In late 1913, while the eugenics movement was picking up steam, various newspapers ran the story of England’s “first eugenic baby.”
The baby’s name? Eugenette Bolce.
Eugenette’s parents, both American, hadn’t been specially selected for one another (as you might expect, given the term “eugenic”).
Instead, while pregnant, Mrs. Bolce had made it a point to attend concerts and plays, and to have conversations with famous authors. She hoped this would positively influence the baby. (One modern writer called Mrs. Bolce “enterprisingly Lamarckian.”)
Born in March, 6-month-old Eugenette already had a sense of humor and was “absolutely fearless,” according to her parents. They claimed these favorable attributes were “due to their deliberate plan of eugenic training.”
Writers of the day mocked the idea of a eugenic baby. LIFE published a parody piece featuring a smug “first eugenic baby” who ended up getting punched in the jaw by a decidedly non-eugenic baby. One writer even mocked Eugenette’s name: “Eugenette Bolce — that is the name, and it is the name of a baby and not a skin-ointment.”
If you can divorce the idea of eugenics from the name for a second…what do you think of “Eugenette”? Do you like it more or less than Eugenie and Eugenia?
- “Armchair Reflections.” Flight: First Aero Weekly in the World 11 Oct. 1913: 1123.
- “Eugenette: First Eugenic Baby Brought Up on Humor.” Feilding Star 14 Oct. 1913: 4.
- Kevles, Daniel J. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
- “On Top.” Life 26 Feb. 1914: 344.
- “Why Scientists Are Eager to Breed a Eugenic Baby.” El Paso Herald 22 Nov. 1913: 6-D.