As an adoptive Vermonter, I embraced the popular myth of the state’s egalitarian, frontier democratic heritage, and even helped promote it some while working as Program Director at the Ethan Allen Homestead in Burlington. Having discovered that the state legislature had in 1931 passed a law for eugenical sterilization helped dispel that myth. I continued to be mightily unnerved that I had studied biology as an undergraduate, fallen in love with Charles Darwin, and never been told the story of eugenics in America. Serving as a postdoctoral student in a unique National Science Foundation-funded program called “Nature, History, and the Natural Historical Sciences,” I had the opportunity to deepen my understanding of the origins of American eugenics.
Simultaneously deepening my relationship to anthroposophy, I was searching for some way to speak about another altogether forgotten stream of modern science – Goethean phenomenology, and its extension in the 20th century by a small group of scientists working out of Rudolf Steiner’s anthropospophy. The “great border fault” running down the length of the Appalachian Mountains became a metaphor for my attempt to bring together two very different histories – of the nature study and eugenical programs in the Ramapo Mountains and the Arcadian educational and lifeway initiative at Threefold Farm in Spring Valley, NY.