Maid Labor Without Restitution

Since the Middle Ages, female servants referred to as maids have been serving Masters of prestigious wealth and status.  In the past, maidens, who were young, unmarried women, had to dedicate service to their Masters for life and did not marry; these women did not expect wages as long as they received food, clothing, and a home to sleep in.  As the working and living conditions of house maids have evolved, these domestic workers now have families of their own to serve.  Women needed to earn enough to put food on the table or pay that month’s rent.  Forming a lasting union where housekeepers can advocate for good pay, fair hours, and reasonable employers was often a figment of the imagination in the past and even now.  House maids are still victims of long work hours with underpay.

Ellen Henrotin

Ellen Martin Henrotin, an active social reformer, tried to unite servant girls in 1901, believing that a union would provide better conditions for not only maids but also their employers as well.  Jane Addams supported this movement and agreed that maids should come to know each other through organization. In fact, Addams advocated that maids should have another home to return to at night where they could be surrounded by friends. She told this story,

“I have just received a letter from a clever young woman I know, telling me that she wanted to attend a university this fall and get a Ph. D. She would be glad to do housework as a means to the Ph. D. end, but she could not live with the family by whom she would be employed.”

However, the lack of strategy in organizing these domestic workers is why maids have not yet earned a national union today.  Each maid’s needs and working conditions are diverse, and it’s difficult for them to band together for a specific, common goal.  Housekeeping does not have a formal hiring process because job opportunities come by word-of-mouth, and wages are set verbally.

Mexico saw progress when The National Union of Domestic Workers applied for recognition in 2015.  The group targeted assistance toward victims of discrimination and violence in their employer’s homes.  Yet, exclusion of groups from unions does not bring justice to everyone and leaves women angry.

Jane Addams, circa 1900

When Sophie Becker organized the Working Women’s Association of North America in 1901, scrub women and laundresses were angry for not being asked to join. They cried, “I am just as good as you are.”

While maids have yet to band together for a national union, it is still important for women to fight for fair working conditions.  As Jane Addams wrote,

“The number is increasing of those optimists in this country who are prone to say that everything is right and will come out right in the end. But we who are working for the improvement of the condition of wage-earners, are inclined to think that the conditions of women need improvement and that their condition will be bettered only as we concentrate intelligent thought upon the subject and are active toward that end.”

Sources: Jennings, Karla. “The History of Maids.” Hankering for History, 12 Aug. 2013, http://hankeringforhistory.com/the-history-of-maids/. Accessed 22 Aug. 2017; “In Trouble Already.” The Topeka Daily Capital, 25 Aug. 1901, p. 11; “Union as Aid to Maid.” The Inter Ocean, 23 Aug. 1901, p. 2; “Women Will Organize Women Wage Earners.” Oakland Tribune, March 27, 1905, p. 7.

Looking for a German translator

Else Münsterberg to Jane Addams, 1912.

As we head into the World War I years, Jane Addams’ life and her letters go international!

We are looking for someone familiar with German and early 20th century handwriting to work on a document-by-document basis translating German-language documents. At present we have only a handful, letters by women activists like Else Münsterberg of Berlin and Rosa Manus of the Netherlands, and short pamphlets enclosed in Addams’ incoming letters. But we anticipate adding more over the next few years.

If you are interested, please contact Cathy Moran Hajo (chajo at ramapo.edu) to discuss the work.

Jane Addams: Taking a Stand

This spring, the Jane Addams Papers Project was delighted to help fund two eighth grade students, Lucy Roberts and Lindsey Alexander, from Chamblee Middle School in Georgia present their ten-minute performance on Jane Addams at the National History Day competition.  The students advanced through their regional and state competitions and needed some help funding their trip to Maryland and the national contest.  When preparing for the competition, they relied on the Jane Addams Digital Edition to provide primary source materials.

“National History Day requires projects to have a variety of sources, both primary and secondary,” said Lucy Roberts, who portrayed Jane Addams in the performance. “The Jane Addams Papers was so organized and helpful to help with primary sources. As far as the actual sources themselves, we used her letters and speeches to learn about her thoughts and political views.”  The girls used excerpts from Addams’s autobiographies, which they found on the digital edition, as well as her opinions on immigration and labor to make their performance more historically accurate.

