Read The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women by Scott W. Stern Online

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
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ISBN : 9780807042755
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 356 pages
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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 no bearing on my opinion of the book.

    *

    Have you heard of the American Plan? No? You probably won't find too much if you Google it. The author himself heard about this as an undergraduate, but in almost a throwaway sort of manner. He became interested in the topic, spent the rest of his undergraduate c

    As a result of her toxic treatments, Nina "suffered physical pain," as she bluntly put it. "My arm" - where she received the injections - "swelled so that it was so full I couldn't hardly move it nor anything." Over time, the arm became "sore and lame. It affected my sleep." Furthermore, "I suffered with my mouth, my teeth get sore and loose, they were so loose that they could bend them any place. They had never been that way before." Her hair started to fall out. She endured all this even as she was expected to continue scrubbing dishes and floors.

    In this respect, Nina's experience was similar to that of thousands of women across the nation.

    (p95)


    THOUSANDS OF WOMEN.

    This program was supported by some surprising people such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Eliot Ness. It lasted from the 1910s to the 1950s but in some states, the Plan continued well through the 1970s. Not surprisingly, some of today's laws are not that dissimilar to what began as the Plan.

    This is fascinating stuff and a part of our history that seems to be almost entirely forgotten. Scott Stern traveled to various states to access historical records to find out the truth. Nina McCall's story is just one of many, but to have a name gives life to the history, bringing it alive for us to read, learn, and hopefully never repeat. The War on Women has always existed in one capacity or another - here is just one more battle that we should be aware of so we remember how easily shit goes off the rails whenever anyone tries to regulate the body of women.

    The book is also a wake-up call to readers from a judicial standpoint as well. The "hospitals" were merely prisons, and they laid the foundations for the women's prisons we know today. The penal system is all sorts of fucked up - another issue that has been going on entirely too long and no one seems terribly concerned with improving.

    My only concern is that this book reads as quite academic, which makes sense considering Stern is an academic - unfortunately it took longer to read as a result than I would have liked. Stern did an incredible amount of research, and it is not a book meant to breeze through. I have heard this has been optioned for a movie already (we hate this kid, right?), and I look forward to seeing how it translate to the screen. If done well, a movie could bring even more necessary attention to a topic that needs to be discussed more frequently. ...more