Preferred Citation: Bredbenner, Candice Lewis. A Nationality of Her Own: Women, Marriage, and the Law of Citizenship. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1998 1998.



There is no notion more central in politics than citizenship, and none more variable in history, or contested in theory. In America it has in principle always been democratic, but only in principle.
—Judith Shklar, American Citizenship

The year 1931 marked another wrenching upheaval in Lillian Larch's already disordered life. Her latest crisis had begun to unfold when the unskilled, unemployed, and recently widowed Larch sought public assistance for her family of five. Her application for aid from the Detroit Department of Public Welfare did not produce the desired lifeline; instead, Larch's plea for help earmarked her and three of her children as deportable aliens. The federal government gave Lillian Larch only one day to prepare for her family's removal to Ontario, where she could claim no friends, relatives, or job. The deportation of immigrants as public charges certainly was not an uncommon occurrence, particularly during the Depression years, and Larch's expulsion from the United States as an undesirable alien might have remained unpublicized if a rather singular fact about the case had not seized the attention of woman's rights groups. Lillian Larch had been, by birth, a citizen of the United States.

Ethel Coope's marriage to the popular Scottish tenor Mackenzie Gordon (a.k.a. Gordon Mackenzie) had added the gilt of novelty to her place within the fashionable circles of San Francisco. Socially, Ethel


Mackenzie was well placed in her community; but in political terms she was impoverished. Mackenzie had earned a reputation as one of California's model club women, and as a member of the Club Woman's Franchise League she had participated actively in her native state's voter-registration drive. But when California women finally received the ballot in 1911, Mackenzie was unable to vote. Four years later the suffragist was fighting her disfranchisement in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ethel Mackenzie and Lillian Larch occupied dramatically different worlds. Yet, despite the social chasm separating their lives, the two women shared a personal predicament of national consequence. When Mackenzie's legal counsel went before the country's highest court, he represented a woman who had been denied more than a ballot. The federal government had shorn Ethel Mackenzie of her citizenship. If Mackenzie had won the case against her involuntary expatriation. the decision would also have saved Lillian Larch from deportation fifteen years later. Larch and Mackenzie's link to one another—and to many other women in the United States—was their commission of an act that the federal government had transformed into a politically costly one. Larch and Mackenzie had married foreigners, and the penalty for that decision was forfeiture of their American citizenship.

This book is about the Lillian Larchs and the Ethel Mackenzies, as well as the countless immigrant women who were involuntarily divested of their citizenship by laws that demanded that a married woman assume her husband's nationality. It is also about the women and men who worked diligently for decades to abolish these rules and similar discriminatory policies threaded through the country's immigration and nationality laws. At every step, nationality-rights reformers encountered stiff resistance to their proposed changes in the law—changes that challenged the traditional distribution of power and privilege within marriage and among citizens and threatened to disrupt the operation of more recently minted policies relating to immigration and naturalization control.

The barriers to equal nationality rights eventually collapsed one by one under the weight of public opinion and the hammering assaults of feminists, and historians' recovery of the story of the crusade for women's nationality rights has also been slow and piecemeal. The history of married women's loss and restoration of their ability to hold an independent citizenship has been sparely noted in the last half of the twentieth century, an unfortunate pattern of neglect initially established by the omission of the subject from most studies of the country's


woman suffrage movement. Scholars' subsequent interest in the struggle over an equal rights amendment and in interwar feminist politics generally, however, finally began to yield some fragments of the story.[1] J. Stanley Lemons first rescued the subject of women's nationality rights from three decades of obscurity with his exploration of the events leading to the passage of the Married Women's Independent Citizenship Act (Cable Act) in 1922. About ten years later, Virginia Sapiro offered valuable insights on the critical years of the crusade in an article that has since served many scholars as the standard reference work on the Cable Act.[2] This study builds on that small but solid foundation of scholarship in order to restore the issue of independent and voluntary citizenship to its original visibility and prominence in the interwar reform record of female activists.

