Married Women’s Act of 1922


For the most part, up until the year 1922 in American history, women were rarely mentioned in immigration legislation, except for the Act of 1875. That year Congress dealt with the Chinese prostitution issue.  United States culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries considered women under the identity of their husband. It was presumed that any woman would eventually marry and her identity would be tied to her husband. The result of this attitude was a 1907 immigration law requiring women assume the nationality and citizenship status of their husbands upon marriage. This meant that even women born on U.S. soil who married a non-U.S. citizen lost their United States citizenship status. If her husband’s country of origin was involved in a war with the U.S., she may be considered an “enemy alien” and stripped of property and her employment. This happened to scores of women who were married to German and Italian born men when the country entered World War I. Around $25 million in property nationwide was confiscated by the U.S. Although women may not have felt this was fair and desired to have control of their own identity, there wasn’t anything they could do about it until the law changed.

Most immigrant women were discriminated against because the courts would usually not naturalize an alien woman who was married to a foreign born husband. The husband had to become naturalized and then some courts would automatically classify his wife as naturalized as well as any children between them. A woman’s identity was her husband. This also worked the other way around. If a female U.S. citizen married a man who was not a U.S. citizen, his status became her status. In 1907 the Expatriation Act stripped female U.S. citizens of their status if they married foreign born men. The spirit of this law was racism as reflected in the words of Iowa’s Republican Representative Nathan Kendall who stated, “We do not want our girls to marry foreigners.”

There were some legally savvy women who managed to circumvent this technicality and also obtain their own personal property by way of the Homestead Act, thus maintaining their legal status of U.S. citizen even though they married a foreign born husband. However, not every woman was successful choosing this route. The reality for women in the early history of America was that society discriminated against women in general, and even more harshly discriminated against white women who married another race. If the gringa had faced this national attitude after meeting her Peruvian caveman, she would have gladly traded her country for her man.

Prior to 1907, there was no specific legal language written into immigration laws regarding women. Immigrating women then could only hope in their case being handled by a sympathetic court because each court applied their own interpretation of current immigration laws. From 1790 until 1802 immigration laws specified “free white persons” as having the right to the naturalization process without gender determination. It was the social practice of that time to interpret “persons” as being male and this male represented the females of his household. The only women specifically mentioned by immigration laws were the widows of men who had qualified and applied for citizenship but died before the process was complete or foreign born women who became citizens when they married American men.

On August 18, 1920, the power of the women’s suffrage movement resulted in the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which gave women the right to vote. It is no coincidence that within two years of this event politicians realized they were going to have to listen to the voices of half the country’s constituents. The Married Women’s Act of 1922 (also known as the Cable Act, the Married Women’s Independent Citizenship Act or the Married Women’s Independent Nationality Act) is the second monument to the empowerment of women of that generation. Section three stated, “That a woman citizen of the United States shall not cease to be a citizen of the United States by reason of her marriage after the passage of this Act, unless she makes a formal renunciation of her citizenship.” A woman who had lost her citizenship status from 1907 until 1922, because of marriage to a foreign man, could apply for naturalization. The only exception was if they married a man who was ineligible for American citizenship because of his race, such as Chinese, Japanese, or Filipino. However, nine years later, on March 3, 1931, an amendment allowed these women to finally maintain their U.S. citizenship status. At last, women were a recognized class of American citizens in their own right.

Prior to 1920, a woman’s citizenship status was not considered important because they could not vote and any property they owned became their husband’s. This was the legal practice of “coverture”, a British legal principle imported with the founding fathers. The Nineteenth Amendment changed that. In order to vote, a woman had to be a citizen. It was now more important than ever that a woman retain her individual identity no matter who she chose to marry. Legislators who wanted or needed the female vote were going to have to respond with legislation to protect the citizenship status of their electorate. Again, we see immigration reform motivated not by the minds of lawmakers opening and maturing with a new-found respect for a woman’s right to be treated equal but rather by the desire to maintain power by pandering to a class of people who will respond to their actions favorably and give them their votes. So, in 1922 legislators gave this newly empowered voting class what they wanted. A woman’s nationality was her own with naturalization terms equal to that of men.

