with its fatal weakness.”
- 261 – “Under such circumstances [where “acquired characters cannot be transmitted” to improve an offspring’s biological heredity, as had once been assumed] is it to be wondered at that the eugenicist is hoping to raise the strain? Any improvement he can bring about is not only valuable for the generation in which it comes but is carried on into the generations which follow. This is the hope that strengthens and sustains him in his effort. The science of eugenics is so new, so little is surely known concerning the transmission of human characters, that (262) no one is able as yet wisely to say what course is to be pursued in improving the race. But the problem is so interesting and its outcome so overwhelmingly important that men will never cease striving to know, and may, before many years, begin wisely to guide us in our efforts to provide a finer stock.”
- 262. “Heretofore our efforts at improving the strain have been confined to cattle, chickens and plants. An almost unalterable repugnance rises as soon as we peak of improving the human strain. Visions, if not stories, start up at once, of experimental matings of human beings, and of all other unspeakable abominations which no decent man expects to happen or even wishes to happen. If there is one thing in human society the value of which has been demonstrated through the unending ages, it is the monogamic marriage. All ideal workers must point to the life-long union of a strong, vigorous, clean-minded and clean-lived man with a similarly fine, strong, clean-minded and clean-lived woman.” [this is a consistent point of emphasis for Schmucker: he is at pains to make clear that eugenics must reinforce monogamy.]
- 264 – “There is one taint from which society has the right and the duty of freeing itself, so far as in its power lies. This is the trait of feeble-mindedness. Of all the calamities that can befall a human being, feeble-mindedness is, perhaps, the worst. From most misfortunes it is possible to recover; with most of the rest one may exist without detriment to the race. To be feeble-minded simply means to hark back to the level of our animal ancestors, without regaining their power to guide life.”
- 265 – “…man without his instincts or his intelligence is more helpless than the brute. Students of sociology are making clear to us that a large portion of the criminality of the work, much of the looseness of life, and a large part of the alcoholic excesses are due to this taint of feeble-mindedness. Recent investigations have made it clear that one feeble-minded family in a community may, in the course of years, poison the life of an entire state. The Jukes family in New York, the Kallikak family in New Jersey, [the two most famous of the “eugenic family surveys,” the latter authored by Schmucker’s former colleague at West Chester State Normal School] have shown the awful possibilities of descent from a single feeble-minded ancestor. Prisons, almshouses, and houses of shame owe their population in no small degree to this bitter curse. It will not be long before society will learn to protect itself against such poisoning of the human stock. Nothing is more clear to the investigator of this subject than that the one overwhelming cause for feeble-mindedness is feeble-mindedness in the parentage”
- P. 266 – “Every attempt to examine large numbers of school children shows a sickening proportion of those who are distinctly feeble. Every little community seems to have its boy or girl who is what is known as silly. Such people rarely live long lives without leaving behind them feeble-minded children, no small proportion of whom are likely to be illegitimate. Against this fouling of the stream at its source, society must protect itself. Legislators revolt at the somewhat inhuman [sic] but certainly safe method of surgically preventing the possibility of the feeble-minded becoming parents. It would be more creditable and just as effective if society would take upon itself the tremendously expensive task of caring for all its feeble-minded in institutions during their entire life. The cost would be large for a generation, but would rapidly diminish and eventually become small. It certainly would be the humane way. These people in good institutions are by no means unhappy. Within the limit of their capacities they can do many things. Wise management usually will secure from them labor enough of wholesome and simple kind nearly to pay for their own support. Nothing could be better for them than to till the soil, care for the cattle, tend the chickens, and, in (267) this way, provide very largely the materials on which they are fed. How this problem shall work out, time only can decide. With it once worked out, there is no doubt that the level of humanity will be distinctly raised. No other feature in the program of eugenics seems more absolutely hopeful than this.” [The idea of a “Colony” organization to institutions, where inmates are required to labor without pay in order to offset the cost of their institutionalization, goes back to the 1870s. It often resembled and may have been inspired by the Plantation organization of the South’s slave-based society before the U.S. Civil War]
- 267 – “In several of the states of the Union it has recently become the practice to remove the possibilities of parenthood from certain classes of criminals. The purpose of this is clear and benevolent. Society has a right to prevent the oncoming of new generations of foreordained criminals. Underlying the practice is the theory that the children of criminals are born criminals. It is far from likely that this is the case. Criminality may be due to a wide range of causes. If the criminal is one of those actual born degenerates whose whole mental and physical make-up is so defective that nothing but criminality can be expected from him, then we have a case in which it is clear that society may, and should, remove the possibility of having more generations of the same kind. Probably only a moderate proportion of the criminals in our jails and penitentiaries belong to this class. Doubtless a distinct majority are criminals more through environment than through heredity.”
““We are rearing our animals with the utmost care, but our human beings are allowed to rear themselves without thought,” said Dr. Samuel Schmucker of Pennsylvania Normal College in his closing lecture to the students of the summer school of the State Teachers’ College here.
