Elaine Riddick Trent


At the age of 19 Elaine Riddick Trent learned that she would never be able to conceive and bear a child of her own. Her sterility was the result of a tubal ligation performed on her without her knowledge or consent 5 years earlier.  Trent’s sterilization was performed on March 1, 1968 during her stay in an Edenton, North Carolina hospital where the fourteen-year-old went to deliver her first child.


The procedure was ordered by the North Carolina Eugenics Board which declared her “mentally incompetent” on the basis of her unmarried pregnancy – without psychological evaluation or even a formal hearing (Trent was later determined to be of normal intelligence on the basis of psychological testing). The consent form for her sterilization was “signed” by Trent’s illiterate grandmother, who marked an “A” on the document – though it is unlikely that her grandmother was fully informed about the procedure itself or the significance of her mark.  


  • Original: ACLU News, For Immediate Release, January 21, 1974 & American Civil Liberties Union, Reproductive Freedom Project, 1982 Annual Report – American Civil Liberties Union Papers, Records, Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University. 
  • Cited In: Kluchin, Rebecca M. 2004. “Fit to be tied?: Sterilization and reproductive rights in America, 1960-1984.” Unpublished Dissertation. Carnegie Mellon University.

~ by Serena on November 24, 2008.

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