Eugenics were a popular idea during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the Colorado State Hospitals founder, Dr. Hubert Work, was a major proponent of these ideas. Work believed that there were only two ways to prevent mental infirmity from transmitting to the general population: segregation and sterilization.
At this point eugenics were not legal in Colorado, but lobbyists at the state level pushed across the country for new legislation that would allow for forced sterilizations. Despite its illegality, the State Hospital proceeded with many sterilizations throughout the early portion of its existence. In August of 1928, Superintendent Frank Zimmerman wrote to the Colorado Attorney Generals office to inquire about different ways to approve forced sterilization on his patients. Attorney General William Boatright responded that there were no laws in Colorado that allowed for this, and pointed out the four separate failed attempts at making it legal in the state House and Senate. This response was anathema to what Zimmerman wanted to hear from the Attorney General because the hospital had already been practicing forced sterilization. Still, he continued along with his program because he believed the fact that the state had no provisions regarding sterilization did not make it explicitly illegal. Zimmerman thought that with the consent of the parent or the patient would legally absolve himself and others who wished to preform this procedure. In 1948, another attorney general weighed in on this matter by stating that infirm people in mental hospitals were wards of the state, which invalidated any consent from the parents or patients regarding major life changes.
Zimmerman was eventually sued by a former patient over a forced sterilization in the mid 1950's. Lucille had been sterilized at the hospital in the 1940's with a consent form from her parents. As earlier discussed, this was not sufficient enough legal loophole to allow for this procedure. Equally problematic in this case is that Zimmerman stated his motives for forced sterilization was to prevent the mentally infirm from multiplying, yet Lucille had taken three I.Q. tests throughout their life that indicated average intelligence at 105. In this case Zimmerman admitted that his procedure was preformed many times throughout his term as Superintendent and indicated that the continued actively.