Living Overseas: American Women and Children as Expats in the Cold War Era, 1950s-1970s

Linda Van Ingen, University of Nebraska at Kearney

With the shift to American internationalism after World War II, the global reach of the United States created an unprecedented increase in American residency abroad. While the number hovered around 100,000 people on average in the prewar years from 1900 to 1940, it jumped to more than 1.3 million in the 1960 U.S. Census, and 1.7 million Americans in 1970. Almost two-thirds of these served in the U.S. military, while the rest were civilians either affiliated with the federal government or with private business. Historian Nancy Green situates the phenomenon of Americans living overseas in both citizenship studies and immigration history. By focusing on the shifting meanings of expatriation, she identifies significant turning points, including a marked shift in the Cold War era. Where Americans once viewed expatriates as those at risk of losing citizenship by living overseas, they now embraced “the expat” who informally represented the country and the optimistic view of American internationalism. This paper builds on Green’s analysis, focusing in particular on women and children living abroad. Women overseas represented 58 percent of all civilians abroad in 1960. Children 18 years or younger, moreover, made up 66 percent of the civilian population overseas in 1960 and 55 percent in 1970. From the beginning, founders of the United States understood that Americans not only would be living abroad, but having families there as well. One of the first acts of Congress in 1790 addressed the question of citizenship and the naturalization process, including a law that declared children born overseas of U.S. citizens “shall be considered as natural born citizens.” In exploring this history, this paper raises new questions not only in terms of American internationalism, but also the internationalization of America and how Americans living overseas, like immigrants, are part of a diverse American identity.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 10. Intersections of Migration and Gender