The United States had come a long way from the society of our founding fathers. The dreams of the wives of those founding fathers had finally come true. In 1876, in a letter Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, President John Adams, she stated, “I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for, whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives.” Even earlier than Abigail Adam’s letter, in 1790, Judith Sargent Murray, an American poet and advocate for women’s rights, wrote “men generate inequality and formulate rules of society for their own benefit with no regard for women’s needs”. Once again the true history of the United States reveals a nation originally designed to be a male dominated, capitalist society, preserving the racial superiority of the white majority and serving national and international economic and political interests rather than the needs of the women and non-white races within the country. None of this surprises the gringa.

 

Sources:

http://immigrationinamerica.org/397-cable-act-of-1922.html

http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1998/summer/women-and-naturalization-1.html

http://www.ndhs.org/s/1012/images/editor_documents/library/issues_and_controversies_in_american_history_-_cable_act__1922_.pdf

http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/19th-amendment

https://www.academia.edu/1508503/Married_Women_s_Citizenship_in_the_United_States_for_a_Century_and_a_Half_An_Overview

 

Photo credit:

www.thephonograph.co.uk

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Emergency Quota Act of 1921 And The Spirit of Eugenics


Immigration policies of 1921 depict a government using legislation to design a population. New immigration laws were created to control the flow of immigrants into the United States according to ethnic and education classes. Laws of 1917 were to weed out undesirable classes of immigrants that had certain mental and physical health problems as well as prevent poor people from entering the U.S. In 1907 the country slammed the door on the Japanese. 1888 was the year the Chinese were rejected. 1875 established that America’s home-grown hookers were acceptable but Chinese hookers were not. Does the dear reader see a pattern emerging or is the gringa guilty of paranoid conspiracy theory syndrome?

1921 was just more of the same as far as America’s national racist agenda. If the country had not yet been clear enough that only upper class white immigrants were the preferred class of immigrants, legislators decided to pass one more Act just to make sure the rest of the world heard us loud and clear. The first thing they did was place limits on the number of people that could immigrate. True to form, our nation’s bureaucrats adopted a complicated formula of basing immigration numbers to three percent of the number of foreign born people, designated by ethnicity, according to the 1910 census. In other words, all counted immigrants would be classified by country of birth, then tallied to come up with totals of how many immigrants of each nationality were present in the U.S. This total would be used to determine the three percent who would be allowed in for the year. For example, if there were 100 German immigrants on the 1910 census, only three new German immigrants would be allowed entry. In 1921, America added controls and limits on European immigration to their dirty laundry list of discriminatory acts.

The wording of the legislation seemed to be an honest attempt to sound unbiased and fair since it’s all based on the numbers, right? WRONG! Have my dear readers not learned anything since I’ve been blogging about all this immigration mess from the beginning of the nation’s origin? Haven’t we discovered along this journey that every immigration law passed in the United States has thus far been motivated by greed and racism? Has it not been revealed that American bureaucrats are master propagandists determined to convince the world of the humanitarian spirit of the nation when the real truth is that the U.S. is a nation designed to be a capitalist utopia? Why in the world, then, would anyone be fool enough to think that suddenly, in 1921, immigration laws would be passed that would actually be fair and show no preference for one ethnicity over another?

First of all, the act provided exceptions for immigrants who were artists, performing artists, professionals, or religious leaders. These types of people were always acceptable no matter what their skin color or language barrier. With regard to how the details were actually applied and worked out, a thorough study of the end result numbers makes it clear that masters of deception were at work skewing the numbers in favor of certain ethnicities. When you get right down to the nitty gritty, bottom line, immigration figures actually reflect that the Act had little impact on the number of immigrants allowed into the country who originated from northern and western Europe. There were no limitations placed on immigrants from the Western Hemisphere. It was the “other” people that Americans were worried about.