For organized women of the pre-World War II era the phrase independent citizenship held meanings both general and specific. It could refer broadly to the comprehensive achievement of equal citizenship rights for women, but by the 1920s and 1930s female activists usually assigned this expression to a particular reform objective: the abolition of marital expatriation and naturalization. The women who participated in a large or small way in this reform movement became involved for various reasons. For some participants, the commitment sprang from strictly personal concerns about the loss of their premarital citizenship or the immigration status of a noncitizen spouse or child; but for the majority of women most visible in the campaign, the dedication to independent citizenship was more self-consciously ideological. Lemons's assumption that the campaign's postsuffrage participants acknowledged this cause to be "an unambiguous feminist issue" can be broadly applied—but only to the "ideological" group, which was composed largely of women who were not political novices but veterans of the suffrage campaign. Yet, even this collection of seasoned activists, many of whom would dedicate decades to the achievement of inde-

[1]   Susan D. Becker, The Origins of the Equal Rights Amendment: American Feminism between the Wars (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981); Christine Lunardini, From Equal Suffrage to Equal Rights: Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party, 1913–1928 (New York: New York University Press, 1986); Nancy F. Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987).

[2]   J. Stanley Lemons, The Woman Citizen. Social Feminism in the 1920s (urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973); Virginia Sapiro, "Women, Citizenship, and Nationality: Immigration and Naturalization Policies in the United States," Politics and Society 13, no. 1 (1984): 1–26.


pendent citizenship for women, never reached a shared understanding of the ideological frame of their work. The well-orchestrated drive for married women's independent citizenship provided an excellent theater for viewing both the common concerns that held woman's rights advocates together, however loosely, and the entrenched conceptual differences that fueled their rivalries.

The crusade for equal nationality rights began in the spring of 1907, induced by an unanticipated legislative development that woman's rights proponents viewed as more ominous and destructive than their exclusion from the polls. Congress had declared that "any American woman who marries a foreigner shall take the nationality of her husband," and on March 2 the federal government summarily denationalized and denaturalized thousands of American women for marrying foreign citizens. There were no exceptions to this rule. Choice of a spouse was the overriding legislative determinant of a married woman's citizenship, and assuming her husband's nationality was an unwritten part of a woman's nuptial contract.[3]

Although the 1907 statute provided the political spark necessary to ignite American feminists' interest in challenging derivative citizenship for women, this law did not mark the statutory introduction of the practice. The story of women's loss of nationality rights began in the 1850s, when the woman's rights movement was in its infancy, anti-immigrant oratory could boost the popularity of a politician running in Congressional elections, and the Know-Nothing Party attained shortlived prominence on a platform endorsing the restriction of voting privileges and office holding to the native-born. Yet in 1855, members of Congress appeared to check their distrust of aliens long enough to present foreign women with the gift of citizenship if they married American men. This naturalization policy operated quietly until the 1907 expatriation law awakened woman's rights advocates to some of

[3]   Birth statistics can provide some evidence of the level of intermarriage between citizen women and noncitizen men. The proportion of white children born in 1920 to a native-born mother and a foreign father was almost eighty-nine per thousand. All those mothers, of course, had lost their citizenship under the 1907 Expatriation Act. The number of white children born to native-born fathers and foreign-born mothers was significantly higher, almost 140 per thousand. See Table 106 in U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Niles Carpenter, Immigrants and Their Children. 1920. A Study Based on Census Statistics Relative to the Foreign Born and the Native White of Foreign or Mixed Parentage . Census Monograph 7 (Washington, D.C.: G.P.O., 1927).


the harsher implications of dependent citizenship.[4] Thereafter, these two complementary and equally discriminatory nationality laws became the targets of numerous repeal bills carrying the endorsement of major women's political organizations.

