Between 1880 and 1920, Indiana produced authors such as James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, and Meredith Nicholson. This period became known as the Golden Age of Literature in Indiana. However, as J. W. Carr points out in his Indiana State Sentinel newspaper article, “Indiana’s Literature: The State in the Republic of Letters,” Indiana was the birthplace and home to numerous authors throughout the state’s history. Carr acknowledged that beyond the breathtaking landscapes and the hard working men who transformed the state from forests to homes, schools, churches, and the like, all connected by the man-made railroad, sat a far greater achievement produced by the State of Indiana: a man of culture, scholar, and genius.
Weaving a brief synopsis of Indiana’s history with biographical sketches and sample pieces from early Indiana authors, Carr discussed why Indiana’s literature deserved special attention.
First, Carr stated the territory of Indiana did not receive its first governor until 1800, thereby limiting the development of the state for the past seventy-five years. Carr exclaimed, “How short a time in which to uproot savagery and plant civilization in which to produce a literature! Such progress is wonderful. If it had occurred in ancient times it might probably have been called the eighth and greatest wonder of antiquity, but occurring in the nineteen century it is only a part of the last and greatest wonder of the world—the development of a great American state.”
Second, he pointed out the difference between the authors of Indiana and other states. Indiana produced so many poets or prose writers that “genius is the rule and not the exception.” Furthermore, Indiana had more than just poets and prose writers, the state’s writers encompassed historians, novelists, journalists, those who write on the subjects of legal, philosophy, and science. This was important to notate because despite producing “more than 200 writers who have achieved at least a local reputation in the republic of letters,” very few authors achieved national recognition and praise.
The Republic of Letters is an overarching term for philosophical ideas and principles spread through the written word. Particularly prevalent during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, ideas, concepts, and critiques were spread internationally where it then transformed/merged to fit various political, social, culture, religious, etc. groups. Overall, the Republic of Letters is a term used to describe the way ideas were spread within societies.
Third, within his biographical sketches of the authors, in particular those who also taught, Carr compared their work to well-known poets and teachers of Milton, Longfellow, and Lowell. By doing so, he drew the connection between well-known poets and Indiana poets to show why Indiana authors deserved fame and recognition.
The biographical sketches and sample works of five poets from Indiana’s early history Carr provides are: Julia L. Dumont, John Finley, John B. Dillon, Laura M. Thurston, and M. Louisa Chitwood.
Julia L. Dumont (neé Corey) was one of the first writers in Indiana’s history. She was born in October 1794, in Waterford, Ohio and received an education at Milton Academy, in Saratoga County, New York. In August 1812, she married John Dumont, and in March 1814, the couple moved to Vevay, Indiana, where she resided until her death on January 2, 1857. Carr states, “she was a poet of considerable ability, but she is chiefly remembered as the preceptress [a female teacher] of Edward Eggleston.” Carr published a few lines from her poem, “Poverty.”
John Finley was a state and local politician (he served as a member of Indiana Legislature, Enrolling Clerk of the State Senate, Clerk of Wayne County Courts, and the Mayor of Richmond, Indiana for eight years) and the editor of the Richmond Palladium. However, primarily, he was remembered for his poems, “The Hoosier’s Nest” and “Bachelors Hall.” He was born on January 11, 1797 in Brownsburg, Virginia and moved to Richmond, Indiana in his early twenties. He was married twice; first in 1826 to Rachel H. Knott in Yellow Springs, Ohio and after her death, he married Julia Hanson on April 9, 1830 in Indianapolis. In 1830, Finley wrote “The Hoosier’s Nest” for the Indianapolis Journal, which Carr published a portion of in his newspaper article. Additional information on John Finley can be found here.
John B. Dillon was an historian, state librarian, secretary of the State Historical Society, and an early poet of the state of Indiana. He was born in Virginia, relocated to Cincinnati as a child where he subsequently learned the printer’s trade, and moved to Logansport, Indiana when he was 30 years old. Between 1846 and 1857, Dillon wrote the first history of Indiana, which received high praise and literary merit. Part of Dillon’s poem, “The Burial of the Beautiful,” was published in Carr’s article. Additional information on Dillon can be found here.
