Search America's historic newspaper pages from 1789-1963 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the
National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. external link Learn more
Image provided by: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library, Urbana, IL
Newspaper Page Text
One $10,000 law suit.
And, in spite of this startling ex
ample, the "Wisconsin legislature at
the last session, slipped through a law
providing for the sterilization of
"mental defectives," this law becom
ing operative this month.
Fearing legal action to -prevent the
operations upon the 21 men picked
for victims, selected from among pa
tients of the Chippewa Falls State
Home for Feeble-Minded, the- state
board of control refuses to give their
names or the day set for the experi
ment to the public
In fact, there are few citizens of
the state who are aware such a law
is on the Wisconsin statutes. And of
those few there are probably not
more than a dozen who have heard of
the tragic and appaling results of the
sterilization of John Rehfeldt
Rehfeldt is 36 and is the father of
six children, three boys and three
girls. In April, 1910, he was com
mitted to the state hospital for insane
at Oshkosh and a year later was re
moved to the Appleton asylum. Here,
despite excellent physical condition,
he was sterilized at the recommenda
tion of George Downer, superintend
ent Gf the asylum, by Dr. J. V. Cana
van, a former mayor of Appleton.
In August, 1913, he was released
from the asylum as cured and return
ed to his wife and family sterilized.
Married life was impossible. Mrs.
Rehfeldt asked a divorce. It was
granted. And Rehfeldt, broken in
spirit and health by the loss of his
family and the sterilization, struggled
against the inevitable until last June,
when worry brought back insanity
and he was returned to the asylum.
In the meantime Rehfeldt had filed
auit for $10,000 against Dr. Cana
an and Downer.
Canavan died. Report was general,
i hough it never appeared before in
pnnt, that worry over the Rehfeldt
affair had hastened his end.
Then, last April, Downer, worried
to desperation, committed suicide.
The children of Rehfeldt all heal- J
thy an,d mentally, as quick as most
children of their ages are now liv
ing with their mother-on a farm near
Appleton. And they, too, are inno
cently paying the price.
Now sterilization is having more
Not one of the men who are its vic
tims could be proven incurable. Not
one of the men who may not leave
the mad house some day, like Reh
feldt,' mentally cured but sterilized.
fcV (.Am Xv"..'VivA
: f .sn 'iv;;3'- i
s. 3 A vLd it A--v
John Rehfeldt, sterilized while a
patient at the Outagamie county asy
lum at Appleton and later released as
mentally cured, only to lose his wife
and family because of the operation,
worry over which drove him to in-.