Section 3 of the Expatriation Act of 1907 represented a stunning setback in women's progression toward full citizenship rights. The federal government had sent a deeply unsettling message to woman's rights reformers then struggling to secure voting privileges for their sex. One of the most basic of pro-suffrage arguments was that American women deserved the vote because they were citizens—independent citizens; but the Expatriation Act of 1907 seriously undercut the validity of that assumption by proclaiming that married American women derived their status as citizens from other Americans—that is, from the men they wed. The loss of an independent nationality within marriage deprived women's achievement of suffrage of some of its symbolic promise. Despite this extension of their political power and the vitality of their public activities, federal nationality law still denied a majority of women recognition as autonomous citizens.

The common law doctrine of coverture had begun its slow demise in the states decades earlier, but the laws forbidding a married woman to maintain an independent nationality appeared to be a statutory reassertion of the single-identity theory of marriage. The 1907 law was incompatible with prevailing trends in the legislating of woman's rights, but its timing had been determined by another, more powerful legal current—one in which individual rights were more often lost than gained. Each year of the new century had seen a rise in the level of immigration to the United States, and in 1907 the number of immigrants entering the country peaked at the unprecedented high of 1,285,349. Government statistics also revealed that an increasing percentage of these new arrivals were so-called new immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. This situation, which many private citizens and members of Congress declared a fearsome threat to the country's cultural and economic well-being, produced a series of statutes de

[4]   The public antagonism toward foreigners only emphasized lawmakers' dismissal of immigrant women's potential as a political force. The Act of Feb. 10, 1855, declared that "any woman who is now or may hereafter be married to a citizen of the United States, and who might herself be lawfully naturalized, shall be deemed a citizen." Sect. 1994, Revised Statutes of the U.S. (1878).


signed to reduce not only the volume of arriving immigrants but the number of foreign-born residents who could become and remain U.S. citizens. The Expatriation Act of 1907 was one of these legislative responses to anxiety about immigration.

The 1907 statute that marked the citizen woman with a foreign spouse as a discardable American was situated within a small cluster of nationality statutes enacted in the early decades of the twentieth century to denaturalize or denationalize individuals whom the federal government judged had voluntarily forsaken their allegiance to the United States. In this political culture, coarsened by the nativist-tinged rhetoric of "100 percent Americanism," a citizen woman's marriage to a foreigner became vulnerable to interpretation as a brazenly un-American act and to the apposite punishment of expatriation. The federal government casually but emphatically declared that this "prodigal daughter" had voluntarily forfeited her citizenship.

"This law is in direct conflict with the Constitution," one legal expert had exclaimed in protest. "It is in direct conflict with the judgements of the Supreme Court." But, he added assuringly, "should it come up for review . . . [it] will undoubtedly be so held."[5] Eight years later the Supreme Court did deliver its opinion on the matter, unanimously affirming the constitutionality of marital expatriation. The women directly affected by the new expatriation rules were not, however. bereft of influential defenders. Woman's rights groups quickly rallied to restore the marital expatriate's legal status as citizen and her civic standing as loyal American. Determined to regain the political ground on which their argument for voting rights and full citizenship had once securely rested, woman's rights organizations repeatedly urged Congress to repeal its declaration of married women's political dependence before the ratification of the Anthony (Nineteenth) Amendment.

The woman suffrage campaign had easily accommodated the cause of independent citizenship, but the tandem achievement of these two major reform goals proved much more difficult to direct. Woman's rights activists believed that women's recovery of equal nationality rights was critical to full legitimation of their impending enfranchisement, but suffragists were unsuccessful in their attempts to repeal the country's marital expatriation and naturalization laws. After the ratification of the Anthony Amendment in 1920, however, equal national-

[5]   [C. A. Hereshoff Bartlett], "Women's Expatriation by Marriage," Albany Law Journal 70 (1908): 176–181.


ity rights survived as an independent cause robust enough to preserve the broad base of support it had inherited from the suffrage campaign. At the same time Congress proved more willing to consider revising the country's nationality laws once citizen women were constitutionally enfranchised nationwide, and the Supreme Court seemed promisingly acquiescent to the legislature's judgment in immigration and nationality matters.

