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Immigrant Declarants and Loyal American Women: How Suffragists Helped Redefine the Rights of Citizens

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2020

Rachel Michelle Gunter*
Affiliation:
Collin College
*
*Corresponding author. E-mail: rgunter@collin.edu

Abstract

As a result of the woman suffrage movement, citizenship and voting rights, though considered separate issues by the courts, became more intertwined in the mind of the average American. This interconnectedness was also a product of the concurrent movement to disfranchise immigrant declarant voters—immigrants who had filed their intention to become citizens but had not completed the naturalization process. This essay shows how suffragists pursued immigrant declarant disfranchisement as part of the woman suffrage movement, arguing that the same competitive political conditions that encouraged politicians to enfranchise primarily white, citizen women led them to disfranchise immigrant declarants. It analyzes suffragists’ arguments at both the state and national levels that voting was a right of citizens who had met their wartime obligations to the nation, and maintains that woman suffrage and the votes of white women who supported the measures disfranchising immigrant declarants and limiting immigrant rights should be included in historians’ understanding of the immigration restrictionist and nativist movements.

Type
Special Issue: The Nineteenth Amendment at 100
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (SHGAPE)

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Footnotes

In the original online version of this article, the author's affiliation headings were omitted. They have been added above and an erratum has been published.

References

Notes

1 Shklar, Judith N., American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), 4, 10Google Scholar; Egge, Sara, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship in the Midwest, 1870–1920 (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2018), 89CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 The legal term was “resident legal alien.” I use the terms “resident immigrant” or “immigrant declarant” to differentiate these voters from naturalized citizens.

3 Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1875).

4 Rosberg, Gerald M., “Aliens and Equal Protection: Why Not the Right to Vote?,” Michigan Law Review 75, no. 5 (1977): 1097CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Rosberg, “Aliens and Equal Protection,” 1098.

6 Rosberg, “Aliens and Equal Protection, 1099; Aylsworth, Leon E., “The Passing of Alien Suffrage,” The American Political Science Review 25 (Feb. 1931): 114CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Shklar, American Citizenship, 4–5.

7 Sometimes this was unintentional. By ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment, Texas accidentally invalidated its poll tax, because as written, it only applied to men. Only six weeks before the 1920 presidential election, the legislature applied the poll tax to female voters. State of Texas, 36th Legislature, 4th Called Session, Sept. 21–22, 1920, Journal of the House of Representatives, 4–14, Legislative Reference Library of Texas, Austin, TX, https://lrl.texas.gov/collections/journals/journalsHouse36_4.cfm; State of Texas, 36th Legislature, 4th Called Session, Sept. 21–22, 1920, Journal of the Senate, 4–14, Legislative Reference Library of Texas, Austin, TX, https://lrl.texas.gov/collections/journals/journalsSenate36_4.cfm (accessed June 27, 2020).

8 Teele, Dawn Langan, Forging the Franchise: The Political Origins of the Women's Vote (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018), 6–7, 116Google Scholar. See also Green, Elna C., Southern Strategies: Southern Women and the Woman Suffrage Question (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 180–81Google Scholar.

9 For examples, see the pro-suffrage cartoon “Four Voters,” Life Magazine, Oct. 16, 1913, showing a suffragist in a white dress contrasted with caricatures of a Black man, a working-class white man drinking beer, and an anarchist wielding a bomb.

10 Suffrage historians’ studies that differentiate between them include JMcArthur, udith N., “Minnie Fisher Cunningham's Back Door Lobby in Texas: Political Maneuverings in a One-Party State” in One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement, ed. Spruill, Marjorie Wheeler (Troutdale, OR: NewSage Press, 1995), 315–32Google Scholar; McArthur, Judith N. and Smith, Harold, Minnie Fisher Cunningham: A Suffragist's Life in Politics (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003)Google Scholar; and Egge, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship.

11 Flexner, Eleanor and Fitzpatrick, Ellen, Century of Struggle: The Woman's Rights Movement in the United States (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, [1959] 1996), 211, 297Google Scholar; Kraditor, Aileen S., The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1890–1920 (New York: Columbia University Press, [1965] 1981), 123, 125, 130–33Google Scholar.

12 Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 137 (emphasis in original).

