AAWE in Action
The women of AAWE didn’t stop there. That initial question about the Nationality Act was still unanswered. In early 1961, Phyllis Michaux read a Washington Post article about a court decision on the 301(b) section. An Italian American had challenged the law and won in a district court, which declared the residence provision unconstitutional. However, it was noted that they were, “aware of the considerable danger that children born and reared abroad, schooled where English is not taught, celebrating foreign holidays with the family of the non-American parent, will have no meaningful connections with the U.S., its culture or heritage.”
This was the perfect opportunity for AAWE to prove the contrary. From there, letters were written, lawyers were enlisted, and the project went from an idea to a co-filed amicus brief with the American Bar Association. AAWE contributions financed the legal fees, and although the case was lost in the Supreme Court, an amendment to the law was proposed in Congress.
With more determination, the help of an attorney, and a letter-writing campaign, the residence period was decreased from five to two years.
In the end, it was the ideas of AAWE which came before the Supreme Court, and in Phyllis Michaux’s words, “It is really amazing what you can do with nonprofit organization work. Never let yourself be put down because you belong to a women’s club.”
AAWE has continued this work and expanded it over the years to this day.