WOMEN SECOND CLASS CITIZENS
Posted on April 3, 2019 by keywestlou
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I write about The American Plan.
Sounds wholesome. Was not.
The Plan had its beginnings in 1918. It’s purpose the mass imprisonment of women believed to be sexually immoral. The program initially one of federal encouragement. Encouragement to state and local governments to legislate and make arrests based on the Plan.
A long time program. From 1918 into the 1970’s. Still exists in some states, though not enforced. Doubt anyone knows it is on the books.
The initial concern was the military. Too many soldiers were getting STI’s. Sexually transmitted infections. More today. Few back then. However the few a real problem. Infections rampant.
The two biggies were syphilis and gonorrhea.
The Plan resulted in the detainment of over 100,000 women over the years. In every state, in most big and small cities.
A follow the money situation. The federal government paid local governments a stipend for every conviction obtained. States and local governments went gung ho over the years in making arrests. Most had “moral squads.” Their sole purpose to apprehend prostitutes.
The Plan resulted in a mass deprivation of civil liberties. The founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, Roger Baldwin, did not oppose the Plan. In fact, he sent a memorandum to ACLU local offices to cooperate in its enforcement.
Once arrested, the ladies were subjected to mandatory STI testing, highly questionable medical treatment, forced labor, and forcible sterilization.
The American Plan is forgotten. Probably because it was not enforced federally. Ergo, no data repository.
In addition to the ACLU’s founder Roger Baldwin, other prominent figures supported the Plan. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. one of the biggest. Prominent physicians and anti-vice crusaders. The likes of William F. Stone, Richard M. Olin, and Thomas Parran.
Syphilis and gonorrhea had been a sexual fear for centuries The two became rampant in the early 20th century. The underlying currents of Victorian morals, pseudoscience, racism, and misogyny created the motivation to confront the problem. And confront it the Plan did.
Statutes were broadly worded. Permission to detain suspects on the flimsiest of pretexts. Women were arrested for wearing provocative clothing, walking down a street alone, dining alone, looking like a prostitute, changing jobs, and for no reason at all.
Testing was required to establish syphilis or gonorrhea. Generally at some point such testing occurred. If negative, the ladies were free to leave. Some women initially protested the testing. They were threatened with Scarlet Letter shaming. Red lettered signs placed on their homes.
Testing results not always correct. Many false positives.
The Plan’s goal was to get loose women off the streets. Most of he women arrested were working class or African-Americans.
There was no penicillin. Penicillin became available in the 1940’s. Prior to that time, the ladies were treated with mercury or arsenic.
So many ladies were arrested in certain communities that detention hospitals had to be established.
Prominent persons supporting the Plan also included New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. He made special speeches lauding the Plan. California Governor Earl Warren personally spearheaded enforcement in his State. Warren later became Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
So it was!
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WOW, I’d never heard of this outrage.
This should be better known history. Like the Tuskegee Experiment, the Japanese Internment, … …
… … and … …
Public health plan aimed to combat venereal diseases, implemented in the US by the 1918 Chamberlain-Kahn Act.
Thanks to Petrone, Louis S. “Key West Lou” (MC1957) for educating me.
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