When: Wednesday, June 2nd at 1:00pm
Where: On Youtube. Click here to watch.
Did you know that in the early half of the 20th century, tens, probably hundreds of thousands of women and girls were thrown into prison in this country – usually without due process – simply because officials suspected these women were prostitutes, carrying STIs, or just “promiscuous?”
This 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. In 1918, 18 year old Nina McCall was one such woman. Scott Stern tells her story and in doing so, shines a light on this almost forgotten program. 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 to know.