Sunday, August 17, 2008
Rosika Schwimmer (1877-1948) was born on September 11, 1877 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary. In 1897, Schwimmer founded the Hungarian Feminist Association, helped to found Hungarian National Council of Women, later organized the first Women's Trade Union in Hungary and was a board member in the Hungarian Peace Society. In 1913 she became a corresponding secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA).
In 1914, Schwimmer moved to London and worked as a news correspondent and press secretary for the IWSA. When the World War I broke out, she could not return to home and began to agitate for the end of hostilities. In 1915, she gained the support of Henry Ford, who chartered a Ford Peace Ship to Stockholm. Schwimmer later organized the International Committee for Immediate Mediation.
After the armistice, Schwimmer became vice-president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. When Hungary gained independence from Austria-Hungary in 1918, prime minister Mihály Károlyi appointed Schwimmer to be Minister to Switzerland. When communists overthrew the government in 1919, she opposed it and lost her civil rights. In 1920, when the Hungarian government began to purge Jews, she fled to Vienna and in 1921 to the United States, settling in Chicago
Due to her pacifist beliefs, Schwimmer was labeled as a socialist in the United States. She could not gain US citizenship because of her pacifism. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against her in United States v. Schwimmer (1929). As a result, Schwimmer spent the rest of her life in the country as a stateless person.
United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U.S. 644 (1929) addressed whether Rosika Schwimmer was sufficiently "attached" to American "constitutional principles" as required under the law to naturalize even though she declared in her naturalization interview that she was not willing to "take up arms personally" in defense of the United States. The Supreme Court found that she was not eligible for citizenship. The Supreme Court overruled the Schwimmer decision in Girouard v. United States, 328 U.S. 61 (1946).