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The Trials of Nina McCall

Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women
Narrated by: Erin Bennett
Length: 14 hrs and 25 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The nearly forgotten story of the American Plan, a government program to regulate women's bodies and sexuality - and how they fought back - told through the lens of one of its survivors.

“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 20th 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 listening.

©2018 Scott Stern (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“A powerful report on a relevant women’s movement deservedly brought to light over a century after it occurred.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“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. Scott W. Stern has done a remarkably thorough job of laying out the evidence, brick by brick by brick, that damns the systematic incarceration of women with dubious sexual histories as one of the more shameful chapters in our nation’s history.” (Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down)

“In gripping and vivid detail, this book describes government officials, judges, and physicians who worked together for much of the twentieth century to surveil, imprison, experiment upon, and forever traumatize countless women. Perhaps more important, this book introduces us to brave women who refused to accept this barbaric treatment and who, against great odds, finally brought those same men to account. As the author makes clear, we must learn their story because what happened to them then could well happen to us now.” (Heather Ann Thompson, author of Blood in the Water)

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Incredible story but the book is TOO LONG

This book literally could be 1/5 of the current length and equally as informative. I never skip ahead when I’m reading, but found myself constantly jumping ahead in this book and not missing a thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the author’s passion and diligence in researching every detail, but it was just too painfully long. And all that being said, every person in the US should know this history so we never repeat the horror! I am grateful the author did bring this hideous history to light!

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His hatred of White Europeans is so transparent

(((Scott Stern))) is extremely biased. He can barely make it through a paragraph without making a snide remark about White people or Christianity. He also peppers his totally biased & boring account with drive-by remarks (as is typical of (((his))) tribe) about how dem po' jews were persecuted, etc. Naturally dem po' POC had it so bad, but not as bad as (((his tribe))). We see you, Schlomo.

0 of 16 people found this review helpful