“Before reading this book, I had never heard of either the American Plan or Nina McCall. After reading it, I will be unlikely to forget either. … one of the more shameful chapters in our nation’s history.”
– Anne Fadiman, author of the National Book Critics Circle Award winning The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
To understand the debasement (and empowerment) of women in the US today, we must know our often-shocking history. This book tells the little-known 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.
The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison “Promiscuous” Women starts in 1918 when Nina McCall was told to report to the local health officer for an STI examination. Confused and humiliated, McCall did as she was told, and was quickly diagnosed with gonorrhea. Despite her insistence that she could not have an STI, she was coerced into committing herself to the Bay City Detention Hospital—a facility she would spend three months subjected to humiliation, exploitation, and painful injections of mercury.
Under the “American Plan,” the government imprisoned hundreds of thousands of women and girls suspected of being prostitutes or simply “promiscuous.” The program lasted from the 1910s into the 1950s, vestiges lingered into the 1960s and 1970s, and the laws that undergirded it remain on the books today. 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.
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, Scott is currently attending Yale Law School.
“Beautifully written, with deep theoretical insights, The Trials of Nina McCall will dismay, outrage, and haunt you.”
– Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History, Yale University
A book signing will follow the lecture. The author’s current book will be available for sale from Classic Lines.