This Act was right on the heels of the close of World War I. After the first Great War, practically all of Europe wanted to start over in the New World. Americans were afraid of the country being flooded with undesirable classes of people. This racist pressure motivated U.S. lawmakers to use this seemingly “fair” legislation to discriminate in order to prevent an influx of immigrants who would not properly assimilate into white American culture. Preferred ethnicities originated in western and northern Europe. Southern and eastern Europe were home to the “undesirables” such as the Polish, Greeks and Italians.

Ethnicity and culture was not the only consideration America had on their minds. At this time the United States didn’t need to import cheap labor any longer because the country now enjoyed a steady supply via Canada and Mexico. The nation didn’t want new working class people showing up and possibly causing a drop in wages for the existing working class. When immigration law was actually applied, professionals enjoyed fewer restrictions while working class people found it harder to gain entry to the country.

As I read through the Act, the word “eugenics” kept popping up in my mind. Although limited by a lack of technology in 1921, the spirit and philosophy of eugenics was alive and well in U.S. politics. If eugenics endeavors to improve humans by controlling reproduction in order to weed out undesirable inherited characteristics, America sought to do this through immigration control. That was the spirit of 1921 America. Has the white majority really advanced much further in its social tolerance of today? To be on the safe side, this poor, working class, epileptic gringa chooses to stay where such prejudice doesn’t exist, in the warm, accepting arms of la gente de mi barrio.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1921_emergency_quota_law.html

http://immigrationinamerica.org/589-immigration-act-of-1921.html

http://northamericanimmigration.org/95-emergency-quota-act-united-states-1921.html

Photo credits:  www.in.gov

1917: The Year I Would Have Been Banned From The U.S.


Chapter 29 of the Second Session of the Sixty-Fourth Congress of the United States of America, February 5, 1917, passed “An Act To regulate the immigration of aliens to, and the residence of aliens in, the United States” (also called the “Asian Barred Zone” if you want to do some research yourself). If I had been alive and not a U.S. citizen at the time this legislation took effect, I would have been among the immigrant hopefuls who would have been banned from entry. I would have been a “defective” person on the “prohibited” list, an “undesirable”.  That’s what this piece of law was all about. The United States was expanding its category of people to discriminate against. Rather than list all the legal rigmarole that are the basic nuts and bolts of the wherefores and heretofores, the gringa will get to the heart of the matter. I will focus on the sections that express the minds and wills of the white majority of the United States in 1917.

Section one defines the term “alien” as any person not a native-born or naturalized citizen of the U.S., but specifically excludes the Native Americans of North America and the Native Islanders of U.S. territories. At this time the Philippine Islands and Hawaii were U.S. territories. Once the term alien was defined, the U.S. could then make it clear who was, and who was not, invited to the party. The following were to be banned from entry into the United States:

  • Idiots (good thing all those legislators got here before 1917)
  • Imbeciles
  • Feeble-minded
  • Epileptics (that would be me)
  • Insane persons
  • Anyone who had a single attack of insanity at any point in their life (that rules out pretty much everyone I know here in the barrio where shit gets real from time to time)
  • Persons with a “constitutional psychopathic inferiority” (At first I thought that must mean psychopaths, until I looked up the definition of those words according to that time period. “Constitutional” means a condition you are born with. “Psychopathic” means regarding the realm of the mind or emotions. “Inferiority” means sub-standard in function, adaptability and self-progress. So, persons who were born with a mind, or set of emotions, that was below average were prohibited.)
  • Alcoholics
  • Paupers
  • Professional beggars
  • Vagrants
  • Persons sick with a contagious disease
  • Persons with a mental or physical defect that would affect the ability to earn a living
  • Convicted felons of moral crimes
  • Polygamists (again, the Mormons)
  • Anarchists
  • Prostitutes
  • Contract laborers
  • Persons likely to become a public charge
  • Persons who had their passage paid for by another party
  • Stowaways
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Asians not originating from a U.S. territory
  • Prior deported persons
  • Illiterates, unless returning residents or immigrating to escape religious persecution

