The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison

The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women

The nearly forgotten story of the American Plan, one of the largest and longest-lasting mass quarantines in American history, told through the lens of one young woman's story.

In 1918, shortly after her eighteenth birthday, Nina McCall was told to report to the local health officer to be examined for sexually transmitted infections. Confused and humiliated, Nina did as she was told, and the health officer performed a hasty (and invasive) examination and quickly diagnosed her with gonorrhea. Though Nina insisted she could not possibly have an STI, she was coerced into committing herself to the Bay City Detention Hospital, a facility where she would spend almost three miserable months subjected to hard labor, exploitation, and painful injections of mercury.

Nina McCall was one of many women unfairly imprisoned by the United States government throughout the twentieth century. The government locked up tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of women and girls--usually without due process--simply because officials suspected these women were prostitutes, carrying STIs, or just "promiscuous."

This discriminatory program, dubbed the "American Plan," lasted from the 1910s into the 1950s, implicating a number of luminaries, including Eleanor Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Earl Warren, and even Eliot Ness, while laying the foundation for the modern system of women's prisons. In some places, vestiges of the Plan lingered into the 1960s and 1970s, and the laws that undergirded it remain on the books to this day.

Scott Stern tells the story of this almost forgotten program through the life of Nina McCall. Her story provides crucial insight into the lives of countless other women incarcerated under the American Plan. Stern demonstrates the pain and shame felt by these women and details the multitude of mortifications they endured, both during and after their internment. Yet thousands of incarcerated women rioted, fought back against their oppressors, or burned their detention facilities to the ground; they jumped out of windows or leapt from moving trains or scaled barbed-wire fences in order to escape. And, as Nina McCall did, they sued their captors. In an age of renewed activism surrounding harassment, health care, prisons, women's rights, and the power of the state, this virtually lost chapter of our history is vital reading.

Title:The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women
ISBN:9780807042755
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About Scott W. Stern


    The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women Reviews

  • El

    Disclaimer: I read this book at the request of a professor I work with, as this book was written by his son. I did not meet the author prior to reading this book, so the connection to his father has n...

  • Darcia Helle

    I'm sitting here trying to come up with the right words to express my thoughts. They won't come. I think I'm still in shock. What I can immediately tell you is don't hesitate; read this book. Scott St...

  • R.E. Conary

    The Trials of Nina McCall (Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison “Promiscuous” Women) is author Scott W. Stern’s meticulously researched exposé of America’s unco...

  • Nostalgia Reader

    4.5 stars....

  • Lynn

    I am really pleased to have been introduced to a subject matter previously unknown to me and I applaud the author for his thorough research. However (and especially since it was stated that the author...

  • Deestarr

    How often we women turn on our own.Stern discusses one part of the movement in the early 20th century to criminalize female sexuality. Between 1918 and 1950 thousands of women were incarcerated and fo...

  • Tom Johnson

    well written - exhaustively researched - hidden history that needs to be read in as much as the law enforcement problems the book exposed are still with us.Exams that were more torturous than necessar...

  • Tessa Clare

    I can't believe this book only has 12 reviews. This looks like such a fascinating read!...

  • Melanie

    The Trials of Nina McCall is a meticulously researched, immensely fascinating deep dive into a hitherto almost unremembered aspect of American history: the American Plan, a decades-long attempt to unf...

  • Adam Bricker

    A majority of the book is about the false imprisonment, questionable services for and eventual trial of Nina McCall all in the name of the betterment of America. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of gove...