Marriage and Citizenship Discussion Sept 1996

Query From Lisa Krissoff Boehm lboehm@indiana.edu 24 Sept 1996

I am writing an article on Lucy Russo Palermo, an Italian-American politician from Chicago. I have been hunting for the exact law which caused her to lose her citizenship upon her marriage to her immigrant and not-yet-naturalized husband in 1903. I know of the Cable Act of 1921 (amended in 1931) but I need to find earlier legislation. It is possible that the law was a state law (Illinois). If anyone is familiar with such statutes, I would appreciate any leads that you might have.

Responses:

>From Kriste Lindenmeyer Co-Editor H-women 24 Sept 1996

The 1907 Expatriation Act provided that an American woman, naturalized or native born, who married a foreigner lost her citizenship. The 1922 Cable Act ended this discriminatory practice except for those female citizens who married "aliens ineligible for citizenship." In 1922 that meant alien Chinese and after 1924 all alien Asians. This amendment to the Cable Act was repealed in 1931. Under the 14th amendment individual states could not deny citizenship. See Roger Daniels' Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life. (NY, Harper Collins, 1990) p.281

>From Joan Gundersen jrgunder@coyote.csusm.edu 25 Sept 1996

The loss of citizenship when a woman married a non-citizen was an application of common law principles of coverture to the U.S. Since the wife and husband became one, and that one was the husband (a slight paraphrase of Blackstone), the woman changed citizenship. This was applied at the national level throughout the 19h century, for example, by not granting married women their own passports, but listing them on their husband's. The most famous argument over this loss of status can when Ruth Bryan Owen was elected to Congress. By then the Cable Act had been passed but did not apply retroactively. She was the daughter of William Jennings Bryan (presidential candidate and Secretary of State) and had married a British citizen. She returned to the U.S. when widowed and ran for Congress in the 1920s. There was an attempt to block her election by arguing she hadn't been a citizen long enough(7 years). Like my grandmother, she had to reapply for American citizenship because of her marriage.


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