“What I think was the most interesting thing about Addams was her work as the city’s garbage collector. To me that was not only pretty surprising but admirable as well,” added Lucy.

National History Day invites students between sixth and twelfth grade to research a historical topic based on an annual theme and present their findings in a creative style manner as documentaries, research papers, exhibits, performances, or websites.  With this year’s theme called “Taking a Stand in History,” Lucy and Lindsey were assigned to research Addams in class.

Lucy and Lindsey’s performance, “Jane Addams: Taking a Stand,”  opened at Addams’s funeral in Hull-House in 1935.  Lindsey, portraying a resident, passionately recited a eulogy about Addams and her life.  Then, the play took the audience back in time by dramatically portraying Addams’s most significant accomplishments, such as becoming valedictorian at Rockford Seminary, co-founding the Hull-House, opposing World War I, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize.  As Addams, Lucy used direct quotes from Addams’s letters and speeches, and Lindsey acted as a variety of Addams’s associates, such as Ellen Gates Starr, a Chicago Tribune reporter, and a poor immigrant, providing context for Addams’ views.

“Performing was much more difficult than I expected,” said Lucy. “There are a billion things you need to think about: facing the audience, speaking clearly, remembering your lines, blocking, props, etc. That’s why I enjoyed it so much. Not only do I love a challenge, but I got to see an idea turn into something tangible and real.”

Lucy enjoying time in Baltimore

Lucy and Lindsey did not win the national award, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience and their sightseeing in Baltimore. They visited Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium, and Hard Rock Café. “I really enjoyed that because the hard work was over and we could finally relax and enjoy the city,” said Lucy.

We are glad to have been able to help the girls have such a rewarding experience and congratulate them on their success.

The theme for 2018 is: Conflict and Compromise in History.

NJ Council for the Humanities Awards Jane Addams Papers Funds to Enhance Use of the Digital Edition by Students

We are delighted to announce that the New Jersey Council for the Humanities has awarded the Jane Addams Papers a grant of $11,400 for our “Expanding Audience Participation with the Jane Addams Papers” project.

This project aims to encourage use of the digital edition among students, teachers, and the general public. We will  build a crowdsourcing site where members of the public can engage with documents, create transcriptions, and rate the documents to build a new search option to highlights the most useful documents. We also want to encourage students to work with the digital edition, and will create guides for high-school and grammar school students working on National History Day projects and school projects. These tutorials will introduce topics, provide suggestions for the best texts and search strategies for that topic, and suggest sources for further research.

We will be collaborating with students in Ramapo’s Teacher Education program, with the New Jersey National History Day coordinators, and local middle and high school teachers to develop these new resources on our digital edition site.

Addams, ca. 1895

The Jane Addams Papers’ mission is to digitize and describe the documents, and create historical context for them by identifying the people, organizations, and events mentioned in the texts. We have received funding from Ramapo College, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and the Ruth McCormick Tankersley Charitable Trust  to undertake this work.  But we want to do more than build a site and hope that people will use it. Scholars and advanced students will find our site, but this outreach project will advance our mission by reaching out to students, teachers and the general public.

We think the best way to do that is to provide crowdsourcing opportunities and offer guides for using the documents in the classroom. National History Day is a very popular program that challenges students in middle and high school to interpret history through one of twelve general themes.  For this year’s theme “Conflict and Compromise in History,” we advised students to look at Addams’ opposition to World War I, or her decision to open the Hull-House settlement, pointing them to the best documents and providing them with context. We will continue to expand the guides by adding more suggestions as we mount more material on the site. We also want to create topic guides for other issues, such as child labor, woman suffrage, and recreation.

We are looking forward to getting started on this exciting collaboration and will keep you posted on the results.