The classifications of some of these people, such as, idiots, imbeciles, beggars, epileptics, feeble-minded, physically defective, etc., became the basis for a following trend in American municipalities to pass what were commonly called “ugly laws”. Not only did the white majority in America want a “white” America, they also wanted a “pretty to look at” America. It remains ironic that these same classes of people who were prohibited from entering the country would often pass by the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, an icon of hope, bearing a plaque which read:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

What a big, fat, American lie. And America’s been lying to everyone since the day the Puritans first set foot on the shores of Plymouth. The immigrants here in my barrio, however, are nobody’s fools. What I find incredibly interesting is that most of my immigrant neighbors are better educated on the true history of America than most native born Americans. Where they got a stiff dose of startling truth in mandatory world studies of their country of origin’s education systems, we native Americans get brainwashed with the propaganda machine our country created to make us good little American boys and girls, isolated from the rest of the world, and puffed up with a sense of superiority. Being a gringa in the barrio is a humbling experience. Especially when I realize that many of my immigrant neighbors were not on my country’s reject list like I, myself, would have been.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/39%20stat%20874.pdf

http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2850&context=jclc

https://books.google.com/books?id=pXW69O5po3AC&pg=PA165&lpg#v=onepage&q&f=false

Photo credit:  en.wikisource.org

Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 – Proof Of U.S. Insanity?


As I researched materials for this week’s blog about the next chapter in United States immigration policies, the gringa found it difficult not to burst out in sarcastic laughter at the audacity of American legislators to entitle a piece of racist immigration policy a “Gentlemen’s Agreement”. I don’t find anything at all “gentlemanly” about the racism that permeated white American society toward the Japanese. The country had already kicked out the Chinese. I suppose it was only logical that the Japanese would soon be getting their eviction notices as well.

Although Theodore Roosevelt is generally thought of with affection and romanticized as a rough and tumble “man’s man” in our nation’s presidential histories, the truth is, he was just another racist president in a long line of racist presidents. Although we can thank him for our wonderful national parks system and for creating the Food and Drug Administration, I give him a big “up yours” for the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907. A “real” man would have stood up for what was right, which would have been to tell the bratty, white Americans to behave themselves, quit their temper tantrum throwing, be accountable for their own plight rather than play the blame-game and point fingers at the Japanese, treat their fellow human beings with dignity and respect regardless of race and skin color and to hell with re-election popularity for the party. I mean, in the barrio that’s how we mamacitas roll.

The years preceding this agreement the United States experienced a labor shortage. Probably because of their short-sighted, emotional, racist actions that resulted in expelling and banning Chinese immigrants whom they had originally imported for cheap labor. The solution to this new labor shortage was to import a new group of cheap labor. The United States turned to Japan. In 1895 the Anglo-Japanese Treaty was ratified by both nations and provided the framework for open immigration between the nations, as well as equal rights of residency and property ownership for immigrants of either nation. Japan became the new favored nation for the U.S., and we all know how well that turned out for China just twenty years earlier.

When Japanese immigration subsequently increased, California once again led the charge of social hostility toward a particular ethnic working class group. After San Francisco’s memorable earthquake of 1906, schools had to be rebuilt. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the racists of California that had revived their hatred of the Chinese and redirected it toward the Japanese, supported the decision by the San Francisco school board to segregate schools according to a specific Japanese/Caucasian line just as they had already done with the Chinese.

Such discriminatory actions struck a nerve when word traveled back to Japan. President Teddy made an effort to smooth things over with Japan. Now, don’t jump to any conclusions about President Roosevelt actually caring about the feelings of the Japanese. His desire for friendly relations with the Japanese had nothing to do with any form of admiration for their culture. The U.S., as usual, had only one interest, securing power and wealth for the nation.

