Rose Zaballos was just 16 years old in 1939 when her brother signed her upfor a sterilization procedure at a state-run hospital so she wouldn't have babies that might burden the family. She died during the operation. (Courtesy of Barbara Swarr)

Rosie Zaballos liked to host playtime tea parties and was sweet to everyone she met. But her older brother worried that the 16-year-old, whom her family described as “a little slow,” might someday become pregnant.

In his 30s and married, he had three kids of his own. And their mom was sick and needed help. So he took Rosie to be sterilized at a state-run hospital so she couldn’t have babies who might place an extra burden on the family.

Rose Zaballos was just 16 years old in 1939 when her brother signed her up
for a sterilization procedure at a state-run hospital so she wouldn’t have
babies that might burden the family. She died during the operation.
(Courtesy of Barbara Swarr)

Rosie never came home. She died during the operation.

This painful history, recounted by Rosie’s niece, Barbara Swarr, was rarely discussed in Barbara’s family when she was growing up in a Spanish immigrant neighborhood in Hayward.

But in the past few years, Swarr, now 70, has pieced together the details of her aunt’s short life and the prevailing attitudes toward immigrants, poor people and those with disabilities that allowed more than 20,000 Californians to be sterilized under the state’s eugenics law — often without their consent — over a 70-year period in the 1900s.

“This was something nobody thought twice about. ‘If they are not all there, if they are Hispanic … make sure they don’t breed these inferiors,’” Swarr recounted with a mix of sadness and bitterness.

Across the country last century, more than 60,000 people deemed unfit to reproduce were sterilized, many against their will or without their knowledge. It was a public health strategy embraced by 32 states under eugenics laws that advocated “better breeding.” It began at state prisons in Indiana and spread to two-thirds of the country, targeting people …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Health

      

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