Jamie Marsella

PhD candidate in History of Science, Harvard University

2023 to 2024
Research Fellow

"The Science of Right Living”: Euthenics in Child Welfare Reform 1900-1930

My dissertation will be the first in-depth study of euthenics in twentieth-century public health and child welfare. I explore role of euthenic programming in the New York City Babies’ Welfare Association (BWA). The BWA was a city-wide preventative care network for women and children made up of hundreds of philanthropic, religious, and city-funded organizations. In treating child welfare reformers as public health workers, my dissertation demonstrates how euthenic thinking permeated public health programs for women and children as well as the fluid barrier between public health programming and women’s domestic training. I focus on women outside the mainline eugenics movement who were nevertheless deeply informed by euthenic thinking, including medical professionals, settlement house and social workers, club women, benevolent women, and Catholic nuns. Euthenics provided a eugenic justification for women’s reform and shared understandings and goals across disparate fields in academia, medicine, public health, child welfare, and private industry.