The Price of Pacifism: Rebecca Shelley and Her Struggle for Citizenship

By Goodier, Susan | Michigan Historical Review, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

The Price of Pacifism: Rebecca Shelley and Her Struggle for Citizenship


Goodier, Susan, Michigan Historical Review


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Rebecca Shelley's life (1887 to 1984) was defined by two world wars and her personal commitment to absolute pacifism. This commitment, which greatly complicated Shelley's life, led her to test existing legal rulings about the citizenship rights of women and political dissenters. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she began a career as a high-school teacher of German in 1910, but soon found her true calling in peace activism. In 1915 she traveled to The Hague for a peace conference, the International Congress of Women, and sailed on the Ford Peace Ship later that same year. On her return to the United States, Shelley helped establish peace organizations in New York City. Her peace activities were significant enough to draw the attention of a New York State investigative committee that published its report, rifled Revolutionary Radicalism, in 1920. When Shelley married a German national in August 1922, she lost her citizenship because the ceremony took place before the Cable Act (allowing women to retain their U.S. citizenship upon marriage to a foreigner) went into effect. It would take five separate repatriation petitions in three separate courts and more than two decades before Shelley got her citizenship back. (1)

Shelley's repatriation cases were complicated by uncertainties about the precise meaning of female citizenship in the decades following women's enfranchisement and by the fact that she was an absolute pacifist who maintained that she had a right to liberty of conscience and that her total opposition to war did not in any way indicate a lack of patriotism. (2) Other women also lost their U.S. citizenship when they married non-US. citizens before the Cable Act was passed. But because Shelley was an absolute pacifist and continued to insist on her right to be a conscientious objector (like some of the men whose cause she had supported), she suffered from both patriarchal and political discrimination as applied to citizenship, pacifism, and patriotism. The story of Rebecca Shelley's repatriation efforts highlights the challenges women faced as they confronted the sexism inherent in the meaning of citizenship and the conflation of pacifism with disloyalty during a period of United States history complicated by the first Red Scare and a conservative backlash after World War I. Her story sheds light on two critical aspects of citizenship in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century: adjustments in women's citizenship status following the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and, at the same time, higher standards for naturalization that required greater scrutiny of a candidate's beliefs and actions.

There was no question about Rebecca Shelley's citizenship at her birth. She was born to Salina Lankard and William Alfred Shelly in Sugar Valley, Pennsylvania, in 1887 (originally named Margaret Rebecca Shelly, she later changed the spelling of her last name to protect her family from the notoriety she acquired during her repatriation process and as a tribute to Percy Bysshe Shelley). She could trace her descent from a Mennonite family that had immigrated to the United States in the early eighteenth century, although she was not raised as a Mennonite. (3) Her father was a blacksmith turned minister. Rebecca was educated at the Clarion Normal School and then found work as a schoolteacher. In 1905 her family relocated to Michigan, purchasing a farm near Coleman, after her father accepted a position as an itinerant preacher with the Michigan Conference of the Evangelical Church. After teaching for two more years in Michigan, Shelley enrolled as a sophomore at the University of Michigan in 1907 and found a job to pay for her room and board. As busy as she was, she managed to enjoy her years as a student. She played on the women's basketball team, acted in college-theater productions, excelled in her study of the German language, became interested in woman suffrage, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1910. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Price of Pacifism: Rebecca Shelley and Her Struggle for Citizenship
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.