Unfit For America: The Significance Of Bernarr Macfadden’s “Weak Child” Claim In American Physical Culture
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The “weak child” claim was a statement made by early physical culturalists in their publications in the early 20thcentury, wherein they claim to have been exceptionally weak or sickly as a child, and then, through “x” system of physical culture, became remarkably strong and fit. During the time period this claim wasbeing made, eugenics began to influence the medical and legal environment in America. My thesis looks at the “weak child” claim through its American originator, Bernarr Macfadeden, and examines its ties with eugenics through the medical and physical culture communities, as well as the general populationto ascertain why it was such a prevalent method of advertising.My thesis will characterize the knowledge of physical culturalists and medical professionals regarding common ailments at the time which wouldhave rendered one a “weak child”. I will then goon to characterize the influence of eugenics on American society through the medical and physical culture industry. Finally, my thesis will document some known “weak child” claims made by physical culturalsits, as well as other people who helped bring the concept of eugenics into the field of physical culture, and how eugenics created a sense of fear in society which would makethe “weak child” claim an attractive form of advertising for physical culturalists to take advantage of.