Anita Prazmowska recalls the sexist citizenship laws of Britain in the 1960s

With reference to Barbara Hanley’s letter (Not German enough to become a citizen, 14 June) let me give you an idea of how the British government handled women’s citizenship claims. In 1969, as a 19-year-old, I came to the UK from Poland hoping to join my British-born mother. My father was a Polish pilot who fought with the RAF during the second world war. At that time British female citizens could not pass on their citizenship to their children, and I was only allowed to stay in the UK because my mother’s second husband, who was a British citizen, signed some form of guarantees.

I found all this funny because I was 19 and he did not know me at all. But he and his brother duly traipsed off to the local police station, where he signed something that made me his responsibility. I have no idea what this document was, but the experience petrified the living daylights out of him. He certainly believed he had become responsible for something akin to live ordnance. I still was not given citizenship rights, but was allowed to stay with my mother. In 1973 James Callaghan, the Labour prime minister, changed this legislation.
Prof Anita Prazmowska

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