Few topics in American politics under President Trump elicit more controversy than immigration. The same was true in early 20th century America when waves of immigrants flooded Ellis Island, causing fears that the country would become “overrun with foreigners,” as Henry Cabot Lodge wrote in 1891. With open borders, 30 million Europeans moved to the U.S. between 1850 and 1913. By 1920, about 15 percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born – much as it is in 2018.
It was into this milieu of a burgeoning immigrant population, as well as the Great Migration of freed black slaves, that Frances Kellor defined herself as one of the most important and radical social reformists of her time. Kellor’s progressive political and social stance was dominated by her belief that society had to be a true melting pot–a term she disliked–and not just a poetic metaphor of one. She is credited with creating the concept, if not the term, of multiculturalism.