Laura M. Thurston (neé Hawley) was not only a poet, but also one of Indiana’s early teachers. She was born in Norfolk, Connecticut in December 1912 and educated at the Hartford Female Seminary. She taught in Hartford, New Bedford, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and New Albany, Indiana. In September 1839, she married Franklin Thurston, a New Albany merchant. On July 21, 1842, just shy of being 30 years old, she died in New Albany, Indiana. Two of her most popular poems are “Green Hills of My Fatherland” and “Crossing the Alleghanies.” Carr published a portion of “The Paths of Life,” which he described as “a farewell address, or rather, a parting song to a graduating class. This poem is a model of its kind—beautiful, didactic—a literary gem—a sermon.”
M. Louisa Chitwood was born on October 29, 1832 and educated in the small village of Mt. Carmel, Indiana in Franklin County. Prior to dying at the age of 23 on December 17, 1855 in Mount Carmel, Indiana from typhoid fever, Chitwood wrote beautiful poems that showed her extraordinary gifts as a writer. George D. Prentice, an editor, politician, and Chitwood’s friend, published her poems after she died. Carr included a stanza of “The Graves of the Flowers” to highlight Chitwood’s gift as a poet.
In addition to a stanza of “The Graves of the Flowers,” Carr included a sonnet that Benjamin S. Parker wrote as a tribute to Chitwood.
August 17, 1940 – Wendell Willkie accepted the Republican nomination to run for President in his hometown of Elwood, Indiana. Over 260,000 were in the crowd. Willkie became the fourth Hoosier resident to receive a party nomination for President. Indiana’s other presidential nominees included Benjamin Harrison (Republican, 1888), Eugene V. Debs (Socialist, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1920), and Frank J. Hanly (Prohibition, 1916). Willkie lost the 1940 election to incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt. Willkie received 44.8% of the popular vote, but only won 82 electoral votes to FDR’s 449. Read about Willkie accepting the nomination in the Hammond Times.
In Print and On the Map: Articles in the Indiana Digital Historic Newspaper Database and Corresponding State Historical Markers
Historical Marker 3: Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor, Intersection of 38th Street and the Monon Trail, across from the Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis, Indiana
“Taylor was a marvel on a bicycle. Riding against the fastest bicyclists of America, Europe and Australia, he won national and world championships against racial prejudice, unscrupulous tactics of riders and unfair decisions of officials.” Chicago Defender, July 2, 1932
Around the turn of the twentieth century, the sport of bicycle racing had the same feverish popularity as the Indianapolis 500 race and the cyclists the same international celebrity status as contemporary major league sports starts. The fastest of all of those star cyclists in America and Europe was Marshall Walter Taylor, a Hoosier and African American.
Marshall was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1878, one of eight children. He and his family lived in a rural area on the fringes of the city. His grandfather had been enslaved in Kentucky, and his father, Gilbert Taylor, was a Union soldier in the Civil War, after which he was employed by the Southards as a coachman. The Southards were a wealthy family and they gifted a young Marshall with his first bicycle. Soon he was bicycling along his long paper delivery route and practicing stunts when he was not working as a paperboy. Sometime between when Marshall was 10 to 13 years old, the Hay and Willits Bicycle Shop started to pay him to perform bicycle stunts in front of their store while dressed in a military uniform as a promotional draw.
Marshall also started to work as a repairman and instructor in a bicycle shop where Louis D. “Birdie” Munger was one of the managers. Munger had raced as a cyclist before he retired and started manufacturing bicycles in Indianapolis. He befriended Marshall, recognizing in the young teenager the potential to become a champion cyclist.
Despite being barred from being a member of bicycle riding clubs in the city and coming up against white cyclists who did not want to compete against an African American in a road race, Marshall did participate in a race that stretched 75 miles from Indianapolis to Muncie to Matthews. A blurb published in TheJasper Weekly Courier dated July 12, 1895, reported that “Marshall Taylor, a colored lad” was the winner of “one of the hardest road races ever run” from Indianapolis to Matthews. The writer wrote that Marshall was 18 years old at the time but he was actually only 17 in 1895. (Issues of the Courier are accessible in the Indiana Digital Historic Newspaper database.)
In the fall of that year Marshall accepted an invitation from Louis Munger to move to Worcester, Massachusetts, where the former shop manager planned to establish another bicycle shop.