13 Louise Michele Newman discusses “naturalized immigrants [who] gained power in [northern] urban areas” and efforts to disfranchise them through “immigration restriction and eugenic regulations.” Newman, Louise Michele, White Women's Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 59Google Scholar; Marjorie Spruill Wheeler argues that white suffragists, “angry at the ease with which immigrant men were enfranchised … increasingly employed racist and nativist rhetoric and tactics.” Marjorie Spruill Wheeler, “Introduction: A Short History of the Woman Suffrage Movement in America” in Wheeler, One Woman, One Vote, 13. See also Wheeler, Marjorie Spruill, New Women of the New South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 115–16, 131Google Scholar. Linda Kerber summarizes Susan B. Anthony's argument that “sex was a characteristic markedly different from youth or being an alien. Although aliens could not vote, an individual alien man could choose to become a naturalized citizen.” Linda Kerber, “‘Ourselves and Our Daughters Forever’: Women and the Constitution, 1787–1876” in Wheeler, One Woman, One Vote, 34.

14 Cappozola, Christopher, Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 6CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Egge, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship, 16–17; Jensen, Kimberly, Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008), vii, 12Google Scholar.

15 Benton-Cohen, Katherine, Inventing the Immigration Problem: The Dillingham Commission and Its Legacy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 See also arguments for the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act, H.R. 6355, 68th Cong., 1st Sess. Natalia Molina argues that “in practice, it was interpreted … more as a form of forced assimilation in which citizenship was extended in name only.” Molina, Natalia, “‘In a Race All Their Own’: The Quest to Make Mexicans Ineligible for U.S. Citizenship,” Pacific Historical Review 79 (May 2010): 179CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 Egge, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship, 9–10.

18 Rosberg, “Aliens and Equal Protection,” 1116–17.

19 Cantrell, Greg, “‘Our Very Pronounced Theory of Equal Rights to All’: Race, Citizenship, and Populism in the South Texas Borderlands,” Journal of American History 100 (Dec. 2013): 677CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Tex. Const. art. III, § 1 (1869).

20 Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement.

21 Bredbenner, Candice Lewis, A Nationality of Her Own: Women, Marriage, and the Law of Citizenship (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 15Google Scholar; Egge, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship, 10. This presumes that the immigrant woman was racially eligible for citizenship. See Menchaca, Martha, Naturalizing Mexican Immigrants: A Texas History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011), 207Google Scholar.

22 Bredbenner, A Nationality of Her Own, 4.

23 Menchaca, Naturalizing Mexican Immigrants, 208.

24 Coverture was the legal process in which women suffered civil death upon marriage and became one legal entity with their husbands. Bredbenner, A Nationality of Her Own, 5.

25 Bredbenner, A Nationality of Her Own, 6.

26 “The Official Program of the Committee on American Citizenship of the League of Women Voters,” by Mrs. Frederick P. Bagley, chairman, in Minnie Fisher Cunningham Papers, box 7, folder 29, University of Houston Libraries Special Collections (hereafter cited as MFC Papers).

27 Nancy F. Cott, “Across the Great Divide: Women in Politics Before and After 1920” in Wheeler, One Woman, One Vote, 366. The Cable Act allowed women to remain citizens only if the noncitizen immigrant they married was racially eligible for citizenship and only if they continued living on U.S. soil.

28 Ross-Nazzal, Jennifer M., Winning the West for Women: The Life of Suffragist Emma Smith Devoe (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011), 36Google Scholar.

29 Flexner and Fitzpatrick, Century of Struggle, 229–30; Egge, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship, 105.

30 Conversely, Kraditor argues: “New York City, home of a large immigrant population, that made victory possible” in the 1917 state campaign. Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 144.

31 Egge, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship, 106; See also Lahlum, Lori Ann and Rozum, Molly P., Equality at the Ballot Box: Votes for Women on the Northern Great Plains (Pierre: South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2019)Google Scholar.

32 Egge, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship, 96, 115.

33 Egge, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship, 165–68. The legal term “enemy alien” refers to an immigrant whose country of origin is at war with the United States.

34 Egge, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship, 169–70.

35 Flexner and Fitzpatrick, Century of Struggle, 305.

36 Egge, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship, 16; Jensen, Billie Barnes, “Colorado Woman Suffrage Campaigns of the 1870s,” Journal of the West 12 (Apr. 1973)Google Scholar; Mead, Rebecca J., How the Vote Was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States, 1868–1914 (New York: New York University Press, 2004), 57–58, 64, 6768Google Scholar.

