1894: Kansas asylum de-sexes chronic masturbators

In 1894, the activities of Dr F. Hoyt Pilcher, superintendent of the Kansas Asylum for Idiots and Imbecile Youth in Winfield, came to light in the press. According to outraged reports, Pilcher had personally castrated any inmate found to be a “confirmed masturbator”. A total of 11 teenaged boys had so far been deprived of their testicles.

Dr Pilcher was accused of “diabolism” and treating his patients no better than “the farmer treats his hogs”. The Kansas Medical Journal, however, laughed off the press and hailed Pilcher as a hero:

“This abuse weakened the already imbecile mind and destroyed the body. The practice is loathsome, disgusting, humiliating and destructive of all self-respect and decency, and had a bad moral effect on the whole school… Dr Pilcher, like a brave and capable man, sought something better… He could give back a restored mind and robust health, a bestial function destroyed, and he did it.”

Newspaper investigations into Pilcher and his activities continued undaunted. One paper reported that Pilcher was unqualified for the position he held and that he was addicted to drink. There were also claims, apparently corroborated, that Pilcher had raped several young females in his care:

“Mrs Murray, who had been employed by Dr Pilcher in some capacity about the institution, testified that two of the girls, Alice and Nora, came to her crying and testified that Dr Pilcher had taken them into his private office and locked the door and taken liberties with their persons. These stories were further substantiated by Miss Johnson, who was a teacher in the school.”

Pilcher denied any allegation of sexual impropriety, though he reportedly admitted to stripping the girls in his office for an ‘inspection’. Despite these claims, Pilcher kept his job and the Asylum continued to neuter its patients, eventually performing as many as 150 male and female sterilisations. Pilcher retired in 1899 but the Asylum remained very popular among eugenics-driven doctors and parents alike, tripling in size by the outbreak of World War I.

Source: Kansas Medical Journal, vol. 6, September 1894; The Iola Register, Kansas, August 31st 1894. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.