Marshall talked about his friend’s decision to move in his 1928 autobiography, The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World: the Story of a Colored Boy’s Indomitable Courage and Success against Great Odds, which he dedicated to Louis D. “Birdie” Munger, his “True Friend and Advisor.” He wrote the following lines about Munger’s move to Massachusetts:
“… members of the [bicycle] firm [in Indianapolis] objected strenuously to Mr. Munger’s befriending me simply because of my color, and I was inadvertently the cause of Mr. Munger’s severing relations with the firm and his decision to establish a bicycle factory in Worcester, Massachusetts. Before our train pulled out of Indianapolis Mr. Munger informed a group of his friends that someday I would return to that city as champion bicycle rider of America.” Marshall Taylor, 1928
On living in Worcester Marshall said, “I was in Worcester only a very short time before I realized that there was no such race prejudice existing among the bicycle riders there as I had experienced in Indianapolis.”
Marshall returned to Indianapolis in September 1896 to test his speed on the Capital City Cycling Club’s track in the city. Munger, who was at the time the founder of the Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company, had signed Marshall up to be one of the participating cyclists, and as the event was whites-only, he also smuggled Marshall into the Capital City Track, located at 30th Street (38th Street today) and the Monon Railroad (the Monon Rail-Trail today).
The roaring crowd of spectators marveled as Marshall set two new records racing around the track, first in the one-mile and then in the one-fifth-mile. But, cycling officials did not recognize his record-breaking times as official. The officials and other cyclists at the track were also angry at Munger for smuggling in a black cyclist who had rocketed pass the record times previously set by white cyclists. Marshall was banned from racing on the Capital City Track following the event.
He persevered on to win his first official professional race three months later. Between 1896 and 1904 he reached the climax of his career as a cyclist, setting world records at various distances between one-quarter mile and two-miles. He participated in races in Chicago, Connecticut, and New York.
Marshall not only had to overcome competitors but also extreme racism during his races. Racing events in the South barred Marshall from participation, and when organizers did allow the foremost cyclist to participate he was met with violence such as having ice and nails thrown at him by spectators and white cyclists eager to jostle, box in, and shove him during a road race. Marshall was even pulled to the ground and choked by a competitor during a race event in Massachusetts.
In his autobiography, Marshall reflected on experiencing racially motivated violence during his career. He came to the following conclusion:
“Life is too short for a man to hold bitterness in his heart, and that is why I have no feeling against anybody … In fact, I have never hated any rider that I ever competed against. As the late Booker T. Washington, the great Negro educator, so beautifully expressed, ‘I shall allow no man to narrow my soul and drag me down, by making me hate him.’” Marshall Taylor, 1928
Marshall also competed in Australia, New Zealand, and throughout Europe, where black athletes encountered comparably less racist-charged violence. In August 1899 he won the world championship in the one-mile race in Montreal, becoming the second African-American to win a world championship in a sport. (George Dixon, a Canadian bantamweight and featherweight boxer, was the first African American to win a world championship title after defeating his opponent in the 1887 world bantamweight boxing match that was held in England.)
Marshall won the national championship in September 1900, becoming the American sprint champion in front of a crowd that numbered more than 10,000 people. His victories were chronicled in cycling journals and newspapers in America, including the Indianapolis Recorder and the Chicago Defender,and especially in periodicals in Europe. Fans as well as newspaper and magazine writers dubbed the Major the “colored Sprint Champion of America” and the “Black Cyclone.”
In 1901, Marshall traveled to Europe to compete in racing events. He did so only after promoters in France rescheduled races that had originally been set on Sundays out of respect to Marshall, who had up until then refused to participate in races on Sundays because of his religious convictions. Marshall was a committed Baptist who was known to not drink and compete fairly.
Between 1901 and 1904 Marshall defeated the best cyclists in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, winning most of the races that he participated in and proving his reputation as a world champion cyclist. He married Daisy V. Morris in March 1902 and also took briefs respites in Worcester during the last two years of competing. Marshall’s and Daisy’s daughter, Sydney Taylor, was born on May 11, 1904, in Sydney, Australia.
Marshall retired in 1910 at 32 years old. His post-racing career was beset with unsuccessful investments and the Wall Street Crash of 1929. By 1930 Marshall, who was at that time staying at a YMCA in Chicago, was estranged from his wife and had lost the earnings that he had made as one of the best-paid athletes during his prime. In poor health, he worked to sell copies of his autobiography, which he published in 1928.
