The Trials of Nina McCall by Scott W. Stern

The Trials of Nina McCall

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) examinat...

Details The Trials of Nina McCall

TitleThe Trials of Nina McCall
Release DateMay 15th, 2018
PublisherBeacon Press
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Feminism, Crime, True Crime, Historical, Politics, North American Hi..., American History

Reviews The Trials of Nina McCall

  • 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 i...
  • Amy
    This is an astonishingly good book that didn't get nearly as much attention as it deserves. I only found it because one of my novels touches on this same subject. Nina McCall was a real person--a young woman who, in the early part of the twentieth century, got locked up for what we would today call "going on a date." The author uses her true story (which he thoroughly researched, digging up astonishing details) as a lens through which to view the...
  • Darcia Helle
    I'm sitting here trying to come up with the right words to express my thoughts. They won't come. I think I'm still in shock. What I can immediately tell you is don't hesitate; read this book. Scott Stern is a talented writer. His style is narrative nonfiction, similar to Erik Larson's writing. He puts us in the moment, with all the emotions of the people involved and the turmoil surrounding the events. I felt it all happening and saw it playing o...
  • R.E. Conary
    The Trials of Nina McCall (Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison “Promiscuous” Women) is author Scott W. Stern’s meticulously researched exposé of America’s unconscionable misuse of power. The writing can be dry at times but that only accentuates the mind-numbing, gut-wrenching atrocities inflicted. Nina McCall was but one victim of the draconian and misogynistic laws passed and enforced by “right-minded...
  • Paul
    DNF. A very long scholarly book that traces the American Plan, which started as a plan to sweep the streets regularly to pick up, give gynecological examinations to, and possibly imprison any woman seen walking along the streets alone. It was an egregious patriarchal plan to find women with STDs and put them away. This book centers around one instance of an innocent woman, Nina McCall, and how she pled her case from prison and was eventually foun...
  • Alan Mills
    Atwood's Hand Maiden's Tale is not a dark vision of the future--it is an all too accurate description of our past.Arresting, involuntarily testing, imprisoning and torturing women because men don't approve of their sexuality was the explicit policy of the US for most of the 20th Century. Under the now largely forgotten "American Plan", women were detained on mere suspicion of being infected--and the official position was that prmiscuity was by de...
  • Lynn
    I am really pleased to have been introduced to a subject matter previously unknown to me and I applaud the author for his thorough research. However (and especially since it was stated that the author will publish a more in-depth version to be consumed by academia), there was FAR too much detail in this book for me to enjoy it. I don't really care if a Michigan political group met in the east wing or west wing of a building. I think it would have...
  • Nostalgia Reader
    4.5 stars.
  • Deestarr
    How often we women turn on our own.Stern discusses one part of the movement in the early 20th century to criminalize female sexuality. Between 1918 and 1950 thousands of women were incarcerated and forcibly subjected to dangerous and experimental medical treatments, forcibly sterilized and publicly shamed for the merest suspicion they were sexually active or infected with an STI. As part and parcel of the American eugenics movement , the American...
  • Tom Johnson
    well written - exhaustively researched - hidden history that needs to be read in as much as the law enforcement problems the book exposed are still with us.Exams that were more torturous than necessary for what should have been a standard medical procedure. For a woman, circa 1918, given the all-male world of medicine of those times; maybe the standard was torture. Backward and painful procedures, filthy instruments and hands, useless and poisono...
  • Melanie
    The Trials of Nina McCall is a meticulously researched, immensely fascinating deep dive into a hitherto almost unremembered aspect of American history: the American Plan, a decades-long attempt to unfairly imprison and forcibly treat thousands of women who were “suspected” (reasonably or, more often, not) of being infected with STIs. It is a harrowing, sometimes downright chilling tale of consistent, coordinated oppression and the denial of c...
  • Brandi
    This is not an easy or fun book to read. It is deeply researched and academic in nature, but it is also riveting and SO important. Stern sheds a light on a facet of US history that has been largely erased from the record books. The America Plan was formed during WWI with the supposed goal of protecting our troops from STIs. The result was THOUSANDS of America women (primarily women of color) being forcibly examined and incarcerated for “treatme...
  • Susan
    Just. Couldn't. Finish. "Exhaustively" documented turns out to be TOO documented, -- I know it is vital to cite all your sources, and that they be original sources, but it is not vital to know what the weather was on the day that some event took place -- and the author has a tin ear for awkward phrasing which manifests itself on nearly every page. It's a shame, because this is an important topic which has not been studied in this depth before.
  • Adam Bricker
    A majority of the book is about the false imprisonment, questionable services for and eventual trial of Nina McCall all in the name of the betterment of America. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of government overreaching, racism, sexism and religious bias in the plan used to help keep the soldiers and general men safe from Sexually Transmitted Infections. Also, as the author states in the epilogue, prostitution has had a much larger role in Americ...
  • Brenda
    Informative and intense. The book was overwhelming at times with loaded historical background. Quite often, I felt as though I was rereading the facts... overly stated and perhaps could have been summarized better. I also did not like the fact that the author never touched on male birth control and the part it could have, should have, but didn’t have on the issue. It seemed relevant and needed but was completely absent. I also wish the book had...
