How Your Grandparents Were Taught to be Sexist: Ogburn-Nimkoff's Misogynistic Sociology Textbook

After poring through my grandfather's old racist history book and writing about it earlier this month, I mentioned in that blog post that I had contacted the President of the university that was still celebrating the author's memory. Happily, I received an email back within a few short days from their VP of Diversity & Inclusion: "I appreciate you sharing your concerns re: your findings about Smith Burnham. I will share this information with the Racial Justice Advisory Committee workgroup that is looking at topics such as the one you have raised. Again, thank you for bringing this information to our attention."

Receiving this in such short time was a blessing, and with that, gave me the impetus to take on the next textbook in his library: 1940's Sociology, by William F. Ogburn and Meyer F. Nimkoff.

As a former Sociology major myself, I immediately was curious to look up their discussions of women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community, and the findings were, as expected, repulsive:

  • They spent over two pages quoting Lewis M. Terman, a misogynistic and racist man who, as Stanford University describes "also served on the boards of several eugenics associations and may have been in favor of compulsory sterilization," only expressing 'regret' (but not recanting his words) once Nazism emerged in the 1930s. In another Stanford article, they elaborated that Terman "was a firm believer in attempts to improve the human race through selective and restrictive breeding...Terman did not just want to identify sexually deviant individuals: he aimed to promote the eugenic eradication of those who did not fit into his strict gender and sexual roles in the name of preserving the (white), happy heterosexual family." Heads up folks, this is the guy who built the highly slanted Stanford-Binet IQ test which the same piece tells how he used it to "to present an argument of IQ deficiency in Indigenous, Mexican, and Black communities." In this Sociology textbook I'm reviewing, the one of the authors' quotes of Terman included his description of the 'Personality of Happily Married Women', where Terman states women "are co-operative, do not object to subordinate roles, and are not annoyed by advice from others...In religion, morals, and politics they tend to be conservative and conventional." (p. 725).

  • In 'The Loss of Functions by the Family', Ogburn/Nimkoff described the schoolteacher as a "rival of the parent" and described how the husband formerly "protected his wife and children from robbers, Indians, or wild beasts," while lamenting that "the state with its child labor and compulsory school attendance laws has stepped in to protect the children against their own parents." (p. 749)

  • Their convoluted blame of Native Americans for somehow being at fault for their own deaths due the diseases spread by the invading Europeans because they didn't have the "cultural preparation" for it: "Modern Europeans and Americans are making frequent discoveries in scientific medicine, while the American Indians made few. Yet the need for scientific medicine was greater among the Indians...whole tribes are known to have died in epidemics." (p. 816).

And yep, it looks like there's a school named after Ogburn - the Ogburn-Stouffer Center for the Study of Social Organizations at the University of Chicago is right there, blithely selling sociology with this creep's name on it.

And yep...I'll be reaching out to them next.

PS - What did we do with the first book? Decided that it would be best served as firestarter/kindling for our woodstove. Buh-bye, history bigots!

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