North Carolina, Public Health

Forced Sterilization: The Story We'd Like to Forget

June 27, 2011

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I was sitting in my car last Wednesday night and turned on WUNC radio. I was riveted to the car seat. The story was about North Carolina’s forced sterilizations that lasted from 1933 to 1974, after 7600 men and women had been sterilized. Elaine Riddich tearfully recounted how she had been raped at age 14. When the baby was delivered by caesarean section, she was sterilized without even knowing. Ms. Riddich, now in her 50s, was devastated by what happened to her. She said she was raped twice: once by a man and then by the state. (

By mid-20th century, African American women were more likely to be sterilized by force than other women, one more facet of health disparities. That citizens could be sterilized without their consent violates ethical principles we accept today. The fact that it was more likely to happen to poor, disabled and Black women is especially regrettable. Forced sterilization is a public health issue, just as rape is a public health concern.  What happened earlier in our history was wrong.  We owe an apology and compensation to victims of forced sterilization. See more in the N&O (


Chapel Hill is quiet right now. The drumbeat of 90+ degree days without rain or clouds seems to have driven people indoors. Saturday morning, my husband and I went to the local rose nursery, a wonderful place, to get emergency treatment for our roses, which seem to have succumbed to multiple blights. I could not resist buying some sale plants.   By the time I had dug holes, planted and watered, I was ready for reading –trying to catch up on a stack of articles about the future of education. Working with others here, we are thinking boldly about 21st century public health education.

Some Academic Blogs I Really Like:

  • School of Government Dean Mike Smith’s blog (Mike’s Blog In a recent post, he channeled Tina Fey. What’s not to like about that!
  • University of Maryland School of Public Health Dean Robert Gold’s blog, Public Health Today (—interesting perspective on public health issues
  • Emerging Technologies Librarian from the University of Michigan (—lots of really current information about emerging technologies in a delightful style
  • ProfHacker in The Chronicle of Higher Education ( )—always has good material on technology and higher education

Hope you had a good weekend. Happy Monday! Barbara

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.