37 Aylsworth, “The Passing of Alien Suffrage,” 114–16. See also Cantrell, “Our Very Pronounced Theory of Equal Rights to All,” 663–90; State of Texas, 34th Legislature, Regular Session, April 5, 1915, House Joint Resolution no. 1, “Proposed Amendment to the State Constitution Providing that Under Certain Circumstances a Voter May Vote in Precincts Other than His Place of Residence,” 289–91, Legislative Reference Library of Texas, Austin, TX, https://lrl.texas.gov/scanned/sessionLaws/34-0/HJR_1.pdf (accessed June 27, 2020).

38 Orozco, Cynthia E., No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009), 35Google Scholar.

39 Teele, Forging the Franchise, 111; Orozco, No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed, 21.

40 Anders, Evan, Boss Rule in South Texas: The Progressive Era (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982), 272Google Scholar; Gunter, Rachel Michelle, “‘Without Us, It Is Ferguson with a Plurality’: Woman Suffrage and Anti-Ferguson Politics” in Impeached: The Removal of Texas Governor James E. Ferguson, eds. Jessica Brannon-Wranosky and Bruce A. Glasrud (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2017), 86Google Scholar.

41 Orozco, No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed, 34–35; Anders, Boss Rule in South Texas, 269.

42 “Bill Before Legislature to Prevent Mexicans Voting: Amendment is Proposed by El Pasoans at Austin,” El Paso Morning Times, Jan. 30, 1917, Texas Digital Newspaper Program, University of North Texas Libraries Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth198631/m1/1/ (accessed June 27, 2020). On the failed 1915 referendum, see State of Texas, House Joint Resolution no. 1.

43 Katherine Kuehler Walters, “World War I” in Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qdw01 (accessed June 27, 2020).

44 Teele, Forging the Franchise, 111.

45 Dawn Langan Teele argues: “Incumbents will be reluctant to enlarge the set of electors if they already have enough support to maintain power.” Teele, Forging the Franchise, 32, 46, 85. On efforts to enfranchise white women as part of Jim Crow, see Wheeler, Marjorie Spruill, “The Woman Suffrage Movement in the South” in Votes for Women! The Woman Suffrage Movement in Tennessee, the South, and the Nation, ed. Spruill, Marjorie Wheeler (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995), 39Google Scholar; and Wheeler, New Women of the New South, 115.

46 Green, Southern Strategies, xii–xv.

47 For reformers describing ideal voters, see Hine, Darlene Clark, Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003), 82Google Scholar; Cottrell, Debbie Mauldin, Pioneer Woman Educator: The Progressive Spirit of Annie Webb Blanton (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1993), 49Google Scholar; Cantrell, “Our Very Pronounced Theory of Equal Rights to All,” 663–90; and Orozco, No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed, 35.

48 Ferguson resigned before being removed and ran for governor in 1918 encouraging his supporters to elect judges who would allow him to serve. He lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary after women were enfranchised in a quid pro quo deal—primary suffrage in exchange for voting against Ferguson. After the courts ruled that Ferguson could not legally hold office, his wife ran, becoming the first female governor of Texas in 1922. See Gunter, “‘Without Us, It Is Ferguson with a Plurality”; McArthur, “Minnie Fisher Cunningham's Back Door Lobby in Texas,” 17–18, 297, 320, 322; McArthur and Smith, Minnie Fisher Cunningham, 52–53; and “How Did Texas Women Win Partial Suffrage in a One-Party Southern State in 1918?,” documents selected and interpreted by Judith N. McArthur (State University of New York at Binghamton, Binghamton, NY, 2006), Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600–2000 database, https://documents.alexanderstreet.com/c/1000637373 (accessed July 7, 2020).

49 McArthur, “Minnie Fisher Cunningham's Back Door Lobby in Texas,” 320, 322.

50 Primary suffrage, allowing women to vote in primary elections only, could be achieved through a simple act of the legislature and was an easier victory than full suffrage, which required an amendment to the state constitution. Suffragists also hoped to use primary suffrage to pressure politicians into enacting full woman suffrage.

51 State of Texas, 35th Legislature, 4th Called Session, April 2, 1918, House Bill no. 107, chapter 60, Legislative Reference Library of Texas, Austin, TX, https://lrl.texas.gov/scanned/sessionLaws/35-4/HB_107_CH_60.pdf (accessed June 27, 2020).

