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

by Scott W. Stern

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Overview

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

In 1918, just days before her eighteenth birthday, Nina McCall was told to report to the local health officer for an STD examination. Confused and humiliated, McCall did as she was told, and the health officer performed a hasty (and invasive) examination and quickly diagnosed her with gonorrhea. Though McCall insisted she could not possibly have an STI, she was coerced into committing herself to the Bay City Detention Hospital—a facility in which she would spend almost three miserable months subjected to humiliation, experimentation, 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 imprisoned tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of women and girls—usually without due process—simply because officials suspected these women were prostitutes, infected with STIs, or simply "promiscuous." This discriminatory program, dubbed the "American Plan," lasted from the 1910s into the 1950s.

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 humiliation felt by these women, and details the multitude of mortifications they endured, both during and after their internment. Thousands of incarcerated women rioted, fought back against their oppressors, or burned their detention facilities to the ground; they jumped out of windows 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 healthcare, prisons, women's rights, and the power of the state, The Trials of Nina McCall is crucial reading.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807042755
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication date: 05/15/2018
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Scott Stern is a graduate of Yale University, with a BA and MA in American Studies, summa cum laude. His thesis, on the American Plan, won Yale's Norman Holmes Pearson Prize. A native of Pittsburgh, Scott is currently attending Yale Law School.

Table of Contents

AUTHOR’S NOTE

INTRODUCTION
“Young Lady, Do You Mean to Call Me a Liar?”

CHAPTER 1
“Willing to Go to Jail for Such a Cause”

CHAPTER 2
“Less Fortunate Sisters”

CHAPTER 3
“Waging War on the Women”

CHAPTER 4
“Reaching the Whole Country”

CHAPTER 5
“It Was Too Late”

CHAPTER 6
“Why Should a Woman Be Imprisoned for a Disease?”

CHAPTER 7
“We Will Get Even Yet”

CHAPTER 8
“When Righteous Women Arise”

CHAPTER 9
“Hunting for Girls”

CHAPTER 10
“We Defeat Ourselves”

CHAPTER 11
“The Situation Seems to Be Getting Worse”

CHAPTER 12
“A Total War”

CHAPTER 13
“Venereal Disease Was Not Our Concern”

EPILOGUE
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
NOTES
INDEX

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