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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Library Board Pushes to Rename Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 1:03 PM

click to enlarge Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The Vermont Library Board is recommending that state librarian Scott Murphy remove author Dorothy Canfield Fisher's name from a children's book award created in her honor long ago.

The board voted 7-0 Tuesday on the recommendation after board president Bruce Post cited concerns including Fisher's association with the eugenics movement, which pushed for "better breeding."

"I felt honor bound to bring up this subject of eugenics," Post told Seven Days Thursday.

Murphy has not taken action in response to the vote. He did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

The board has been discussing the matter since April.  Fisher's defenders say the famed author, who died in 1958, stood up for prison reform, adult education and war relief. They say she is being judged unfairly over a minor association with the now-vilified eugenics movement.

Meanwhile, critics contend that she stereotyped Native Americans and French Canadians in her work and quietly endorsed the "better breeding" goals of eugenics.

Fisher was a member of the Vermont Commission on Country Life, an outgrowth of the Vermont Eugenics Survey directed by University of Vermont professor Henry Perkins in the 1920s and early 1930s.

The survey championed Vermont's original Anglo-Protestant "seedbed" and targeted French Canadians, Native Americans and "gypsy" families in pedigree studies that were designed to identify "degenerate" and "feeble-minded" Vermont residents.

The Library Board passed a resolution Tuesday that urged the state librarian to rename the award in a way that recognizes and encourages authors of children's literature, especially those with a Vermont connection.

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Molly Walsh

Molly Walsh

Molly Walsh is a Seven Days staff writer.

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