52 McArthur, “Minnie Fisher Cunningham's Back Door Lobby in Texas,” 324–25.

53 Spruill Wheeler, New Women of the New South, 16, 322–23.

54 MFC to Crane, Aug. 8, 1918, MFC Papers, box 5, folder 1; “Democratic Platform Adopted Unanimously at Waco 1918,” A. Caswell Ellis Papers, box 2P92, “Suffrage” folder, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (hereafter cited as ACE Papers).

55 Orozco, No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed, 27, 37.

56 TPegram, homas R., One Hundred Percent American: The Rebirth and Decline of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2011)Google Scholar; Jensen, Mobilizing Minerva, vii.

57 Anders, Boss Rule in South Texas, 273.

58 Anders, Boss Rule in South Texas, 291–92.

59 Catt to MFC, Jan. 23, 1919, Jane Y. McCallum Papers, box 21, folder 5, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library (hereafter cited as McCallum Papers).

60 State of Texas, 36th Legislature, Regular Session, January 16, 1919, Journal of the House of Representatives, letter from Governor W. P. Hobby, 54–56, Legislative Reference Library of Texas, Austin, TX, https://lrl.texas.gov/scanned/Housejournals/36/01161919_3_46.pdf (accessed June 27, 2020).

61 Menchaca, Naturalizing Mexican Immigrants, 218; See also McArthur and Smith, Minnie Fisher Cunningham, 61; McArthur, “Minnie Fisher Cunningham's Back Door Lobby in Texas,” 321.

62 MFC Circular to Senatorial District Chairmen, Feb. 27, 1919, McCallum Papers, box 21, folder 1.

63 MFC Circular to State Advisory Committee Member Dexter Harrison, Apr. 21, 1919, McCallum Papers, box 21, folder 1.

64 MFC Circular to Senatorial District Chairmen, Feb. 27, 1919, McCallum Papers, box 21, folder 1.

65 TESA Flyer, “Are you an American Citizen,” MFC Papers, box 8, folder 11.

66 State of Texas, 53rd Legislature, Regular Session, June 8, 1953, House Joint Resolution no. 10, “Constitutional Amendment—Armed Forces—Right to Vote,” 1176–77, Legislative Reference Library of Texas, Austin, TX, http://lrl.texas.gov/scanned/sessionLaws/53-0/HJR_10.pdf (accessed June 27, 2020); Tex. Const. art. III, § 1 (1845); William F. Weeks, reporter, Debates of the Texas Convention, 1845 (Houston, TX: J. W. Cruger, 1846), 159.

67 On absentee balloting in WWI, see “West Virginia May Allow Soldier Vote: Amendment to Election Law Being Agitated in Behalf of the Soldiers,” Brownwood Bulletin (Brownwood, TX) 17, no. 246, July 31, 1918, and “Soldier Ballot May Decide N.Y. Election,” The Daily Herald (Weatherford, TX) 18, no. 257, Oct. 27, 1917, both accessed through University of North Texas Libraries Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu (accessed June 27, 2020).

68 MFC to TESA County Chairwomen, Feb. 1919, MFC Papers, box 2, folder 48.

69 MFC to Judge P. O. Beard, Chairman of Harrison County Suffrage Campaign Committee in Marshall, TX, May 16, 1919, MFC Papers, box 3, folder 7.

70 Major Richard F. Burges to MFC, Letter and Telegram, May 12, 1919, MFC Papers, box 3, folder 2; letter MFC to Burges, May 15, 1919, MFC Papers, box 3, folder 2; Richard Burges to Jane McCallum, Apr. 29, 1919, McCallum Papers, box 6, folder 3.

71 Suffragists successfully lobbied Texas to allow WWI veterans to vote on honorable discharge papers instead of poll tax receipts; Cunningham privately admitted that suffragists did so out of concern that Mexican soldiers would cross the border to vote in south Texas if voting requirements for soldiers were lax. See MFC to CCC, May 5, 1919, McCallum Papers, box 20, folder 1.

72 Jane McCallum to Editor, The Times of Brownsville, The Recorder of Greenville, The News of Loraine, The News of Orange Grove, and The Messenger of May, Mar. 13, 1919, McCallum Papers, box 5, folder 20.

73 McCallum to County Chairmen, Apr. 22, 1919 and Apr. 24, 1919, McCallum Papers, box 5, folder 12.

74 Anders, Boss Rule in South Texas, 273–74.

75 Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Texas Association Opposed To Woman Suffrage” in Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/vbtvw (accessed June 27, 2020).