At this time in history, the biggest threat to power and wealth for the United States was Russia. From 1850 until 1910 Russia was second only to America in population growth. After the terrible insult the United States had given the Chinese, China established broad and extensive trade relations with Russia. Russia was even allowed to build a naval base and sea port in the city of Vladivostok. Before the Treaty of Peking in 1860, the city of Vladivostok had been Chinese territory and was called Hǎishēnwǎi, which, translated, meant “Sea Cucumber Cliffs”. Things were warm and fuzzy between the Chinese and Russia in 1907. Understanding the true history behind the relationship of this political love triangle, I now am not so naïve as I once was when my nation’s propaganda machine goes into high gear depicting Russia and China’s alliance as a great threat to our nation. The gringa can only cock her head, squint her eyes, poke her finger at the White House, and say, “You started this big mess with your two-faced, racist, back-stabbing, behavior toward the Chinese!”

By 1907 Russia’s expansionist policies were evident to the rest of the world. It had also set its sights on Japan. Russia’s ally, China, had been engaged in hostilities with Japan for some time. In 1895 Japan achieved an important victory that led to Russia getting involved in the conflict. Ultimately President Roosevelt would negotiate mediation between all factions. The important result of all this and how it affected political consideration of the Japanese in the United States, is that the U.S. government recognized the strategic naval position Japan commanded in its geographical orientation with regard to China and Russia. America would be wise to have Japan as a friend. Strategic military interest, rather than racial respect, was Teddy’s motivation to smooth over Japan’s ruffled feathers at the nasty treatment Japanese immigrants were receiving at the hands of white America.

The result was direct intervention by President Roosevelt into the San Francisco school segregation actions. Promised by the President that he was going to deal with the Japanese issue, the San Francisco school board rescinded its segregation order. Soon after, the country saw this presidential promise fulfilled in the acceptance of the Gentlemen’s Agreement. This was not legislation but an informal agreement between the U.S. and Japan based on an exchange of diplomatic letters.

Despite the fact that no official record of the agreements was ever published, a wealth of historical evidence can still be found about how things changed in America for the Japanese that were here. In response to Roosevelt’s intervention of discrimination against Japanese on U.S. soil, Japan agreed to no longer issue passports to Japanese laborers who intended to seek work in the United States. Only Japanese professionals and Japanese business men could immigrate to the U.S. Japanese laborers already present in the U.S. would still be able to bring over their families, but single Japanese laborers that were here would not be able to look forward to new arrivals of lovely, single ladies from back home. However, one “loophole” in this agreement was that Hawaii, being a U.S. territory, could still accept Japanese labor immigrants. This resulted in the “picture bride” system of Japanese laborers in the U.S. getting a mail-order bride via Hawaii. Despite the best attempt of the Gentlemen’s Agreement to thin out the Japanese population in America, Japanese families still continued to grow and thrive. Hey, a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do because everybody deserves a little lovin’ when they get home from a hard day’s work. At least that’s how my caveman feels.

As the gringa reads the historical documents recording this sad tale, the most disturbing aspect of it all, aside from the obvious, the racism, is the fact that the nation was repeating the events of just twenty years prior. I am reminded of the tongue in cheek definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Again, the gringa can only cock her head, squint her eyes, poke her finger at the White House and say, “What the hell were you thinking? Are you insane? Did you really think you could do the exact same thing that you did with China and it would somehow end better?”

Once again the United States has proven that it’s immigration policies are determined by greed and power. Borders are opened to an unsuspecting nation who is wooed like a predator stalking an unsuspecting victim. Cheap labor is imported. The country grows fat. The new immigrants start to get too big for their britches. The Caucasian hordes cry foul. The politicians want to secure re-election so they “burn the witch” as the angry masses demand. The only advice I can give any immigrant is, “Immigrant! Beware!”

Sources:

http://www.history.com/topics/gentlemens-agreement

http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/E-N/Extraterritoriality-Japan.html

http://countrystudies.us/russia/6.htm

http://www.britannica.com/event/Treaty-of-Peking

http://ir.library.osaka-u.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/11094/9499/1/oulr056-001.pdf

http://www.britannica.com/event/Gentlemens-Agreement

http://immigrationinamerica.org/516-gentlemens-agreement.html

http://aapcgroup11.blogspot.com/2009/12/gentlemens-agreement-of-1907.html

http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Gentlemen’s_Agreement/

https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/ga1907

Photo credit:  www.dneiwert.blogspot.com