“We must apply our knowledge of heredity to human stock as well as animals. Any man who attempts to meddle with monogamy will fail, but that does not prevent the regulation of the human product. We must conserve the weak and maimed of humanity, but we need not lower the human stock by so doing.”
“The blight of feeble-mindedness is hanging over humanity. This tide must be stemmed: they must not be allowed to bring others of their kind into the world. We must segregate them, with profitable labor if possible, for life, and not for a few years.”
“If modern civilization is robbing the people of children, better have no civilization. It is the patriotic duty of every family to rear from three to four good, healthy, normal children.”
Dr. Schmucker had been lecturing all week on evolution, and his lectures contained many startling statements. They were listened to with much interest by the 1200 students.”
(Summary): Schmucker had been delivering lectures all week at the Goodwyn Institute, this mentions that many of the books he referenced are available in the library. Many of the books referenced here are works of eugenics, including Guyer’s Being Well Born, The Eugenic Marriage by “Hague,” The Next Generation by Jewett, The Heredity of Richard Roe by David Starr Jordan, and Parenthood and Race Culture by Saleeby. [It is a nasty list of books. Guyer’s was a very famous pro-eugenics biology textbook, and David Starr Jordan was both an internationally known eugenicist and the first president of Stanford University. His name recently has been removed from most public locations at Stanford due to his eugenic beliefs. The Saleeby book in particular shows eugenics at its ugliest.]
- 251 – “Almost all primitive men were long headed.”
- 252 – all round-heads are “probably related to the Alpine element in the European population of to-day.”
- 252 – “The typical yellow people are for the most part round heads. The American Indians are in part long heads; in part round. The black race are long heads.
Hence while it is very clear that head form is significant and persistent it does not mark race form.
The character that comes nearest to distinguishing race is the form of the hair….
This kind of hair is found in the yellow race, including both the Asiatic section and the American. People of this sort have the longest hair on their head on the average of all the races. Strange to say, they also have the least general hair over the surface of the skin, including the beard which is quite scanty if not absent. In this group both men and women have about the same length of hair.
In the black race the hair is formed like the carpenter’s lead pencil, which is flattened to keep it from rolling. … These people have the shortest hair in the world. Here also both men and women have about the same length of hair. This is spoken of as the wooly haired group. In one section of it, the hair curls very (253) tightly. People who have this type of hair are called kinky haired.”
- 253 – “The wavy hair is chiefly associated with the so-called white people, though they are never really white and often very dark.”
- 253 – “We begin then with the yellow race as lying nearer the primitive home and embracing the largest numbers. They are not the original stock, for the old stock forms were all long headed and the yellow man is very round headed. He has black hair, and is usually of medium size, his shortness being more in the legs than in his trunk. The skin is yellowish, shows little of the red tinge of blood on the cheeks, and is very smooth and free from hair. The features seem to us flat. The nose is not as high as ours…”
- 257 – “The black race has many sections and many waves have gone out from the original region of Southern Asia.
… The skin varies from a yellowish chocolate to a thorough black. The features of this race are, with the exception of the nose, much more prominent than those of the white race. The nose itself is very wide and much flattened and its bridge is deeply sunken, the eyebrow ridges are heavy, the forehead, in many, bulges forward. The teeth and lower jaw project farther forward than in either of the other races. They are long headed, some of them are the longest headed people in the world. … They are more emotional than either of the other types of people.” [A common racist stereotype among white people about Black people held that Black people were not fully in control of emotions and were more emotional than intellectual. These remarks treat that stereotype as being as much a “fact” of nature as the supposed cranial and facial differences.]
- 260 – “The white race is probably the last evolved of the three, and also, in most respects, the most modified. It has certainly responded most rapidly to civilization, due not a little to its superior adaptability and to its inventiveness.”
- 260 – “The head may be very long indeed, as in many Scotch people or quite round in some of the Alpines. … In this race the male and the female differ more from each other than in hair, in bodily form, and in disposition than either of the others.” [context – head-shape was often used to distinguish between races, usually for racist purposes like evaluating the intellectual capacity of an individual or a race. Sexual dimorphism, (the extent to which male and female forms of a species are distinctive from each other) often also was used as a marker of how advanced and evolved a species was. Treating men and women as looking essentially similar to each other was a way to deny men the privileges that come with men being viewed as masculine and women the privileges that came with being viewed as feminine. The descriptions of the “black race” on pg. 257 seem to intend to emphasize that the features (protruding forehead, jaw) resemble those of our ancestors like neanderthals)]
- 260 Among the white race, “The first to arrive in Europe are the Mediterraneans. They came along both sides of the sea, and perhaps moved back and forth between Europe and North Africa in earlier times. These people are short of stature, dark of skin and hair and very long-headed. [This would fit with common attitude among many white persons of the time that Mediterranean whites were less fully white.] The eyes of these people are distinctly snappy. In disposition the race is markedly and joyously artistic, and has given us much of the (261) brilliant music, of the beautiful painting, of the noble sculpture of the world.” [No mention is made of artistic accomplishments of other races, just the white races.]
