The American psychologist Henry H. Goddard, creator of the term moron, was director of the Vineland Training School (originally the Vineland Training School for Backward and Feeble-minded Children) at Vineland, New Jersey. Goddard was known for postulating most effectively that "feeble-mindedness" was a hereditary trait, most likely caused by a single recessive gene. This led Goddard to ring eugenic alarm bells in his 1912 work, The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness, about those in the population who carried the recessive trait despite outward appearances of normality.
In the first half of the 20th century, "feeble-mindedness, in any of its grades" was a common criterion for compulsory sterilization in many U.S. states.
Jack London's 1914 story, "Told in the Drooling Ward," describes inmates at a California institution for the "feeble-minded." Such an institution existed (the California Home for the Care and Training of Feeble-minded Children, now the Sonoma Developmental Center) close to the Jack London Ranch in Glen Ellen, California. The story is a narrative told from the point of view of a self-styled "high-grade feeb".