Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226038988 Published June 2013
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226039039 Published June 2013

An Image of God

The Catholic Struggle with Eugenics

Sharon M. Leon

Sharon M. Leon

240 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2013
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226038988 Published June 2013
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226039039 Published June 2013
During the first half of the twentieth century, supporters of the eugenics movement offered an image of a racially transformed America by curtailing the reproduction of “unfit” members of society. Through institutionalization, compulsory sterilization, the restriction of immigration and marriages, and other methods, eugenicists promised to improve the population—a policy agenda that was embraced by many leading intellectuals and public figures. But Catholic activists and thinkers across the United States opposed many of these measures, asserting that “every man, even a lunatic, is an image of God, not a mere animal."

In An Image of God, Sharon Leon examines the efforts of American Catholics to thwart eugenic policies, illuminating the ways in which Catholic thought transformed the public conversation about individual rights, the role of the state, and the intersections of race, community, and family. Through an examination of the broader questions raised in this debate, Leon casts new light on major issues that remain central in American political life today: the institution of marriage, the role of government, and the separation of church and state. This is essential reading in the history of religion, science, politics, and human rights.

Robert P. George | Princeton University
"If there is a story long overdue for telling, surely it is the story of how and why the Catholic Church and its faithful stood against the eugenics movement at a time when just about everyone else had gotten on the pro-eugenics bandwagon. In An Image of God, Sharon M. Leon tells the story and tells it exceptionally well. The book is worth reading not only for what it teaches us about the past, but also for the lessons it imparts at a time when eugenics ideologies are being revived and presented in new rhetorical garb."
Molly Ladd-Taylor | York University
“Passionately argued, engagingly written, and based on extensive research, An Image of God will be essential reading for historians of eugenics and students of Catholic activism in the United States. With this book, Sharon M. Leon fills a huge gap in the scholarly literature.”
Jon Butler | Yale University
"Sharon M. Leon's An Image of God deftly explores how modern American Catholic anti-eugenicists survived their own conflicts and stumbles to secure a substantial moral achievement for Catholic social teaching in a nation still often doubtful about Catholicism itself. This book is deeply researched and affectingly written; few books better illustrate the maturation of twentieth-century American Catholicism, especially in science, and the compromised choices that men and women seeking good often faced in their real and deficient world."
An Image of God, Not a Mere Animal: An Introduction
A Note on Sources

ONE  / For the Welfare of the Race: The Early Clash over Reproduction and Community
TWO / Cooperative Clergy? Catholics in the American Eugenics Society
THREE / Practical Means: Catholic Strategies for Protesting Sterilization Statutes
FOUR / Supreme Authorities: Catholicism and Eugenics beyond the Borders
FIVE / The Greatest Obstacle: The Growth of a Confident Opposition
SIX / A Great, Popular, Noncontroversial, and Effective Movement: Struggling with the “New Eugenics”


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