 

 

 

 

Battling a Ward Boss: Addams vs. Powers

Alderman of the Nineteenth Ward Johnny Powers

To better the lives of poor immigrants and children through Hull-House, Jane Addams often had to involve herself in the issues her residents cared about, such as child labor regulation, establishments of juvenile courts, overpopulated schools, and sanitation.  To ensure that the government’s laws heard the voice of the poor, Addams often challenged the status quo, which made political leaders uneasy.  Addams specifically butted heads with the corrupt alderman of the Nineteenth Ward, Johnny Powers.  Born in Ireland in 1852, Powers moved to America at age 20 and settled in Chicago.  He became a politician for the Democratic Party and served as alderman almost until his death in 1930.  Since 1892, Hull-House fought Powers to build a new school for neighborhood children, which he opposed.  Although ultimately victorious in that fight, Addams tried to get Powers to clean up the garbage in Chicago streets by collecting 1,000 complaints but failed.

This was the start of a political battle between the two.  When Addams supported his 1896 opponent, Powers fought back by eliminating the garbage inspector position held by Addams and placing supervision of these activities under the Ward superintendent.  This angered Addams because she had previously succeeded in surveying the streets each morning and decreasing Chicago’s litter.

Powers maintained his political influence by purchasing votes.  In 1898, Addams wrote: “Last Christmas our Alderman distributed six tons of turkeys, and four or more tons of ducks and geese . . . It is easiest to reach people in the holiday mood of expansive good will, but on their side it seems natural and kindly that he should do it.”  Powers often financed and appeared at funerals as well to gain support, earning him the nickname, “The Mourner.”  Addams wrote: “If the Alderman seizes upon festivities for expressions of his good will, much more does he seize upon periods of sorrow.  At a funeral he has double advantage of ministering a genuine craving for comfort and solace, and at the same time of assisting at an important social function” (1898).  Addams argued that this made him seem like a man with virtue; however, he did not strive to help individuals.  At the end of the day, the streets were unclean, schools were overcrowded, and parks were unusable.

Addams in 1896

In addition to owning two saloons, a gambling establishment, and a nice house, Powers sold city franchises and bought friends in the Council and courts.  Addams demanded to know where he got his money from. “To their simple minds he gets it ‘from the rich,'” Addams wrote, “and so as long as he again gives it out to the poor, as a true Robin Hood, with open hand, they have no objections to offer” (1898).

In the 1898 elections, Addams supported Powers’s opponent, Simeon Armstrong.  Because one-fifth of the voters’ jobs in the Nineteenth Ward depended on Powers’s largesse, it was a challenge for Addams to sway people’s self-interest towards a vote for Armstrong.  She wrote, “If the so-called more enlightened members of the community accept public gifts from the man who buys up the Council, and the so-called less enlightened members accept individual gifts from the man who sells out the Council, we surely must take our punishment together” (1898).

Powers hit back against Addams in Chicago Tribune: “I am what my people like, and neither Hull House nor all the reformers in town can turn them against me,” he boasted.  Powers claimed that Hull-House maligned the Ward, threatening, “Mark my word, a year from today there will be no such institution in the Nineteenth Ward.”  Anonymous supporters of Powers sent violent letters to Addams during the election; but, others, like Professor William Hill, supported Hull-House, writing, “Those who make that institution their home have always regarded the people of the Nineteenth Ward as honest, hard-working citizens.  Instead of standing on his own record, Powers is trying to shift the responsibility for neglected streets and empty houses upon somebody else” (1898).

Addams seated with Hull-House residents, 1934

Powers won the 1898 election.  Despite Addams’s support for his opponents, Powers won re-election for the next 30 years. Though she failed to remove Powers from office, Addams learned through the experience.  She realized that she needed to better understand and help her neighbors’ lives before wading in.  Entering the political world interfered with her connections with Hull-House’s neighbors and made it more difficult for her to assist them and form relationships with them.  After the election, she returned to helping her neighbors directly as well as working with the Chicago Bureau of Charities, which began development in 1894.

Addams’s short-lived success in keeping the Ward’s streets clean also taught Chicago residents to understand how their political leaders should work, challenging Powers and his patronage system in a more indirect way.  As Ray Stannard Baker wrote in “Hull House and the Ward Boss” in 1898, “If it does not succeed, at least the residents of the ward will have had a stirring lesson in political morality, which will clear a way for success at another time.”

