What could be more absurd than denying a middle-aged woman United States citizenship on the grounds that she would not promise to bear arms on behalf of the U.S. — something she never would have been called upon or even allowed to do in 1929?
“The whole thing is crazier than ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ but less funny,” mused Rosika Schwimmer, a Hungarian feminist, suffragist, internationalist, and pacifist, born Jewish, who found herself at the convergence of the fault lines of the 1910s and ‘20s: xenophobia, misogyny, anti-Semitism, jingoism, nationalism, and intolerance of dissident speech.
Rosika Schwimmer’s story is the stuff of opera. She experienced waves of acclaim and of vilification, of international renown and of exile — and was championed on more than one occasion by the ACLU, fighting the anti-civil liberties forces arrayed against her.
Fighting for Peace
As part of her determined effort to stop World War I, Rosika convinced American automaker Henry Ford to back and let her co-lead a quixotic Peace Ship, which sailed to Europe in December 1915 with the goal of convincing people of the neutral countries to do what governments would not: offer mediation to the belligerents.