1929 July 12

Pacifist Dorothy Detzer, Denied Passport, Then Granted Waiver


Dorothy Detzer, Executive Director of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and a pacifist, was initially denied a passport to travel overseas. At issue was her refusal to take the oath to defend the United States, which she interpreted as potentially supporting participation in military action. She was finally granted a passport, on this day, and traveled to Europe for an international pacifist conference.

The case was one of many in the twentieth century where the U.S. government denied passports to American citizens or visas to people from other countries because of their political views. See, for example, the cancellation of the passport of Paul Robeson, the noted African-American singer and left-wing political activist on August 4, 1950. And on August 23, 1985 the best-selling Canadian writer Farley Mowat was denied a visa to enter the U.S. by the administration of President Ronald Reagan.

On the rights of pacifists in the 1920s and 1930s, see the case of Rosika Schwimmer (Schwimmer v. United States, May 27, 1929), in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in dissent, articulated the now-famous principle of “freedom for the thought we hate.”

Read her memoirs: Dorothy Detzer, Appointment on the Hill (1948)

Learn more about pacifism: Charles Chatfield, For Peace and Justice: Pacifism in American, 1914–1941 (1971)

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