North Carolina Woman on Eugenics Program: ‘I Was Never Feebleminded!’

Elaine Riddick, one of thousands of mostly black women who were forcibly sterilized under the state's eugencis program, speaks out for other victims.

By Jorge Rivas Aug 17, 2011

Elaine Riddick was only 14 when the state of North Carolina deemed her unfit to have any more children. She became pregnant after a neighbor who was ten-years her senior raped her, and when time came to deliver her baby through a caesarean section, unbeknownst to her, doctors also sterilized her.

The state of North Carolina sterilized her because they declared her as mentally deficient, or "feebleminded" as official records note.

Between 1929 and 1974, North Carolina sterilized more than 7,600 individuals in the name of "improving" the state’s "human stock," the Associated Press reports. By the time the program ended, the majority of those neutered fit a similar profile, they were young, black, poor women.

"I am NOT feebleminded," she shouted to a five-member board created by the Governor to determine the method of compensation for victims of the state’s Eugenics Board. "I’ve never BEEN feebleminded."

"So what am I worth?" she asked the board in June. "The kids that I did not have, COULD not have. What are THEY worth?" The Associated Press profile of Riddick includes notes from the Eugenics Board assestment:

"Because of Elaine’s inability to control herself, and her promiscuity – there are community reports of her `running around’ and out late at night unchaperoned, the physician has advised sterilization," the final recommendation read. "This will at least prevent additional children from being born to this girl who cannot care for herself, and can never function in any way as a parent."

Riddick, along with the estimated 2,000 victims of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program that are still alive today, will have to wait until February 2012 to find out whether they’ll be compensated or not.