Marshall “Major” Taylor died on June 21, 1932. He was 53 years old. His body was moved from Cook County Hospital’s charity ward to be buried at Illinois’ Mount Glenwood Memory Gardens. His grave went unmarked until 1948 when a group of former cyclists solicited money from Frank Schwinn, owner of Schwinn Bicycle Company, for the funds necessary to exhume Marshall’s remains and have them reburied in another area of the cemetery with a gravestone.
Marshall’s and Daisy’s only child, Sydney, remembered her father as “‘a good man, a good father and a good husband … very gentlemanly.’”
While not faster than a speeding bullet, Marshall “Major” Taylor was, according to a writer for the African-American Registry, one of “the fastest humans on earth,” and certainly the fastest man alive on two wheels during the peak of his racing career between 1898 and 1910. The nicknames that followed him—the “Worcester Whirlwind,”the “colored Sprint Champion of America,” and especially the “Black Cyclone”—demonstrated the superhero status that Marshall reached through breaking world records and racial barriers in America and abroad.
The state marker recognizing his accomplishments was installed at the intersection of 38th Street and the Monon Trail in 2009 by the Indiana Historical Bureau as well as the Central Indiana Bicycling Association Foundation and Indiana State Fair Commission.
Taylor’s legacy of sportsmanship and courage was also honored with the erection of the Marshall Taylor Velodrome (MTV) in 1982 and a memorial at the Worcester Public Library on May 21, 2008.
The Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation accepted a recommendation from the Mayor’s Bicycle Task Force to name the $2.2 million dollar velodrome (a track with banked curves for bicycle racing), built with public funds, after champion cyclist Marshall Taylor. The construction of the velodrome was financed with public funds. It was the first building with that type of financial backing in Indianapolis to be named in honor of an African-American individual, and is one of only 29 or so velodromes in the country.
The plan for the building was developed through a partnership between Indy Parks and the Lilly Endowment, which included building a track stadium, natatorium, and the MTV in time for the 1982 National Sports Festival, which was hosted in Indianapolis that year. At that time Indy Parks Director F. Arthur Strong said the MTV “could possibly be the fastest velodrome in the country,” pointing out the track’s smooth surface and natural protection from wind due to being build into a hillside.
The dedication ceremony for the MTV was held on July 15, 1982. Marshall’s daughter, Sydney Taylor Brown, was presented with a key to the city at the event.
Since its establishment the MTV has hosted numerous national competitions and an invitational for Olympic gold medalists as well as men’s and women’s national/world sprint champions from America, Mexico, and Zealand.
During the 1980’s the velodrome was also utilized as a public venue for bicycle riding classes and amateur cyclist races. Then-manager Chuck Quast credited the MTV with giving the opportunity to kids to come “out of the woodwork” and train to become world-class athletes.
In April 2011 Marian University, in partnership with Indy Parks, became the manager of the MTV. The facility became the Indy Cyclopex: Home of the Marshall Taylor Velodrome. The velodrome still functions as a venue for cycling races and community programs.
Want To Learn More About Marshall W. “Major” Taylor? Check Out These …
Major Taylor Collection, Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Donated by daughter in 1988).
Balf, Todd. Major: A Black Athlete, a White Era, and the Fight to Be the World’s Fastest Human Being. New York: Crown Publishers, 2008.
Ritchie, Andrew. Major Taylor: The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1988.
Taylor, Marshall Walter “Major.” The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World: the Story of a Colored Boy’s Indomitable Courage and Success against Great Odds. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971. Reprinted from a copy in the Fisk University Library Negro Collection; first published. Originally published in 1928.
On August 13, 1881, the Indianapolis Leader published “The Land of Used-To-Be” by James Whitcomb Riley.
Born on October 7, 1849 to Reuben and Elizabeth Riley in Greenfield, Indiana, James Whitcomb Riley became one of the most popular authors of his time and belonged to the Golden Age of Indiana Literature.
When Riley was 16 years old, he dropped out of school and began working a variety of jobs until he achieved success as a poet. He found success as a sign painter but quickly tired of the mundane work. Riley found more pleasure when he worked for traveling travel medicine shows because he was able to perform impressions, play the guitar, sing, recite stories, and hone his writing skills. However, the work was unstable and Riley often had to scrounge for money in order to support himself.
