Jane Addams and Grace Abbott to Oscar W. Underwood, January 23, 1911


Chicago, Ill., January 23, 1911.

Hon. Oscar W. Underwood,
House of Representatives,
Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir:

We understand that a literacy test for immigrants is under consideration by the House Committee of which you are a member and urge you to oppose it for the following reasons:-

1.  It is not a character test. The ability to read and write is no indication of a man's honesty, his determination, or his general thrift. In the case of the immigrant it is not even a test of ambition since in most cases those who are illiterate have had no opportunity to attend school at home.  

2.  It does not result in the exclusion of those who are industrially undesirable.

3.  The adoption of the rule would result in the separation of families as the women and the old men have often not had the education which the young men are now receiving. This would therefore interfere with family migrations.

4.  Finally, the inability, to read and write is the one deficiency the United States is best equipped to supply. [page 2]

Although much could be said in favor of an educational test as a requisite for naturalization none of these reasons apply to admission of immigrants to the country.

Sincerely yours,

Jane Addams [signed]
Grace Abbott [signed]

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