32 J. Church & St. 343 (1990)
The Naturalization of Rosika Schwimmer

handle is hein.journals/jchs32 and id is 349 raw text is: The Naturalization of
Rosika Schwimmer
RONALD B. FLOWERS and NADIA M. LAHUTSKY
She was female and fifty-one years old, but the Supreme
Court of the United States denied Rosika Schwimmer American
citizenship because she would not agree to bear arms in defense
of the country. United States v. SchwimmerI was one of the cel-
ebrated cases of 1929. It was noteworthy because it involved
one whom some considered the most powerful woman in the
world2 because of her international influence on behalf of femi-
nism and pacifism. Furthermore, it was the first Supreme Court
case in history to raise the question of whether an alien consci-
entious objector to war could qualify for citizenship.3 It set a
temporary precedent in American jurisprudence and stimu-
lated considerable congressional and public debate. This essay
tells the story of Rosika Schwimmer's attempt to become an
American citizen and its aftermath.
Madame Schwimmer (as she was called by friends and ene-
mies) came to the United States in 1921 and settled in Chicago.
She soon filed papers declaring her intent to petition the gov-
ernment for citizenship. The pertinent provisions of the natu-
ralization law were:
He [the applicant] shall before he is admitted to citizenship, declare an
oath in open court that he will support and defend the Constitution and
laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and
* RONALD B. FLOWERS (B.A., Texas Christian University; B.D. and S.T.M., Van-
derbilt University; Ph.D., University of Iowa) is professor of religion studies at
Texas Christian University. He is coauthor of Toward Benevolent Neutrality:
Church, State and the Supreme Court (3rd ed., 1987) and author of Religion in
Strange Times: The 1960s and 1970s (1984). NADIA M. LAHUTSKY (B.A., Hiram
College; M.A. and Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is associate professor of religion
studies at Texas Christian University and has published in various journals includ-
ing Encounter, Downside Review, Lexington Theological Quarterly, and Catholic
Biblical Quarterly.
1. 279 U.S. 644 (1929).
2. Paul S. Rundquist, Rosika Schwimmer, Ms. 3 (January 1975): 58-59.
3. Henry J. Abraham, Freedom and the Courts: Civil Rights and Liberties in the
United States, 4th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 246; Union to
Aid Peace Sect, New York Times, 1 June 1929, p. 16, col. 8.

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