In 1922 the federal government finally began a laborious retreat from derivative citizenship with the passage of the Cable Act, a law that would thereafter serve as the centerpiece of the national debate over a married woman's nationality rights. The Cable Act's preamble guaranteed that a woman's right to become a naturalized citizen would not be abridged because of her sex or marital status, but the specifics of the law betrayed this promise. Over the course of the next fifteen years, women's organizations lobbied ceaselessly and successfully for the repeal or revision of every discriminatory provision in the original law, but their task rarely seemed to grow easier. Each new proposed alteration in policy was often more controversial than the one preceding.

The forcefulness of organized women's domestic challenge to marital expatriation, as well as reform pressures abroad, would eventually convince the federal government to abolish all gender-based double standards in the country's nationality laws, and in 1934 the United States signed a Pan-American Union treaty committed to that goal. The contest for this final achievement, however, split the domestic nationality-reform coalition irreparably. The treaty appeared to be an expeditious solution to the persistent problem of women's dependent citizenship, but its introduction triggered a serious internal upheaval in the nationality-rights movement. The leaders of the National Woman's Party (NWP) and other equalitarian feminists promoted the treaty with an enthusiasm rivaled in intensity only by the protests from a large faction within the independent-citizenship campaign that deeply resented the proposal.

Predictably, the organizational and philosophical divisions that emerged within the nationality-rights crusade in the 1930s seemed to trace the fault lines defined earlier by the debate over an equal rights amendment. Yet, even though the lines drawn between the participating women's organizations were familiar ones, the reasons for and circumstances of their formation were not entirely identical. In both cases, conflict highlighted a struggle between different philosophies of reform. While one side urged a sweeping rights-based solution to sex dis-


crimination, the other protested that such efforts sometimes generated proposals offering only hollow assurances of economic security and disturbing social consequences. However, unlike those advocating for an equal rights amendment, nationality-rights reformers never disagreed over the necessity of abolishing any policy that discriminated against women's maintenance of U.S. citizenship.

The crusade for equal nationality rights flourished despite the fact that some of the most powerful and dedicated contributors to this reform work were antagonists in the bitter confrontation over an equal rights amendment. The leaders of the National League of Women Voters (NLWV) and the National Woman's Party jointly directed an impressive assemblage of national women's organizations determined to restore independent citizenship to American women, but on another front they and their allies were battling one another fiercely over the merits of a Constitutional amendment mandating absolute legal equality between the sexes.[6] Until its closing years, the nationality-rights crusade appeared unencumbered by the debate over the equal rights amendment. Inevitably, that detachment ended, but nevertheless the years marking the fragmentation of the nationality-rights coalition yielded some of the reformers' most impressive triumphs.

Tracing the origins and development of the nationality-rights crusade requires an examination of its interplay with other reform enterprises: the woman suffrage movement, the quest for an equal rights amendment in the 1920s and 1930s, and the drive for restrictive immigration and naturalization legislation. Feminists' efforts to secure the vote and an equal rights amendment influenced the progress and personality of the nationality-rights campaign, but the significance of that highly organized effort to end derivative citizenship has been obscured rather than enhanced by its proximity to these other causes.[7] Such neglect has encouraged the retrospective judgment that, given organized women's rather slim record of federal legislative victories beyond the

[6]   The National League of Women Voters was the official name of the organization until 1946, when it dropped "National."

[7]   In 1978, Ellen Carol DuBois made a similar critical observation about the woman suffrage movement. "Suffragism," she wrote, "has not been accorded the historic recognition it deserves, largely because woman suffrage has too frequently been regarded as an isolated institutional reform. Its character as a social movement, reflecting women's aspirations for and progress toward radical change in their lives, has been overlooked." Feminism and Suffrage. The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848–1869 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 978), 17.


Sheppard-Towner Act of 1921, the value of studying the interwar period rests primarily with its intellectual contributions to modern feminism. This study does not dispute but reaffirms the value of that ideological offering. At the same time, drawing the campaign for women's nationality rights in much fuller detail urges some upward adjustment in the marks historians have generally assigned to interwar feminists' reform record.

