"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.
On this day ninety-nine years ago, Stopes v. Sutherland opened in the High Court in London. As Dr. Sutherland recalled in his 1934 memoir A Time To Keep:
“The trial, which lasted for six days, commenced on 21st February 1923, before the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Hewart, and a special jury. That morning four large tin boxes stuffed with evidence were carried across the Strand into the Law Courts. The case was opened by the plaintiff’s leading counsel, Sir Patrick Hastings, with whom were Sir Hugh Fraser and Mr. Metcalfe. I was defended by Mr. Charles, KC, now Lord Justice Charles, Mr. Rabagliati, and Mr. Harold Murphy. For the publishers, Messrs. Harding & More, were Serjeant Sullivan, KC, and Mr. Theobald Mathew. The public benches and gallery were crowded.”
Naturally enough, this website will be publicising and celebrating the centenary in one year’s time.
For too long, the history of eugenics has been concealed or obfuscated. Biographers (and not just those of Stopes) have played down or ignored the eugenic enthusiasms of their subjects. Quite often, you get a lame “well everyone was a eugenicist back then.” The fact is, they weren’t, and the opponents have been written out of history so as not to besmirch the reputations of the supporters.
It is time that this false information is swept away, that the story of our past is told, and that those who bravely fought against the implementation of eugenics becomes widely known and celebrated.
Please help celebrate the memories of the fight against eugenics by telling people about and sharing the stories on this site. One such opportunity will take place on 1st March 2022, when this website will feature a guest post (its first!) by Ann Farmer. Ann is a social historian and author of By Their Fruits and Prophets and Priests and I am honoured to be able to publish her work here.
“The Great Trial” was the title of Chapter 13 of Passionate Crusader: The Life of Marie Stopes by Ruth Hall (1977) Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, New York and London.