The Qualities of a Citizen: Women, Immigration and Citizenship, 1870-1930

“Family status gave immigrant wives an entree into the United States that for many women would have been otherwise impossible in the face of racial, medical, economic, moral, or geographic exclusions.”

In the 1840’s millions of Irish immigrants had come to America. They were more trust worthy than the Asian women. The Irish unlike the earlier migration, they had no skills, no previous experience. They lacked money, clothing, education and religion. This book written by Martha Mabie Garder written in 2005 talks about the hardships that women faced when coming to America. In the 19th and 20th century coverture played a key role in immigrants women. Coverture is the legal status of a married women usually under protection of her husband and most of the time his property. Families were torn apart through the exclusions of the immigration and naturalization laws. So the best way a women could enter this country was by her marital status. The marital status made a huge difference in the rights and privileges that were given to women. In 1855 any immigrant women who married an American citizen became a citizens through marriage. But this only applied to white women. The Act of July 14, 1870 gave citizenship to African Americans, but they still didn’t receive civil rights. By 1887 Native American were given the right to citizenship, but only if they lived off reservations and among the white society. Chinese immigrants were excluded from naturalization laws. Wives of Asian laborers were allowed to enter this country after they proved their martial status. No one was allowed entry if were diseased or ill that couldn’t be cured leaving families separated.

Sources: Martha Mabie Gardner, “Chapter 1: Immigrants, Citizens, Marriage,” in The Qualities of a Citizen: Women, Immigration, and Citizenship,1870-1965 (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2005): 23

 The Qualities of a Citizen: Women, Immigration and Citizenship, 1870-1930

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