As noted earlier, the passage of the Expatriation Act of 1907 was, in part, fueled by growing public apprehension over the cultural, political, and economic consequences of rising immigration numbers. As gaining permanent entry into the United States became more complex and constrained, so did the process of becoming and remaining an American citizen. After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment the concerns that had produced new controls on immigration and naturalization now induced Congress to retreat from its unqualified support of derivative citizenship for immigrant women. Although the constitutional enfranchisement of women did not immediately erase resentment toward American women with foreign spouses, it did prompt Congressional deliberations on the wisdom of automatically naturalizing foreign women upon their marriage to Americans.

For decades the federal government had touted the derivative naturalization of married women as a policy that promoted "family unity" and the assimilation of female immigrants; but now the immigrant wife who had been naturalized by marriage could vote. Her acquisition of citizenship had become a more overtly political and verifiable achievement, and this new reality prompted Congress to abruptly retreat from the practice of marital naturalization in 1922. The foreign-born woman, the woman Congress had been wont to treat dismissively as a political cipher and to nonchalantly naturalize through marriage, had now gained a formal political voice–one the federal government did not wish to hear unless assured that the speaker was sufficiently "Americanized." Marital naturalization, then, was not simply a casualty of veteran suffragists' efforts to end derivative citizenship for women. It was a reform idea fed by a multitude of diatribes on the perils of immigration and the tepid loyalty of naturalized Americans. And as this study reveals, the connection between nationality law and woman's rights did not end with the Cable Act's abolition of marital naturalization.

The history of women's pursuit of independent citizenship is woven intricately into the chronicles of immigration reform. Although scholars have carefully scrutinized the development of immigration policies


that ranked and rejected immigrants based on their race or national origin, the recognition that gender was also a very well-developed category of legal discrimination has been largely absent for decades from historical studies of interwar immigration policies. Yet, a married woman's ability to enter and remain in the United States relied heavily on her husband's prospects for citizenship and residency. Demonstrating the broad impact of this feature of immigration policy here will I hope generate increased interest in studying the experiences of foreign-born women as they negotiated the transition from nonresident alien to immigrant and, finally, to citizen.

An examination of the nationality-rights crusade also adds symmetrically to scholars' analysis of feminist politics in the interwar period. While the interwar debate over an equal rights amendment has allowed historians to study female reformers locked in intense debate, the pre-1930s nationality-rights campaign provides an opportunity to examine this corps of organized women in profitable collaboration. At the same time, the closing years of the campaign for equal nationality rights did bring into sharp focus some fundamental divergences in thought among that generation of politicized women. Studying the pursuit of woman's rights in the context of the independent-citizenship campaign presents an opportunity for us to expand our awareness of these differences beyond those placed in the foreground by the conflict over an equal rights amendment. The demands of the nationality-rights campaign contributed to that less forcefully tendered yet nonetheless critical exploration by female reformers of the integration of their identities as postsuffrage feminists and citizens and the impact of that fusion of responsibilities and convictions on their public lives.

In its advanced stages the woman suffrage movement might have presented such a receptive environment for women's articulation of a philosophy of reform faithful to that duplex identity, but in reality the final years of the national campaign for the ballot demanded less rather than more from its participants intellectually. But after devoting much of their last decade as suffragists promoting arguments designed to convince the American public that woman suffrage was not only a respectable middle-class reform but a patriotic imperative, the veterans of the crusade were able to turn more of their attention inward to contemplate the ideological fundamentals of their activism. And once the Anthony Amendment was a reality, the lingering problem of married women's derivative citizenship could emerge from suffrage's shadow as a shaping


force in American feminists' interwar deliberations over what constituted for them a purposive public life.