Sources:

“Defi to John Powers: Antis Accept the Hull House as the Campaign Issue. ” Chicago Tribune, 3 Mar. 1898, p. 7.; Jane Addams, “Why the Ward Boss Rules,” Outlook 58, no.14 (April 2, 1898): 879-82.; Kendall. “Alderman John Powers’ Home Bombed by Political Rivals.” The Chicago Crime Scenes Project, 17 May 2009, Blogger.com, http://chicagocrimescenes.blogspot.com/2009/05/alderman-john-powers-home-bombed-by.html.  Accessed 21 Jun. 2017.; “Powers and Cullerton Talk.” Chicago Tribune, 6 Apr. 1898, p. 10.; Ray Stannard Baker, “Hull House and the Ward Boss,” Outlook (March 26 1898): 769-771.; Schneiderhan, Erik. The Size of Others’ Burdens: Barack Obama, Jane Addams, and the Politics of Helping Others. Stanford University Press, 2015.; Scott, Anne Firor. “Saint Jane And The Ward Boss.” American Heritage, Dec. 1960, http://www.americanheritage.com/content/saint-jane-and-ward-boss. Accessed 28 Jun. 2017.; “War on Hull House” Chicago Tribune, 2 Mar. 1898, p. 12.

The Addams Papers Goes International!

Connemara, Ireland.

The Third Women’s History in the Digital World conference was held on July 6-7, 2017 at Maynooth University in Ireland and the Jane Addams Papers presented a panel on our digital edition. Editor Cathy Moran Hajo, Assistant Editor Victoria Sciancalepore, and our web developer Anneliese Dehner combined to present three aspects of “Editing Jane Addams.”

Cathy led off the panel talking about the “Big Picture: Conceiving a Digital Edition of  Jane Addams’ Papers,” providing a short history of the Addams Papers microfilm and book projects, and the process that went into deciding to digitize the microfilm edition. The decisions to be made involved thinking through the audience for the edition and what kinds of tools and resources they needed. In addition, Cathy discussed the decision to use the Omeka database-driven platform for the digital edition rather than using text encoding using XML. Going with a web-publishing friendly system allowed the Addams Papers to design a site that not only provides deep metadata, but also manages the project’s internal workflow, tracking information on each document as it passes through our permissions and copyright checks, metadata and transcription, and proofreading. Cathy also talked about her desire to see the Addams Papers edition be flexible enough that scholars and students can use its materials to build their own research projects.

Cathy talking about biographical resources.

Tori’s talk, “The Nuts and Bolts: How an Omeka-based Digital Edition Works,” brought us into the back end of the project, showing how we defined the metadata and relations between the 21,000 eventual documents, and the entries on people, organizations, publications, and events that are discussed in them. She described the use of the Items Relations Omeka plugin, which we tweaked some, to build an edition that lets users move flexibly between drafts and final versions, letters written by and to a person, and individuals who were members of an organization, or participated in an event.  She also talked about how we decided on a transcription policy.  Because we make the images of the documents available on the site, we wanted our transcriptions to be more useful as a search mechanism. We decided to standardize our transcriptions  (converting British spellings, archaic spellings, and misspellings) as long as we used brackets to signal that the editors had changed the text. Readers who want to see the original need only click to see the manuscript image. She also discussed our student workers at the Addams Papers–the engine that keeps the project moving. With editors focused on training and quality control, it is a cadre of 10-15 Ramapo College undergraduates that are entering and transcribing documents and researching and writing identifications.

Anneliese, Cathy, and Tori after the session at Kilmainham Gaol Museum

Anneliese discussed “Designing a User Interface for a Digital Edition.” Coming from the perspective of a digital library developer, Anneliese talked about her experiences working on the Jane Addams Papers and the Kentucky Civil War Governors Papers, also an Omeka site. Discussing the different values that the project had, she walked through the way that developers work with editors to configure their sites, looking at who the intended users of the site will be, the kinds of searching they will need, and how much metadata should be used for site navigation. Anneliese noted that the Addams site was interested in exposing metadata, developing spatiotemporal context for documents, and creating branching paths through the edition. The Kentucky Governors project looked to create a more linear path through documents, but were more interested in presenting transcriptions alongside images of documents.