In 1877, The Anderson Democrat, a newspaper in Anderson, Indiana, hired Riley as an editor. Within weeks of him starting, the newspaper’s circulation doubled and Riley’s editing style was a hit with the newspaper’s readers. However, Riley’s true passion was writing poems, not editing newspapers. He constantly submitted poems to newspapers, but was frequently rejected. This did not deter Riley from continuing to submit poems, though. Rather, he devised a plan with John Henderson, the editor of the Kokomo Dispatch, a newspaper in Kokomo, Indiana, to publish his poem, “Leonainie” in the Kokomo Dispatch under the name of E.A.P., the initials of Edgar Allen Poe. Excited over the lost Poe poem, newspapers across the country republished “Leonainie,” which sparked interest and controversy over the poem’s style and lyrics. Ultimately, another local newspaper exposed Riley as the poem’s author and disgruntled people across the country condemned and chastised Riley for his actions.
The negative press contributed to Riley’s success and led him to become one of the most celebrated Indiana writers. After the scandal, the Indianapolis Journal hired Riley as the newspaper’s full-time poet and in the winter of 1880-1881, Riley toured Indiana, reciting his poetry wherever he was welcomed.
In 1883, Riley wrote and published his first book, The Old Swimmin’-Hole and ‘Leven More Poems, in what would become his iconic style of writing, the “Hoosier dialect.” By using language that resonated with the every day man and woman and Indiana culture, landscape, and people as his subject, the state of Indiana quickly fell in love with Riley and he became known as “The Hoosier Poet.”
Even though the Midwest recognized Riley for his talent, the literary elites on the east coast, who ultimately had the power to determine if a poet was or was not successful, did not recognize Riley’s talent. It was not until 1887 when the east coast literary critics recognized Riley’s poetic gift. In 1887, the International Copyright League invited Riley, among other writers such as Mark Twain and William Dean Howells, to speak at a program. Originally, Riley was only to speak one night, but after he read his poem, “When the Frost is on the Punkin,” the League asked Riley to recite another poem the following evening. Riley enchanted other several highly respected poets that night, including James Russell Lowell, who introduced Riley on his second night reciting his poems. Ultimately, Lowell’s approval of Riley was what sparked the east coast literary elites to acknowledge Riley for his talents.
Throughout his lifetime, James Whitcomb Riley published over 90 books and wrote more than 1,000 poems. Some of his most well-known poems include, “Little Orphant Annie,” “The Raggedy Man,” “The Runaway Boy,” and “When the Frost is on the Punkin.” Riley died on July 22, 1916 in Lockerbie, an Indianapolis neighborhood, and buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.
In June 1912, Victor Talking Machine Company recorded James Whitcomb Riley reading roughly twenty of his poems. However, the Victor Talking Machine Company only released a limited number of recordings. The Indianapolis Public Library digitized seventeen previously unreleased recordings on its website, including “When the Frost is on the Punkin.” To listen to Riley read some of his most beloved poems, click here.
The Indiana State Library Treasures collection contains a wealth of sources pertaining to James Whitcomb Riley and is accessible to the public here.
And where’s the land of Used-to-be, does little baby wonder?
O, we will clap a magic saddle over papa’s knee,
And ride away around the world, and in and out and under
The whole of the golden sunny summer-time, and see!
Leisurely and lady-like we’ll jostle on our journey.
And let the pony bathe his hooves and cool them in the dew,
As he slides down the shady way, and lags along the ferny
And the green grassy ledges of the lane we travel through
And then we’ll canter on to catch the bubble of the thistle
As it bumps among the butterflies, and glimmers down the sun,
To leave us laughing, all content to hear the robin whistle.
Or guess what Katydid is saying little Kathy’s done.
And pausing here a minute, where we hear the squirrel chuckle
As he darts from out the underbush, leaves and honeysuckle
To wreathe around our forheads, riding into Used-to-be;
For here’s the very rim of it that we go swinging over—
Don’t you hear the fairy bugles, and the tinkle of the bells?
And the baby bumble-bees that tumble in the clover,
And dangle from the titled pinks and tipsy pimpernels?
And don’t you see the merry faces of the Daffodillies,
And the jolly John-jump-ups, and the butter-cups a-glee,
And the low, lolling ripples ring around the water-lilies,
All greeting us with laughter to the land of Used-to-be?
