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Alternative Title

The example of social work and the North Carolina eugenics program

Publication Date


First Advisor

Marsha Kline Pruett

Second Advisor

Ora Nakash

Third Advisor

Matt Wray

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School for Social Work


Eugenics, Social welfare history, Class, Reproductive rights


The paper will focus on the philosophy of eugenics and the enactment of policies based on eugenic principles by social workers post-World War II specific to the state of North Carolina, where social workers were given unprecedented power to determine who was a viable candidate for compulsory sterilization between 1945 and 1977. A genealogy, as set forth by Foucault, will be conducted wherein the following historical archival data will provide an example of the development of social ideas and sentiments, discourses and constructs, regarding welfare recipients: the Human Betterment League archives, social work field notes from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and the policy briefings of the Board of Public Health of North Carolina. A social constructionist informed thematic analysis was conducted on the archival data of the Eugenics Board of North Carolina as an example of how identity develops through language, such as the pejorative identity of the welfare recipient as it was created by the power accorded to social workers. Findings revealed social workers used language that was distilled into twelve major overarching themes derived from in vivo codes indicating pejorative descriptors of welfare recipients culled from social work authored sterilization petitions.


©2020 Donimica Francesca Lizza. Access limited to the Smith College community and other researchers while on campus. Smith College community members also may access from off-campus using a Smith College log-in. Other off-campus researchers may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan for personal use.




vi, 289 pages : illustrations (1 color) Includes bibliographical references (pages 91-97)