As Nancy Cott observed, "What historians have seen as the demise of feminism in the 1920s was, more accurately, the end of the suffrage movement and the early struggle of modern feminism."[8] Certainly one aspect of this postsuffrage encounter was the search for answers to the now less avoidable question of how the demands of feminism and citizenship interacted to define the reform commitments of the feminist citizen. The resulting debates over the precepts of feminism and American citizenship highlighted a fundamental tension between the ideals of liberalism and republicanism as adapted and expounded by reform women. On one side of the divide stood equalitarian feminists—the promoters of an equal rights amendment, an equal-nationality treaty, and a boldly individualistic paradigm of citizenship. For these women citizenship was, fundamentally, defined by the rights it conferred. American citizenship was most valuable not because it secured membership in a superior cultural or political order (as Americanizers of the era would arrogantly argue) but because it secured the means to demand the fullest enjoyment of the rights and privileges one's country granted.

Other activist women in the nationality-rights campaign, many of whom considered themselves feminists, could not subscribe fully to this view and the reform philosophy assigned to it. They were more self-consciously American and believed passionately that the status of American citizen presumed membership in, and thus public obligations to, a unique national community. Their perspective on citizenship was more nationalistic in spirit and more society-centered than individual-focused.[9] For these women, disinterest rather than self-interest ideally defined the model citizen's activism. They emphatically agreed with equalitarians that the woman citizen must be politically independent and influential, but the reason for securing her autonomy was not only

[8]   Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism, 10.

[9]   Some scholars have described classical republicanism as more "feminine" in perspective than liberalism, with its emphasis on individualism. See, for example, Suzanna Sherry, "Civic Virtue and the Feminine Voice in Constitutional Adjudication," Virginia Law Review 72 (Apr. 1986), 543–66. Rogers M. Smith does not attempt to draw such a distinction but rather explores the contributions of both discourses to the subordination of women in "'One United People': Second-Class Female Citizenship and the American Quest for Community," Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 1 (May 1989): 229–293.


the expansion of her individual rights but the enhancement of her civic contributions.[10]

Those reformers within the nationality-rights movement who adopted a more communitarian perspective when articulating their views on the relationship between feminism and citizenship accused the NWP of promoting a feminist vision unanchored to the tenets of responsible citizenship. The crusade for equal nationality rights was for these women an unmistakably feminist effort to unburden the laws of nationality and immigration of their gender bias, but it was also a determined struggle for the recognition and security of women's public value and responsibilities as American citizens. The Expatriation Act of 1907 had been a sobering reminder to organized women that the federal government considered women disposable citizens. And in an era when being an alien in the United States was becoming an increasingly vulnerable status and expatriation and naturalization laws gauged a woman's character by her choice of a spouse, the need to secure the citizen woman's public recognition as a political and cultural asset to her country became critical.

The enactment of the Expatriation Act of 1907 also finally forced the advocates of woman's rights to confront the perils of privatizing female citizenship. By the early national period the ideology of "republican motherhood" had already linked a woman's value as an American citizen to her familial responsibilities—specifically the civic education of her children. Although the notion of a truly public woman was for eign to the political culture, the woman citizen could carve out alternative niches of influence by endowing her private duties with public significance. Thus, her commitment to her family's welfare and her patriotism could be conflated. The republican mother was the private mother cast as public servant, a role that required no real expansion of her formal political rights.[11]

When women began to organize for the vote, they were able to adapt the ideology of republican motherhood to promote their cause. Never-

[10]   As Sherry has noted (in a different context), "Individualists and communitarians may be expected to protest infringement of individual rights that protect against diminution or exclusion from community membership." "Civic Virtue and the Feminine Voice in Constitutional Adjudication," 592—593. The observation certainly applies to the movement for the recovery of women's independent citizenship.

