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The Jeffersonville Reformatory is the site of the first recorded eugenic procedures in the state of Indiana. It was here under the direction of Dr. Harry Clay Sharp, that hoosiers begin to see results of "ethnic cleansing." Dr. Harry Sharp is one of the biggest proponents for forced sterilizations, and it is from this building that supporters help get the 1907 Eugenics law passed.


  • These are officers that helped worked at the reformatory in the 1890s.

Our next stop on the Eugenic history trail, is the Jeffersonville Reformatory. These are where the first recorded eugenic procedures took place within Indiana. Dr. Harry Clay Sharp, a leading eugenic surgeon. performed vasectomies on the male inmates that were imprisoned here. Dr. Sharp began castrating male prisoner due to their excessive masturbation. However, he quickly mastered the art of performing a vasectomy. He started performing these procedures in as early as 1899. He is recorded to have performed at least 225 vasectomies here at the Jeffersonville Reformatory before the Indiana Eugenic law of 1907 was passed. Sharp is recorded to have performed 456 vasectomies on inmates here at the Jeffersonville Reformatory between 1899-1909. In May of 1909 Eddie Millard, a prisoner at the reformatory sent a statement of complaint to the governor after having a forced sterilization procedure done by Sharp in 1907. Miller had been sent to the prison for petty larceny and was sent to the hospital for questioning. It was after being questioned by Sharp, that Sharp decided to perform a vasectomy. Governor Thomas Marshall received many letters like Millard’s. In response to these letters, Marshall issues a moratorium on sterilization procedures. This stopped the legalized practice of forced sterilization until a new law was passed in 1927. Although, the process was not legalized, that did not put a stop to the forced sterilizations. The Jeffersonville Reformatory is the first place recorded in Indiana to begin these forced sterilization procedures making it the second stop on our eugenic tour across the state of Indiana.  

King, Lucy. 2005. “War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign To Create a Master Race by Edwin Black”. Indiana Magazine of History, March. https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/imh/article/view/12111.

Stern, Alexandra. 2007. “"We Cannot Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear": Eugenics In the Hoosier Heartland”. Indiana Magazine of History, March. https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/imh/article/view/12254.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

http://images.indianahistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/dc013/id/784