Liz Stanley gave a keynote talk on the Olive Schreiner Letters Online

In addition to our panel session, we were able to learn about some extremely interesting projects in women’s history, both here in the U.S. and abroad. Rachel Love Monroy, Lauren N. Haumesser and Melissa Gismondi discussed the Founding Women project that seeks to build a federated documentary edition of a variety of women’s papers. Eric Pumroy spoke about Collegewomen.org, which seeks to build an inclusive resource about late 19th and early 20th century college experiences for women. Cécile Gotdon spoke about Ireland’s Military Pension Project, a fascinating look at detailed records of men and women involved in the Irish military between 1916-1923.  And Alvean E. Jones’ work to provide access of the history of St. Mary’s School for Deaf Girls in a way that makes it accessible to deaf scholars, by translating digitized material into Irish Sign Language videos. Helena Byrne discussed a project to gather a digital history of Irish women’s indoor football leagues in the 1960s. And Liz Stanley gave a wonderful presentation on the Olive Schreiner Letters Online and the difficulty of representing a person from the things left behind.

Thanks to all who attended for a fascinating time!

Addams as Inspiration for Modern Students

A lot of times, college students sit at their desks, tapping their pens against their notepads during the middle of a three hour lecture and begin to think, “This relates nothing to my major; why do I need to sit through this?”  Although initially eager to begin the college experience that opens up the doorway for a diverse range of opportunities, students are pummeled by essays and group assignments that heavily decrease their enthusiasm for a college degree.  It’s especially frustrating to heave through the general education requirements, like math, English, and science, when they do not relate to the student’s major.  How am I going to impact the world by sitting in Critical Reading and Writing 102, or First Year Seminar?  Are all these classes I’m taking even going to lead me anywhere?

Addams’s graduation picture from Rockford Seminary, 1881

Like most college students, Addams had a lot of ambition entering Rockford Seminary at the age of 17.  She, too, wanted to impact the world by pursing an education; however, Addams had many barriers and limitations that would delay her successes like the Hull House or recognition for her speeches on women suffrage, child labor, etc.  As New York Times writer David Brooks writes in his article, “The Jane Addams Model,” Addams was a “morally ambitious young woman who dreamed of some epic life service without much idea about how it might come about… In her twenties she was one of those young people who don’t get to themselves quickly.”

During Addams’s education she desired to pursue a degree in medicine, but Rockford, which was a seminary at the time, encouraged careers associated with religion.  Like many college students who are indecisive in choosing their own majors, Addams considered transferring to Smith College in Massachusetts, but never followed through with it.  After finishing school at Rockford, Addams felt limited in her education because there weren’t many career paths options for women in additional education.

Addams faced a range of personal problems that affected her education as well.  After graduating Rockford, her father, whom she viewed as one of her closest friends, died.  She wrote two weeks after his funeral, “how purposeless and without ambition am I.” Any motivation she had about pursuing another degree disappeared with the death of her father.  When Addams did eventually enroll in medical school, she suffered from severe back pains and psychological problems and chose to admit herself into a hospital instead.  In addition to these issues, she felt pressure from her family to focus inward on them rather than pursue her education.

Addams standing with parasol in her class picture at Rockford, 1881

Her life filled with the same uncertainties that many of us students have, Addams chose to leave these pressures and travel outside her comfort zone.  Seeing London’s streets of poverty rekindled the desire to connect with people personally.  Addams recognized the contrast between the way she lived her life and the streets of Chicago and felt inspired to not only provide effective services, but also protect the dignity of those she helped.  In order to do this, she thought about who she ought to be and started changing her life in small ways.  With these small changes, she was able provide comfort and safety to thousands of immigrants through the Hull-House.

