The American Plan: the government’s incarceration of ‘promiscuous’ women

Listen 49:00
A 1943 photograph of a detention hospital for infected women in Leesville, LA.

A 1943 photograph of a detention hospital for infected women in Leesville, LA.

Guest: Scott Stern

The United States government incarcerated tens of thousands of “promiscuous” women in the 20th century. The program, known as the American Plan, started around WWI as an attempt to protect American soldiers from sexually transmitted infections and prostitution. Women suspected of carrying STIs were detained and locked up in reformatories, work houses, and jails. They were treated with toxic, ineffective remedies such as arsenic and mercury, and they were sometimes sterilized. Historian SCOTT STERN says the American Plan was one of the largest and longest-lasting mass quarantines in U.S. history.  Stern brings light to this little known history in his book, The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison “Promiscuous” Women.

 

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