Stirpiculture in the Oneida Community John Humphrey Noyes, a native of Brattleboro, Vermont, rebelled from religion from a young age and after a near death experience became devoted to the goal of being introduced to the ministry. The most influential reasoning to Noyes’ theory was that of Perfectionism, in which believers reached perfection at conversion. Following extensive failure, Noyes finally acquired a following in 1844 in which the thirty-seven members lived communally. Two years later, the prominent ideals began to originate such as “Complex Marriages” and “Male Continence.” The Oneida Community’s doctrines had many components, but the basis of the community was centered on the idea of complex marriages. The practice of complex marriages provides the source for many controversial ideas they enacted in addition to what some saw as “free love.” One such idea was the experiment for the superior race through a monitored procedure known as stirpiculture. Based upon social Darwinism, the eugenics experiment known as stirpiculture caused unrest in and out of the community.
The stirpiculture experiment, named by John Noyes, began in 1869 as a project to create a race of geniuses. Noyes ideology stemmed from Darwin’s Origin of Species which promoted the “survival of the fittest” (Carden 61).
Often in poetry the technique of imagery is relied on heavily to present the reader with a visual stimulus that allows the poet to express a set of complex ideas. Poet Gwen Harwood utilises certain everyday images to illustrate the tendency of society to categorize the roles and expectations of females in the 1950’s. Some of her works such as ‘In the Park’, ‘Suburban Sonnet’ and ‘Dichterlibre’ ...
The selection process was vigorous, including submitting an application to a cabinet of central members who would make the final decision of whether the couple would suffice for the experiment (Whitworth 130).
A majority of couples selected their own mates, while a quarter were suggested pairs by the committee (Carden 62).
The Oneida founder strived to reach this superior race through the careful selection of healthy, beautiful, and intelligent couples. Noyes and the cabinet’s criterion involved being very spiritually refined, while his son Theodore looked more at the physical condition of the prospective candidates. As early as 1859, women were prescribed to enjoy fresh air, the outdoors and the continual development of mental and spiritual qualities (Kern 263).
Women were a necessary part of the eugenics experiment, but Noyes and others thought the choice of the fathers was the key to selective breeding (Kern 232).
The women’s ages ranged from twenty-three to forty-two, the men from twenty five thru sixty; often the fathers were ten or more years older than the female participants (Kern 250).
One such woman was the niece and lover of John Noyes, Tirzah Miller, she was the embodiment of the ideal woman of the Oneida community, strong in her convictions and firm in the beliefs of the Perfectionist community (Fogarty 17).
The project began mainly electing men of the cabinet as the stirpiculture fathers, while Noyes himself fathered nine stirpiculture children (Robertson 338).
Noyes’s on, Theodore, fathered three as to ensure their above average spirituality (Carden 63).
During the six years of the stirpiculture experiments, 1869-1875, there were fifty-eight children born to forty-one women, most who only bore one child (Kern 250).
A policy that discouraged jealousy was that every man in the community had the right to sire a child, only the superior were allowed to father multiple “superior” children (Kern 250-251).
Cognitive Development in Children: Experiment Piaget suggests that children prior to the age of seven develop an objective moral orientation. They tend to evaluate the good or bad actions on the basis of the consequences of the actions (good or bad). At about the ages even, children develop a subjective moral orientation which involves evaluation of behavior in terms of whether the intentions were ...
Differences that distinguished stirpiculture children from others in the community was that after about a year, the children were taken from their mothers to a different part of the mansion called the Children’s House so they would not form attachments to their mothers (Kern 251).
Children younger than twelve lived in the Children’s House, cared for by three men and fifteen women (Carden 64).
Evening events included a meeting led by the schoolmaster, where they read the Bible, discussed behavior, and were constantly reminded of the importance of pleasing God. Standards for the stirpiculture children were particularly high with expectations to practice selflessness and turning their cheek in all situations (Carden 64).
The child experiment included a constant monitoring institution beginning from conception and through their impressionable years in the Children’s House, where their ideals were molded carefully by a group of people. The results were positive for the people of the Oneida community. The experiment to achieve the master race through careful manipulation of conception and child development was the goal of the Noyes eugenics experiment which seemed to be achieved. People of the community found they had produced children “most of them beyond the average in stature and in intellect and in character” (Robertson 337).
The schoolmaster also rated many of the children “superior and above average” (Carden 65).
These findings were more than likely an effect of the environment in which they were brought up, which consisted of cleaner air and water. Other non-stirpiculture children endured living in crowded urban areas with air saturated with filth from factories, and the prevalence of disease (65).
It is difficult to discern whether superiority resulted from the breeding or the elevated conditions in which the children had been raised, although there is a direct correlation between the experiment and superiority.