Students may not always know where they are headed; but the truth is Addams didn’t know either.  Changing a lifestyle and becoming uncomfortable to do what’s good for others are small steps for big achievements.  A three hour lecture in Math for the Modern World may be boring, or writing an essay on a topic unrelated to a major may seem useless, but they may lead to opportunities or spark a buried passion.  For students, making an impact can be a simple as joining clubs on campus that they are interested in.  If Addams were alive today to speak to these students, she would encourage them to vocalize their desires on a club’s executive board.

Sources: Brooks, David. “The Jane Addams Model.” New York Times, 25 Apr. 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/opinion/the-jane-addams-model.html?_r=1 Accessed 6 Jun. 2017. Schneiderhan, Erik. The Size of Others’ Burdens: Barack Obama, Jane Addams, and the Politics of Helping Others. Stanford University Press, 2015.

 

Jane Addams and the News Babies of Chicago

In the early twentieth century, newsboys were a characteristic of the urban landscape, a ubiquitous presence on big city street corners across America. Boys and girls as young as five or six peddled penny and two-penny papers in the wee morning hours, during the school day, and long, long, long after dark. On muggy and sunny summer days and on blustery winter nights, children sold the news and collected their pennies. In 1900, there were ten major, general-circulation newspapers in Chicago and dozens more specialty publications, as well; and at least 4,000 newsboys and newgirls sold them from established newsstands, from pull carts advertised with newspaper mastheads, from makeshift box displays, and from right out from under their own little arms. The exuberant voice of the newspaper crier, which cut above the chaotic din of the bustling Chicago streets, was more often than not the voice of a child.

And where there was the voice of a child on the streets of Chicago, there was, of course, Jane Addams. In a number of speeches in the early 1900s, Addams argued that “something should be done to take the babies from the streets.” Through her work at Hull-House, Addams witnessed firsthand the dangers faced by children who earned a living on the urban streets. Popular culture has romanticized the newsboy as a “saucy, chattering” chap, whose smudged, little face and crooked Gatsby-hat belied street smarts and worldliness that made him wise beyond his years. Yet Addams would never have succumbed to such romance, for her experiences had shown her otherwise. So while Chicago’s newsboys raised their voices to sell Chicagoans the news, Jane Addams raised her voice to protect them.

Many programs at Hull-House kept children off the streets, maybe even keeping some from resorting to the sale of the evening news. Addams spent a lifetime lobbying for child labor laws, and her hard-hitting articles and widely attended speeches raised public awareness about the difficulties of life for poor children, particularly those of Chicago’s immigrant families. But as was the way of the world in the Progressive Era, many children in the inner city had few choices; and for some, the freedom of movement and money in pockets made selling the news quite an alluring prospect. There were a few newsboys who made $3-5 dollars a day. One small Italian boy named Antonio, who operated two stands on the corner of Clark and Monroe streets, sold 1,000 newspapers a day. The thirteen-year-old Antonio had inherited the prime location from his father, and he benefited from a corner monopoly at a very lucrative location. Antonio was one of the lucky ones, however. Most newsboys were fortunate to take in a fraction of Antonio’s income, as typical pay was just 50 cents per 100 penny papers sold each day; and most did not have the luxury to stand still in one spot and sell such a large quantity of papers. Instead, they lugged heavy, wheeled carts, toted bulky satchels, or secured their product under their arms, as they searched the streets for customers. And it was those roaming newsboys who were, of course, most vulnerable to the dangers and temptations of the city.

Children selling papers at rush hour, at dark, in terrible weather, and without protective supervision faced many perils. In June 1903, Cornelius Scanlan, a twelve-year-old newsboy was selling papers to street car travelers on 47th street when he was hit and killed by a northbound train. Many newsboys were orphans or from poor families and were inadequately attired for Midwestern rains and for Lake Michigan cold. One newsboy named Peter was found sleeping in News Alley at 2 a.m. on one of the coldest days of the winter. He claimed to be an orphan who came to Chicago from Milwaukee. Weather was a constant problem for those who worked and lived out of doors. Newsboys were also frequently the victims of crime. William Cullen was a blind newsboy who was “a familiar figure” at Blue Island Avenue and Twelfth Street. He sold newspapers from a small wagon and with the protection of a dog, but one night as he slept two men stole his newspaper stand, jeopardizing his means of subsistence.