- 261 (Summary) The Nordic ancestors – they too are long-headed.
- 263 – “There is a group of people in the United States who are anxious to prevent all admixture of any other blood with the Nordic. The truth is that there is very little pure Nordic blood in the United States except that of some of the Scandinavians of the Northwest. The three strains are hopelessly intermingled. It is certainly true that no country can safely afford to admit any people whose institutions differ radically from their own at a rate faster (264) than they can be assimilated into the political and social structure. It is certainly true that to admit aliens in great groups, to do the least remunerative work, to make them so unwelcome everywhere that they are compelled to live crowded into pitiful homes for which they pay often as much as far better homes should cost, and then to give them opprobrious nicknames and permit designing men to exploit them, is to nurse a set of sore spots on the body politics. [This is both a racist anti-immigration argument, yet also a critique of those who would exploit immigrants. It is a revealing insight into how Schmucker could be “progressive” on many issues, and think of himself as “enlightened” in his eugenic thinking.]
“There is no one of these strains [these white strains] that, properly treated, does not yield valuable returns in citizenship and in progress.”
- 265 – “If we can gain the stature and the venturesome character of the Nordic and lose his haughtiness, gain the rugged health and sturdy persistence of the Alpine and lose his stolidity, gain the vivacity and the artistry of the Mediterranean and lose his variableness, we shall have the finest people the world has yet seen.” [Schmucker is in favor of “wise” mixing of the varieties of white people in order to advance white supremacy.]
- 267 – “It is taken for granted by a great many observers that a mixture of any two of the three great races produces a hybrid with the bad qualities of both and the good of neither. There are others who think that matter far from settled. There can be no question that hybrids of the dregs of each race are inferior, and it is the dregs usually that mix. It is equally true that while social ostracism and political inferiority await the progeny of the union, the result will always be pitiful. The instinct to mate with one’s kind is millions of years old, and may never pass away. As a scientific problem I think most biologists are agreed that the question is quite open whether mixed races, in the absence of social and political stigma, are not entirely the equal of so-called pure races. It will be ages before there will be any larger intermingling of races. We believe religiously in the brotherhood of man; but practically we are far from accepting it as true.” [This is a common style of argument for Schmucker: he is not quite ready to flat-out say that it’s scientifically “proven” that all “hybrids” are inherently biologically inferior. Instead he “just” claims that it’s commonly understood to be true, and then links his bigoted statements to broader, uplifting platitudes.]
- P. 305 “There is a recent type of woman who can solve her problem in exactly the same way as that described for the man. This bachelor maid lives an active business life during working hours. She plays her golf or her tennis as vigorously and regularly as the man. She runs her sport car as skillfully as he, and can serve on civic committees just as ably. She is an interesting type. We have not had her long enough to know what she will do, should she live to be old. Will her bluff break down? Will she reluctantly at last confess that a woman is not a man, and a woman cannot satisfactorily live a man’s life to the end? I do not know. In any event, she is interesting while she lasts.
But the natural outlet for a woman’s sublimated passions is to rear children even though they are not her own or care for older people who are helpless. Kindergarten work is ideal. Elementary teaching does finely for many women. Vocational guidance of adolescents is a beautiful outlet if she is genuinely sympathetic and a miserable one if she cover her own loss by sniffing at their sentiment. Nursing is a noble avenue into which to guide her passion for mothering. But in every one of these the misfit is pitiful if the woman is skating along the edge of her own sex enjoyment and fighting back its open expression, dwelling on it in literature and news and scandal and shutting it out of her own activity until she is peevish and fretful and sometimes almost hysterical. … (306) “no life has realized its finest possibilities that does not include, amongst its inmost experiences, a happy marriage and some healthy, hearty children.” [This whole chapter is an argument that a woman’s life isn’t complete without motherhood, and emphasizes life-long monogamy as the highest ideal and pinnacle of human evolution. If that’s not possible, then be a single woman whose career is as a proxy-mother. A frank and progressive view toward sex education, beyond that strong emphasis on traditional gender roles.]
- 310 – (Summary) More argumentation about the importance of having children within marriage, only: Because the social shame on the child would be debilitating, especially for a daughter. Schmucker notes that it’s not the kid’s fault and the shame should be left to the parent, but since that shame nonetheless gets passed on to the kid and harms their chance for a good life, therefore we should only have sex inside of marriage. [This is a common attitude among the more genteel professional classes of eugenicists, especially toward disability: that it’s not the victim’s fault that society hates them. But, because society hates them, we need to eliminate their kind…]
“Dr. Schmucker, for whom the building is being named, was a past professor of science at the college. This honor is being accorded him for his outstanding teaching contributions in the field of science”