[11]   Linda Kerber illuminated this concept of female citizenship in Women of the Republic. Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1980).


theless, the domestication of female citizenship eventually revealed its risks—and most dramatically in a federal law based squarely on the premise that a woman's personal loyalties fully and exclusively informed her political allegiances. The crisis created by that 1907 statute induced the participants in the postsuffrage nationality-rights crusade to deemphasize the traditional significance of the woman citizen's duties as wife and mother in order to stress convincingly her possession of a political character defined by interests and obligations formed independently from those domestic roles. In this respect, the pursuit of independent citizenship seems something of an anomaly when compared with organized women's previous reform endeavors. Rather than demonstrating women's engagement in public action to address social problems affecting their homes, the legislative case for women's independent citizenship required deemphasizing the confluence of the personal and the political. Instead of drawing attention to the connection between a woman's public activism and private devotion, there was a compelling circumstantial reason to do the opposite. Yet, the nature of such of a connection could remain isolated only temporarily from female reformers' discussions of the components of citizenship.

Commenting on the tension between individualism and other values or concepts that have shaped Americans' understanding of citizenship, H. Mark Roelofs observed that the citizen has been understood to be "both a public and a private person, to be both in and also out of society."[12] Roelofs's thoughts did not extend to an examination of the gender bias imbedded in Western political traditions, but his words certainly assume increased complexity and meaning when approached with this explicative intent.[13] complexity was not lost on those inter-

[12]   H. Mark Roelofs, The Tension of Citizenship. Private Man and Public Duty (New York: Rinehart, 1957), 155.

[13]   Other critiques of liberal individualism have, of course, emphasized this point. For a sampling of discussions of individualism's historically gendered application, see the chapter "Feminist Critiques of the Public-Private Dichotomy," in Carole Pateman, The Disorder of Women. Democracy, Feminism and Political Theory (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 1989), 118–140; Linda K. Kerber, "Women and Individualism in American History," Massachusetts Review 30 (Winter 1989): 589–609; Mark E. Kann, "Individualism, Civic Virtue, and Gender in America," in Studies in American Political Development. An Annual, vol. 4, ed. Karen Orren and Stephen Skowronek (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990), 46–81; Anne Phillips, "Citizenship and Feminist Theory," in Citizenship, ed. Geoff Andrews (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1991), 76–88; Susan James, "The Good-Enough Citizen: Female Citizenship and Independence," in Beyond Equality and Difference. Citizenship, Feminist Politics and Female Subjectivity, ed. Gisela Bock and Susan James (London and New York: Routledge, 1992), 48–65.


war feminists who tentatively and sometimes disputatiously sought to heighten their understanding of the relationship between the public and the private and of how that relationship shaped the practices of citizenship and the challenges of feminism. In theory and in practice the private and public lives of citizen women still stood distinct from those of men, and legal recognition of the free, decision-making individual remained weighted in favor one sex.

In the first of three two-chapter sections we will now explore the political motivations behind the enactments of the naturalization legislation of 1855 and the expatriation statute of 1907, laws that together deprived millions of women of voluntary citizenship. These first two chapters also detail the rise of organized protest against both marital expatriation and marital naturalization and the elaboration of reform arguments that drew inspiration from the Americanization and suffrage movements. Indeed, the latter stages of the woman suffrage movement cannot be understood fully without reflection on the ways in which the Expatriation Act of 1907 shaped American suffragists' attitudes toward and representations of the immigrant woman.

The subject of Chapters 3 and 4 is the various legislative proposals introduced between 1907 and 1922 to ameliorate the multiform discriminations that faced married women who fell under the jurisdiction of the country's immigration and nationality laws. The first victory, the Cable Act in 1922, signaled the beginning rather than the end of the most critical, if not most complex, phase of the reform crusade because the law's passage coincided with the addition of the NWP to the cohort of nationality-rights reformers. The last section of the book, Chapters 5 and 6, provides an analysis of the impact of the NWP's rapid movement to the forefront of the reform campaign. In part, this organization's transnational perspectives on both citizenship and feminism forced pointed discussion among nationality rights reformers over the problematic relationship between the tenets of individualist feminism and the civic obligations of American citizenship.



Preferred Citation: Bredbenner, Candice Lewis. A Nationality of Her Own: Women, Marriage, and the Law of Citizenship. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1998 1998.