Particularly troubling was the potential for sexual assault. The Chicago police collected evidence on one adult news dealer who had a prosperous corner on Halsted Street. He made eight boys who worked for him come to his room to receive their pay “and there committed violence” on each, most under the age of 14. One-third of the newsboys sent to one reform school in Chicago had venereal disease, an unfortunate reality for many kids who risked life and health on the streets. Of course, even those who were not abused suffered lung ailments and other sicknesses that went untreated; and if they became too unwell to sell papers, they lost income, as well. Sadly, too, adults who should have protected them were often the perpetrators of mistreatment. Many parents, some desperate themselves, pressed these children into the newsboy “economy.” Police officers were sometimes guilty of harassment, as some in Chicago took payoffs from newspaper companies to guarantee particularly lucrative corners, muscling away newsboys who “trespassed” upon those monopolies, and even arresting others for loitering.

In 1902, a group of some 200 newsboys organized the Chicago Newsboys’ Protective Association. This union tried to mediate the conditions of newsboy employment with newspaper publishers, to lobby for better conditions, and to help members who were sick or injured. Strides were minimal, and the streets were no less dangerous. As well, newspapers in this era had multiple editions, and papers were published at morning, at noon, and at night. As such, days for newsboys were often long; and truancy from school was a common problem. Working on the streets also exposed newsboys to the temptations of gambling, smoking, and other vices that resulted from a vagrant lifestyle. Some of these kids were runaways. Edward Fink, a twelve-year-old from South Bend, Indiana, took $30 from his mother and traveled to Chicago on a freight train. He was selling papers on the streets of Chicago and living with other newsboys when he was arrested and returned to his parents. Another boy, a sixteen-year-old from Texas moved to Chicago to work as a newsboy because black newsboys were not allowed in his town. But when he arrived in South Chicago, police arrested him for vagrancy.

In 1903, Jane Addams was part of a two-day investigation into the lives of newsboys in Chicago. Commissioned at the behest of the Federation of Chicago Settlements, a committee of twenty investigators hit the streets to interview 1,000 newsboys (including 20 newsgirls) in Chicago’s “Loop.” They reported that “while favorable to the legitimate features of the newspaper industry” their investigation confirmed their “impression that Chicago needs a city ordinance which would obviate many of the abuses now apparent in the news trade.” The committee printed a 28-page, illustrated pamphlet, which outlined the work and social conditions of the children who sold newspapers and offered proposals for child labor laws to protect them. The investigation in Chicago reported that the newsboys they interviewed had ranged in age from 5-22 and that 127 of them (12%) were under the age of 10. Among the number, Italian, German, Irish, and Jewish immigrants were numerous. The investigators turned up one five-year-old child and five other kids who were just six. The report noted that “the small boy, under ten years of age, is on the ragged edge of the newspaper business.” No doubt, younger newsboys faced the most hardships and dangers, too.

The pamphlet garnered some attention, but six years later Addams was frustrated. In a speech in March 1909 about children and street trading, she complained that newsboys had fallen in the category of “merchant” and were not subject to child labor regulations. Addams was annoyed that even as Illinois had enacted a child labor law, which should have limited the working hours of all children and protected them from harsh labor conditions, it did not apply to Chicago’s newsboys. “So far, we have been unable to secure any legislative action on the subject,” she lamented. “It is a very disgraceful situation, I think, for Chicago to be placed in while the Illinois child labor law is so good. The City of Chicago is a little careless, if not recreant, towards the children who are not reached by the operation of the state law.” And so, Jane Addams’ battle for the safety and wellbeing of all children would continue.

The remarkable, illustrated pamphlet that Jane Addams and her group published is now a part of the Jane Addams Digital Edition, where you can read the document in its entirety. You will also, no doubt, enjoy the poignant photos of real newsboys and newsgirls who worked on the gritty streets of early twentieth-century Chicago.

