Cable Act


The Cable Act, or the Married Women's Independent Nationality Act, was passed by Congress in 1922. The Cable Act was written in response to sections of the Expatriation Act of 1907 that stripped women of their U.S. citizenship if they married non-citizen men. Women protested immediately but did not gain traction to end the practice of denaturalization upon marriage to alien men until after 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted women the right to vote. Gaining the right to vote made proof of citizenship for married women more critical, and retention of U.S. citizenship for women more valuable. However, the Cable Act which promised to give women rights to their own citizenship regardless of marital status was passed in 1922 in a climate of increasingly anti-Asian immigrant politics. This was the same year that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Japanese were not white and therefore could not naturalize to become U.S. citizens (Ozawa v. United States). The Cable Act stated that women who married men who were ineligible for citizenship would still loose their U.S. citizenship. Nisei women organized to change the law. Suma Sugi (Yokotake) lobbied to amend the Cable Act and was successful when in 1931, the act was amended to allow Nisei women to marry Issei men without losing their citizenship.[1] The Cable Act was repealed in 1936.

Authored by Cherstin M. Lyon, California State University, San Bernardino

For More Information

Bredbenner, Candice L. A Nationality of Her Own: Women, Marriage and the Law of Citizenship. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Cott, Nancy. "Marriage and Women's Citizenship in the United States, 1830-1934." American Historical Review 103.5 (December 1998): 1440-74.

Gardner, Martha. Qualities of a Citizen: Women, Immigration, and Citizenship, 1870-1965. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Hill, Cyril D. "Citizenship of Married Women." American Journal of International Law 18.4 (October 1924): 720-36.

Hosokawa, Bill. JACL in Quest of Justice. New York: W. Morrow, 1982.

Sapiro, Virginia. "Women, Citizenship, and Nationality: Immigration and Naturalization Policies in the United States." Politics and Society 13.1 (March 1984): 1-26.

Schneider, Dorothee. "Naturalization and the United States Citizenship in Two Periods of Mass Migration: 1894-1930, 1965-2000." Journal of American Ethnic History 21.1 (October 2001): 50-82.

Footnotes

  1. Suma Sugi Yokotake, Pacific Citizen, December 12, 1980, 2