  • Deborah Cleaves
    Another dissertation. It needed work before being released as a book. The first cloying errors involved basic spelling. State and street names need to be capitalized. So do the names of government departments. There is a repetitive consistency to the author’s errors that demonstrates sloth and disdain for the reader. The beginning of the book offered a thick forest of facts and an over abundance of dissertational footnoting. But laced through t...
  • Sandra
    I enjoy reading about little-known, unbelievable events that happened in our country, and that is why I chose this book. This book is about a little-known and shocking event in our country’s history. It is about the American Plan, a plan in effect from the 1910’s into the 1950’s, that originally tried to keep sexually transmitted diseases from spreading. This was the period of our history that was greatly affected by the World Wars, so the ...
  • Bill O'driscoll
    Stern unearths stunning material for this nonfiction book, a great bit of historical detective work about the decades-long practice in the U.S. of surveilling, arresting, and even imprisoning women, supposedly on suspicion of carrying STIs but more often just as an especially heinous form of social control. Women across the country were often targeted simply for being alone in the wrong part of town. Many were institutionalized and "treated" for ...
  • Sophia
    The Trials of Nina McCall is an example of how going to class can change your life. Scott Stern's attention was piqued by his professor mentioned a social hygiene program that had him searching "concentration camp for prostitutes" during a freshman-year lecture at Yale. He went on to do years' worth of research on the "American Plan" to protect society from venereal disease in the 20th century. It's scary how this national plan, instituted at the...
  • Fraser Sherman
    During WW I (although the roots of the idea go back earlier) the U.S. government adopted the "American Plan" to prevent soldiers from being crippled by STDs. In theory, the Plan authorized locking up infected prostitutes (the Plan's gender neutral language was a sham — only a few men were busted), treating them and training them in legal occupations. In practice, any woman who was promiscuous, or seemed promiscuous, or might possibly could be a...
  • Karen Adkins
    The substance of this book is shocking, all the more so because it's so under-reported. Stern relays how, in WWI, a punitive "American Plan" was devised and funded to monitor and forcibly test women accused of promiscuity and/or prostitution (disproportionately women of color or immigrants), and if (medically dubious) tests were positive, to detain them with equally dubious treatments, detention often lasting months. This Plan was resisted by wom...
  • Cara Group
    This book made me angry. I have no other way to express this, other than feeling angry. As a student of history (and law), my mind is simply amazed (and yet not) that I had never heard of the American Plan. Granted, my studies focused primarily on the European side of things during WW1 & WW2, but to never hear of it at all is just a stark reminder another type of privilege is to have your story told after you die. Since it is only relatively rece...
  • Ting
    If a Handmaid's Tale pissed you off in its vivid reality about a dystopian society that oppresses women then this book will really piss you off because it's real. It documents women and girls being incarcerated without due process on the mere suspicion of being a prostitute, infected with an STI, loose morals, promiscuity, or "incorrigibility." Yeah, you read that correctly, women deemed hopeless, unruly, and otherwise nonredeemable. Most women w...
  • Thomas Petri
    The fifth star is also for the new and frightening information about our government's love for heinous treatment of the citizens who are supposed to be the power behind the government. Stern uses the life of Nina McCall as representative of the long and despicable plan by the government to enforce morality, as defined by itself, on it's citizens. The cruelty, torture, degradation, and ruined lives brought about by this program over the last centu...
  • Sara
    This was fine and shed some light on an event in US history that I was unfamiliar with. The author could have used some assistance in condensing his thoughts. Sometimes, the chapters are redundant, and the author goes on to repeat identical sentences (and sentence structure) that appeared just one page before. Other times, the author omits details that would be helpful to expanding the reader's understanding of the historical context. This also s...
  • Debbie
    While this book might not be for everyone, I enjoyed this look at "The American Plan", our nation's response to STIs (syphilis & gonorrhea) before the advent of antibiotics. What I found disturbing was not the plan itself-it was meant to protect the public from infectious disease-but how the plan focused on women as the primary hosts and transmitters of these infections. A woman could be picked up based on very subjective assessments of her likel...
  • Monica Bond-Lamberty
    Is this a page turner? No. It is well written and compelling, but you can often put it down.But is it something you should read? By all means. The information in this book was not covered at all in my years as a history major nor in my years of teaching history. Fascinating information showing the perpetuation of practices discriminating against women.Would love a version of this book focusing more on women of color say, but this one definitely f...
  • William Fluke
    I had never heard of "the American Plan" before. This book educated me well on these horrible actions taken beginning in early 1900's and continuing (in some ways at least) into the 1970's. Blew my mind the injustices and cruel behaviors that were allowed. When I read a book like this, it always makes me wonder- what is going on right now that will read like this when written 30 years from now? Well researched and documented.
  • Linda Atkinson
    Dense with research. Intense content. Because we made it lawful: give us the women to follow, harass, submit to examinations, and detain for harmful treatments for syphilis and gonorrhea that did not cure in the name of protecting our troops aka the men from incapacitating disease, because no man could ever be the cause or source (yes, sarcasm).