By Stacy Pratt McDermott, Assistant Editor

Sources: Jane Addams, “Address to the Merchants Club, March 8, 1902,” Jane Addams Digital Edition;  Jane Addams and Federation of Chicago Settlements, Newsboy Conditions in Chicago (1903),” Jane Addams Digital Edition, accessed March 31, 2017; Chicago Daily Tribune, 7 May 1903, 3:1; 24 June 1903, 1:6; 9 October 1903, 4:3; The Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL); 5 August 1903, 9:5; 13 September 1903, 25:1-7; Aaron Brenner, Benjamin Day, and Immanuel Ness, eds., The Encyclopedia Strikes in American History (New York: Routledge, 2015), 614; “Chicago Newspapers,” https://chicagology.com/newspapers/; Myron E. Adams, “Children in American Street Trades,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 25 (1905): 23-44. The photos featured here are included in Newsboy Conditions in Chicago.

Support Federal Funding for the Humanities

The Jane Addams Papers Project would not be possible if not for the support of the federal government, in our case, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The work that we do, bringing rare archival documents to broad audiences, serves a wide range of the public–from a scholar working on an interpretation of Addams’ philosophy, to a college student writing a thesis on the impact of women on the Progressive Era, or a high school freshman creating a National History Day performance on Hull House. (National History Day, by the way, is also funded by the NEH).

At the Addams Papers, support provided by these two agencies has funded:

  • The microfilming of the Jane Addams Papers in the 1980s, which serves as the basis for our digital edition. Without the work done finding, copying and microfilming materials, identifying dates and authors in a detailed index, our work would be much more difficult.
  • The scanning of the Addams microfilm to build our digital edition.
  • The salaries of eight students who describe and transcribe documents and conduct research. This is an added boon, because federal dollars spent on student workers pay twofold. Besides the help we get on the project, it provides the students with unique experience in historical research and digital humanities work that helps them stand out whether applying for a job or going on to graduate school.
  • The salary of an assistant editor who helps supervises student work and training, and insures quality control over their work through proofreading and verification. She also conducts research, transcribes documents, and works on clearing permissions so that we can publish the documents.
  • The salary of a part-time assistant editor who manages work on our book edition. She selects the initial pool of documents to be published as a fully annotated scholarly print edition. She also helps with proofreading and verification.
  • The work of our Chicago researcher who gathers newly found Addams documents, helps us with difficult transcriptions, and conducts research on Chicago-area topics.
  • The efforts of two web developers who have customized and designed the functionality of the Jane Addams Digital Edition and designed a beautiful site.

Our goal is to provide free public access to Jane Addams’ correspondence and writings, via a digital edition. You don’t have to be a scholar who can travel to an archive, or a student at a large research library to access these documents. The site is also building a unique resource of identifications of the people, organizations, events, and publications discussed in the documents that will provide students of the Progressive Era with a rich resource.

The Addams Papers is but one of the many projects supported by the NHPRC and the NEH that help enrich our understanding of the past.

What you can do

Once a year, the National Humanities Alliance focuses support and attention for federal funding for the humanities. Advocates from every state come to Washington on Humanities Advocacy Day (Tuesday, March 14) to talk to their representative and senators about the importance of this work and its value to all Americans. It is especially important this year due to rumors that funds for the NEH may be eliminated from the President’s budget.

You can help!

Stacy Pratt McDermott Joins the Jane Addams Papers!

stacymcdermottIt is with great pleasure that we welcome Stacy Pratt McDermott to the Jane Addams Papers team as our new Assistant Editor. Stacy comes to us with a wealth of over 20 years experience as a scholarly editor, gained at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, where she most recently served as Associate Editor and Assistant Director.

Stacy holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and is the author of two books that came out of her Lincoln research: Mary Lincoln: Southern Girl, Northern Woman (2015) and The Jury in Lincoln’s America (2012). In addition, she worked on four volumes of the The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases, 4 vols. (2008). She has written many articles and book reviews and given conference papers and presentations.

Stacy’s primary responsibility will be managing our work on the Selected Papers of Jane Addams, starting with Volume 1, which will cover 1901-1913, but we anticipate that she will also work on our social media outreach and other editorial tasks.