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July 8–August 7, 1926

The first Euthenics Institute, later called the Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living, welcomed parents and children, teachers and social workers to the campus for six weeks. Forty-five married and unmarried women, 25 children and three husbands made up the first class. The Summer Euthenics Institute differed from the undergraduate college program in that it was intended for both men and women and was generally aimed at people older than college-age. An emphasis in this summer’s program was on the role of the father in the family unit. The father was expected to be an active and equal participant, not merely an observer. President MacCracken described it as a “…graduate program designed to supplement the undergraduate curriculum along the lines of euthenics.”

One component of the first institute, a radio address entitled “Racial Betterment” by birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, drew particular attention. Citing the two “major problems” facing civilization, population pressure on food supply and “reconciliation of humanitarian practices with race betterment,” Sanger dismissed the former for the purposes of her remarks to the institute, focusing rather on the latter, in an appeal for “a new world, a conscious civilization.” Praising recent strictures on the immigration of “undesirables,” she declared, “while we close our gates to the so-called ‘undesirables’ from other countries, we make no attempt to discourage or cut down on the rapid multiplication of the unfit and undesirable at home….These types are being multiplied with… breakneck rapidity and increasing far out of proportion to the normal and intelligent classes.” Sanger looked to legislation encouraging voluntary, government-subsidized sterilization of “obviously unfit parents,” seeing it as the only practical way of increasing the proportion of American citizens born to “college men and women…. all the professional classes, doctors, clergymen, lawyers and skilled workers.”

Esther Katz, ed., The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger, vol. 1

Margaret Sanger’s grandson, Alexander Sanger, spoke at Vassar in 1991, in recognition the 75th anniversary of the birth control movement.

The summer institutes continued until 1959.

The Years