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The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women
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Beacon Press 2018
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Description
The nearly forgotten story of the fight against the American Plan, a government program designed to regulate women’s bodies and sexuality
“A consistently surprising page-turner . . . a brilliant study of the way social anxieties have historically congealed in state control over women’s bodies and behavior.” —New York Times Book Review

Nina McCall was one of many women unfairly imprisoned by the United States government throughout the twentieth century. Tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of women and girls were locked up—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.
Nina McCall’s 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.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
05/15/2018
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780807042762
ASIN:
B074YMCZLX
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APA Citation (style guide)

Scott W. Stern. (2018). The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women. Beacon Press.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Scott W. Stern. 2018. The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women. Beacon Press.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Scott W. Stern, The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women. Beacon Press, 2018.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Scott W. Stern. The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women. Beacon Press, 2018.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: Scott W. 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, Stern is continuing his studies at Yale Law School.
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title
The Trials of Nina McCall
fullDescription
The nearly forgotten story of the fight against the American Plan, a government program designed to regulate women’s bodies and sexuality
“A consistently surprising page-turner . . . a brilliant study of the way social anxieties have historically congealed in state control over women’s bodies and behavior.” —New York Times Book Review

Nina McCall was one of many women unfairly imprisoned by the United States government throughout the twentieth century. Tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of women and girls were locked up—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.
Nina McCall’s 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.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: The New York Times Book Review
      • content: "A consistently surprising page-turner . . . a brilliant study of the way social anxieties have historically congealed in state control over women's bodies and behavior."
      • premium: False
      • source: The New York Review of Books
      • content: "For those of us who decry today's internationally unparalleled carceral crisis and wonder how we ended up here, Stern's beautifully written account of the American Plan and the life of Nina McCall offers some need but uncomfortable answers."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews
      • content: "A powerful report on a relevant women's movement deservedly brought to light over a century after it occurred."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Times Literary Supplement
      • content: "McCall's story is captivating as pure biography, but it is all the more remarkable documentarily."
      • premium: False
      • source: The New Republic
      • content: "Meticulously researched, utterly damning . . . The truths revealed in this book are truly shocking, and even more so because they are so little known."
      • premium: False
      • source: Library Journal
      • content: "A chilling look at a sadly relevant period in American history. Highly recommended for readers interested in women's studies and public health."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Boston Globe
      • content: "Stern breaks new ground by offering persuasive evidence of the [American Plan's] breadth, persistence, impact, and evolution from the World War I era into the 1970s. It's a shattering story."
      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        April 1, 2018
        Historical survey of an early-20th-century initiative to control "promiscuous" women through forced quarantines.In the 1910s, citing venereal disease as one of the largest culprits of military disability, the U.S. government created what was called the American Plan, which resulted in thousands of women being incarcerated for their perceived contraction and transmission of sexually transmitted infections. Stern adapts his prizewinning Yale University graduate thesis on the subject for general readers. The result is a dramatic re-enactment of the plight of these involuntarily quarantined women, personified through the life of Nina McCall, a teenager who was targeted by health officials as a disease carrier (she was declared "slightly infected" with gonorrhea) and coerced into admitting herself into a women's detention hospital. Bolstered by the advent of neoregulationism, whereby health officials--not police--would filter, outlaw, and imprison women for disease and suspected prostitution, officials held the mass-arrested women for months on often sketchy evidence. Eventually, after simmering resentment turned to sheer outrage, a resistance movement began to develop, and dozens of women escaped, rioted, enacted hunger strikes, or set fire to their facilities in protest. According to Stern's meticulous research, others, including McCall, took the legal route and sued government officials for the torturous and barbaric "curative" treatments they had endured in the detention facilities. Using letters, diaries, articles, and archival records, the author intricately re-creates McCall's world and brings much-needed attention to the struggle of these persecuted women and their fight for justice. The author spotlights McCall's trial testimony, where she became a radical voice against female oppression and abuse and an inspiration to others. The book's academic tone is direct, informative, exacting, and well-suited for the grim subject matter it addresses, and it puts a face on the treacherous, sexist injustices committed by a misguided government.A powerful report on a relevant women's movement deservedly brought to light over a century after it occurred.

        COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        May 1, 2018

        Scholar Stern, expanding upon his thesis research, recounts the "American Plan," a World War I-era mass incarceration movement in which women suspected of being infected with syphilis or gonorrhea were forced to undergo gynecological examinations, then incarcerated and subjected to harsh, ineffective treatments. The story is told through the eyes of Nina McCall, who was imprisoned under the plan and afterward sued her captors. Although the focus is on Nina's experience, Stern weaves in accounts of other women across the United States. Notably, he shows how prisoners and former advocates resisted the plan. They were fighting against formidable odds, as many prominent figures of the day, including Franklin Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and Fiorello LaGuardia supported the program. Stern does not shy away from the horror of the plan and emphasizes the sexism and racism inherent in its execution, tracing its development through World War II up to the 1970s and lingering impacts today. VERDICT A chilling look at a sadly relevant period in American history. Highly recommended for readers interested in women's studies and public health.--Rebekah Kati, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

        Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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shortDescription
The nearly forgotten story of the fight against the American Plan, a government program designed to regulate women’s bodies and sexuality
“A consistently surprising page-turner . . . a brilliant study of the way social anxieties have historically congealed in state control over women’s bodies and behavior.” —New York Times Book Review

Nina McCall was one of many women unfairly imprisoned by the United States government throughout the twentieth century. Tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of women and girls were locked up—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...
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