76 Ruthe Winegarten and Judith N. McArthur, eds., Citizens at Last: The Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas (Austin, TX: Ellen C. Temple, 1987), 187.

77 Winegarten and McArthur, ed., Citizens at Last, 183; State of Texas, 36th Legislature, Regular Session, May 24, 1919, “Proposing an amendment providing that every person, male or female, subject to no constitutional disqualifications who shall have attained the age of twenty-one years shall be deemed a qualified elector,” Legislative Reference Library of Texas, Austin, TX, https://lrl.texas.gov/legis/billSearch/amendmentdetails.cfm?legSession=36-0&billtypeDetail=SJR&billNumberDetail=7&billSuffixDetail=&amendmentID=85 (accessed June 27, 2020); Anders, Boss Rule in South Texas, 274.

78 Winegarten and McArthur, Citizens at Last, 200.

79 MFC to Captain Henry Sackett, June 20, 1919, MFC Papers, box 2, folder 28.

80 McArthur and Smith, Minnie Fisher Cunningham, 83.

81 Winegarten and McArthur, Citizens at Last, 149.

82 Anders, Boss Rule in South Texas, 274–77; McArthur and Smith, Minnie Fisher Cunningham, 81–83. Ellis's calculations have not been verified by scholars; it is possible that he manipulated the numbers.

83 “Many Factors Contributed to the Apparent Defeat of Suffrage,” flyer, MFC Papers, box 8, folder 11; McArthur and Smith, Minnie Fisher Cunningham, 83.

84 Orozco, No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed, 27, 39.

85 “Many Factors Contributed to the Apparent Defeat of Suffrage.”

86 Catt to MFC, June 23, 1919, MFC Papers, box 1, folder 9.

87 T. N. Jones to MFC, July 15, 1918, McCallum Papers, box 20, folder 5; Mrs. LF Benckenstein to MFC, July 17–18, 1918, McCallum Papers, box 20, folder 5; MFC to T. N. Jones, July 13, 1918, McCallum Papers box 20, folder 5.

88 Gibbens, Byrd, “Strangers in the Arkansas Delta: Ethnic Groups and Nationalities (150–83), in The Arkansas Delta: Land of Paradox, eds. Jeannie Whayne and Willard B. Gatewood (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1993)Google Scholar.

89 A. Elizabeth Taylor, “The Woman Suffrage Movement in Arkansas,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 15 (Spring 1956): 40.

90 Taylor, “The Woman Suffrage Movement in Arkansas,” 42, 44–46, 48, 150.

91 Mattie Louise Ivie, “Woman Suffrage in Oklahoma, 1890–1918” (PhD diss., Oklahoma College for Women, 1957), 59–60; Diane Brown, “How Women Got the Vote in Oklahoma,” League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, 1978, 1990, https://my.lwv.org/sites/default/files/howwomengotvote.pdf (accessed June 27, 2020).

92 Aylsworth, “The Passing of Alien Suffrage,” 114–16.

93 The Indiana legislature passed a partial suffrage law in 1917, which the state supreme court struck down, alongside a state suffrage amendment, which required second passage by the next legislature and a referendum to be enacted. Indiana suffragists then lobbied the state legislature to ratify the Anthony Amendment; Indiana was the twenty-sixth state to do so. See Anita Morgan, “‘An Act of Tardy Justice’: The Story of Women's Suffrage in Indiana,” Indiana Woman's Suffrage Centennial, 2019 http://indianasuffrage100.org/indiana-womens-suffrage-history (accessed June 27, 2020). Indiana restricted suffrage to “fully naturalized citizens” in 1921. See Kettleborough, Charles, “Amendments to State Constitutions 1919–21,” American Political Science Review 16 (May 1992): 251Google Scholar. Missouri suffragists won presidential suffrage in 1919 and pressured their legislature to ratify the Anthony Amendment. Missouri was the eleventh state to ratify. See “Missouri and the 19th Amendment,” National Park Service, July 4, 1919, www.nps.gov/articles/missouri-and-the-19th-amendment.htm, last updated Aug. 9, 2019. Missouri ended immigrant declarant voting in 1924. See Rosberg, “Aliens and Equal Protections,” 1099–100.

94 Molina, Natalia, How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), 4348CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Molina, “In a Race All Their Own,” 170, 179, 186–88.

95 Rosberg, “Aliens and Equal Protections,” 1108, 1134.

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