And here among the blossoms of the blooming vines and grasses,
With a haze forever hanging in a sky forever blue,
And with a breeze from over seas to kiss us as it passes,
We will romp around forever as the little fancies do;
For all the elves of earth and air are swarming here together—
The prankish Puck, King Oberon, and Queen Titania, too;
And dear old Mother Goose, herself, as sunny as the weather,
Comes dancing down the dewy walls to welcome you and me.
The National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a joint program of the Library of Congress (LC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), has passed several exciting milestones recently. More than 8 million historic newspaper pages, published in 32 states and the District of Columbia between 1836 and 1922, are now available through the Chronicling America web site, hosted by LC, and in July, the NEH announced two new partners joining the program this year. Awards were made to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development to digitize newspapers from Nevada and South Dakota. This brings the number of participants in the program to 39, including 37 states, one territory, and the District of Columbia. NEH and the LC aim to have every state and U.S. territory represented in Chronicling America (see http://www.neh.gov/divisions/preservation/grant-news/nevada-and-south-dakota-join-the-national-digital-newspaper-progra for more information). In addition, supplementary awards have been made to eight state partners already participating in the program….Read more about it!
On August 1, 1914, the newspapers of America announced the initiation of hostilities across Europe. Blaring headlines such as “War Declared” (in strikingly large type), “Peace Refused by France; Her Army Ready to Strike,” “WAR! Greatest Conflict of Ages Has Begun!,” “Kaiser Says ‘Fight!’,” and “Germany Sends Ultimatums to France and Russia,” the news traveled fast that what became known as World War One had begun. Some newspapers focused on more local effects of a European war, such as “President Offers Mediation,” “N.Y. ‘Change is Closed to Avert Panic,” “Seattle to Offer Prayers,” and “M’Adoo Holds 500,000,000 To Balk Any Panic.” Explore these events further and read more about it!
Between 1890 and 1920, the Progressive Era awoke one movement after another that advocated for better social, cultural, and political reforms that shook the core of American society. Even though part of the progressive movement was to create and enact new laws and policies, its primary purpose was to improve the morality and purification of Americans. One way to achieve that goal was to segregate those who were considered racially inferior to the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic races, meaning anyone who was not a descendant of a Northern European or English race.
Through the concept of eugenics, individuals in the Progressive Era began to segregate not only those who were inferior to the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic races, but also those who possessed undesirable characteristics. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines eugenics as “a science that tries to improve the human race by controlling which people become parents” and as “a science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed.” At this time, medical professionals wrote articles stating that certain genes and traits were passed down from father and mother to their children. In particular, doctors, such as Harry C. Sharp, argued that if certain individuals who possessed undesirable characteristics procreated, the future of society looked bleak. As a result, on March 9, 1907, Indiana Governor J. Frank Hanly signed and enacted the eugenic sterilization law. Part of the law reads:
As long as two physicians verified an inmate had a mental illness, the law states that the prison or state mental hospital was required by law to sterilize said inmate.
The Plymouth Tribune. Volume 6, Number 23, 14 March 1907. Page 5.
In 1921, the Indiana Supreme Court deemed the law unconstitutional, thus making it illegal to involuntarily sterilize anyone who was thought to be undesirable or unfit to procreate. However, in 1927, Indiana repealed the 1921 decision and modified the 1907 law to state that as long as the individual had thirty days’ notice and the ability to make an appeal if he or she desired, the State of Indiana could continue to sterilize incarcerated individuals. It was not until 1974 that Indiana outlawed all forms of involuntary sterilization. The exact number of individuals who were involuntarily sterilized is unknown. However, an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 people were sterilized between 1907 and 1974. Since the repealing of the 1907 eugenics law, the State of Indiana has sought to rectify this piece of historic legislation through formal apologies and enacting historical markers.
Even though the concept of eugenics or sterilization was not new in the early twentieth century, Indiana made history when it became the first state both in the United States and in the world to pass a law that involuntarily sterilized incarcerated individuals. This landmark legislation helped pave the way for other states and countries to pass similar laws and policies, including laws that led to the Holocaust and other genocides.
Location of the Historical Marker: East lawn of the Indiana State Library, 140 North Senate Avenue, Indianapolis. (Marion County, Indiana)