The Private Roots of American Political Development: The Immigrants’ Protective League’s “Friendly and Sympathetic Touch,” 1908–1924

Abstract: This article aims to illuminate how non-state actors participate in forging public institutions and in establishing public agendas. It also sets out to identify novel mechanisms of state building. It does so by examining the historical experience of the Immigrants’ Protective League (IPL) from its founding in 1908 through 1924. The history of the IPL highlights the role of organized, networked women in generating new boundary stories and doing boundary work; in conducting research and enhancing legibility; in incubating new policy experiments; and in moving the national, state, and local governments to take up new tasks in the progressive era. Focusing on women’s activism in this period, and efforts to link immigrants to categories of the vulnerable, reveals that porous boundaries, hybrid power-sharing arrangements, and public-private collaborations may be more typical in forging new American institutions and public agendas than is generally recognized—and insufficiently captured by a narrative of a weak state borrowing temporary capacity from private actors.

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License CC BY
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 110 - American
Pedagogical Note Yes


Pedagogical Note

I have assigned this article to my 1st and 2nd year students in an Introduction to American Government course.

This is one of three articles students are asked to analyze by identifying 11 parts: title, main point, question, puzzle, debate, theory, hypotheses, empirical analysis, policy implications, and contribution to the discipline, and future research. And writing out the research design using notation.

I like this article because: it uses an American Political Development approach to analyzing how private groups influence state development; demonstrates how overlooked groups (immigrant protective leagues) shaped institutions; and provides examples of non-state change agents.

My students did not like this article because it was long, did not clearly follow the 12-part structure I provide for analyzing articles, and wasn’t a topic that was particularly flashy.

I would assign this article to students in upper-division US political history, American Political Development, and Interest Groups courses.

1 year ago

Review The Private Roots of American Political Development: The Immigrants’ Protective League’s “Friendly and Sympathetic Touch,” 1908–1924.