Spring/printemps 2006

“Through no fault of their own”: Josephine Dauphinee and the “Subnormal” Pupils of the Vancouver School System, 1911-1941

Gerald Thomson
Summer Sessional Lecturer in the history of Canadian education in the Educational Studies Department at the University of British Columbia. Learning Support Teacher in the Surrey school district, British Columbia.
Published May 1, 2006
How to Cite
Thomson, Gerald. 2006. ““Through No Fault of Their own”: Josephine Dauphinee and the ‘Subnormal’ Pupils of the Vancouver School System, 1911-1941”. Historical Studies in Education / Revue d’histoire De l’éducation 18 (1), 51-73. https://doi.org/10.32316/hse/rhe.v18i1.402.


This article concerns the career of an early British Columbia teacher, Miss Josephine Dauphinee. She was the first teacher in the province to teach children labelled as feeble-minded in segregated special classes within the Vancouver school system. Dauphinee’s teaching career would be remarkable for that fact alone but the social and political motivation behind her special-class work was her life-long belief in eugenics. She saw herself as a progressive activist; by promoting the segregation of feeble-minded schoolchildren, she sought to advance the social logic of eugenics into the political realm. With the aid of local women’s groups, Dauphinee lobbied successfully for a sexual sterilization law and up until the last days of her teaching life followed an outmoded form of mental hygiene based on eugenic hereditarianism