Rebecca Shelley

American pacifist

Rebecca Shelley (January 20, 1887 - January 21, 1984) was a pacifist who lost her American citizenship when she married a German national. She was the publisher of Modern Poultry Breeder.[1]

Rebecca Shelley Rathmer
Shelley in 1915
Rebecca Shelley

(1887-01-20)January 20, 1887
DiedJanuary 21, 1984(1984-01-21) (aged 97)
EducationUniversity of Michigan
SpouseFelix Martin Rathmer



She was born in Sugar Valley, Pennsylvania on January 20, 1887 to William Alfred Shelly. In 1904 her family moved to Michigan. In 1907 she attended University of Michigan and majored in the German. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1910.[1]

In 1922 she married Felix Martin Rathmer, a German born electrical engineer and she lost her American citizenship.[1] She refused to take the naturalization oath because it contained the phrase "bear arms in defense of the country".[2] She did not regain her citizenship until 1944. She became a widow in 1959.[1]

She died on January 21, 1984, the day after her birthday, at the Leila Y. Post Montgomery Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Rebecca Shelley". University of Michigan. Retrieved 2013-11-28. Rebecca Shelley, Battle Creek pacifist and feminist, was born in Sugar Valley, Pennsylvania in 1887. She attended the Normal School at Clarion, Pennsylvania from 1902 to 1904 and taught briefly in Pennsylvania. In 1904, Rebecca's father, William Alfred Shelly, moved to Leelanau County, Michigan to become pastor of the local Evangelical congregation. Rebecca taught school for two years in the Leelanau County School but quit teaching in 1907 to attend the University of Michigan. She majored in German and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1910. ...
  2. "Pacifist Penalty Upheld. Citizenship Is Denied Woman Refusing to Take Up Arms". United Press in the New York Times. June 10, 1941. Retrieved 2013-11-28. The United States Court of Appeals today upheld a district court ruling denying citizenship to Mrs. Rebecca Shelley ...
  3. "Rebecca Shelley, 97. WWI Pacifist, Defended By Well-Known Authors". Associated Press in the Boston Globe. January 25, 1984. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2013-11-28. a World War I pacifist who lost her citizenship for 22 years after marrying a foreigner, and whose cause was taken up by authors Sinclair Lewis and H.L. Mencken, has died after short illness. She was 97. Mrs. Shelley, an author of several books, died Saturday night in Leila Y. Post Montgomery Hospital of natural causes. She had been seriously ill since June and was hospitalized last Friday, said John Dowdle, director of Farley-Estes Funeral Home.

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