"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 21st February 1923, the Stopes v Sutherland libel trial opened in the High Court in London.
While the case is cited in libel battles today, it has greater significance than as a legal precedent to win a legal argument. The battle between Stopes and Sutherland arose from the rift between eugenicists who wanted to control the population for the efficiency of the state, and those who valued the fundamental freedoms of humanity. It is a battle that persists to this day.
While Dr Stopes’ biographers say she gave women reproductive choice (and even that her work had “very little” to do with eugenics!), her ulterior aim was to improve Britain’s “racial stocks” through eugenic breeding. The well-to-do, healthy and fit were encouraged to have more children and the so-called “C3s” and “undesirables” were encouraged to have fewer. That said, Stopes campaigned for the compulsory sterilization of so-called C3 women and had the laws she wanted been passed, it would have been the state that made the choice.
The eugenicists of Dr Sutherland’s era spoke plainly about what they wanted, so much so that their opponents predicted it would lead to the lethal chamber (for instance, in Dr Sutherland’s case, in 1921 and in 1934). When it did, and when the eugenic crimes of the 1930s and 40s came to light (for instance, Aktion T4), it did not lead to a change of heart. Instead, eugenicists treated it as a PR problem and adopted a policy of secrecy instead and their work continues today “at the speed of science”.
To celebrate the bravery of Dr Sutherland’s fight against eugenics (and of those who supported him – Vincent Waring, Cardinal Bourne and others), this site will feature daily summaries of court action as it happened one-hundred years ago.
If you would like to learn more, you can so by watching the 2 1/2 minute video below:
… or listen to my interviews on:
Author Exterminating Poverty: The true story of the eugenic plan to get rid of the poor, and the Scottish doctor who fought against it (in conjunction with Neil Sutherland).