Enemy aliens were undesirable migrants in Australia during World War I, right? Yet enemy alien women who sought naturalisation were largely successful. Using the concept of ‘desire’, this article uses quantitative and qualitative material from women’s naturalisation applications to consider why women applied and subsequent state decision-making. The narratives of applicants and administrators reflect wider negotiations over different types of citizenship, where women could challenge their very labelling as enemy aliens, or employ highly gendered notions of vulnerability and respectability. Particular groups were treated favourably, revealing practices which challenge existing historiography about how migration and citizenship laws worked throughout the British empire, especially concerning race and denaturalised women. This is part of a wider need to reassess the relationship between migration law and practice, especially the role of gender and the use of executive privilege. While important to recognise the overlapping push for a ‘global color line’ in creating the system which developed within the British empire, it was less a legal system and more of a constant negotiation between different actors, based on laws that were often imprecise. In this case they gave space for enemy alien women to circumvent the legislative restrictions on their naturalisation, despite the politics of war.
Rachel Bright, Rethinking Gender, Citizenship, and War: Female Enemy Aliens in Australia during World War I, Immigrants & Minorities, 2021.