If Only Walls Could Talk: Making the West Side

May 19, 2016_O'Connor_Knight_Scott
The “closers” for the May 19, 2016 Hull-House public forum, “Making the West Side,” left to right, Alice O’Connor, University of California Santa Barbara; Yolanda Knight, program officer for the Steans Family Foundation; and Jennifer Scott, director of the Hull-House Museum. (Photograph by Ellen Skerrett)

The elegant Hull-House dining room was filled to the proverbial rafters on May 19, 2016 as historians, community residents, and activists shared insights and experience about neighborhood change on Chicago’s West Side.  Could any place have been more perfect for this wide-ranging conversation, part of a one-year NEH “Humanities in the Public Square” grant?

Jane Addams, ca. 1896-1900 (Swarthmore Peace Collection)

As Hull-House Museum director Jennifer Scott noted in her welcoming remarks, the Arts and Crafts dining room was the place where Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr and settlement residents broke bread with visitors while discussing the burning questions of the day, on labor, immigrants’ rights, the criminal justice system.  At the heart of the conversation was always the question, “How we can be better neighbors to one another?”

It’s the rare conference that connects the past and the present, but what struck me throughout the day was the way in which history illuminated and deepened the experience of West Siders who are engaged in finding solutions to issues of inequality in education and healthcare and disinvestment in their neighborhood.

You could see and hear nods of recognition from neighborhood activists in the room as Rutgers’ historian Beryl Satter showed images of North Lawndale and discussed her father’s efforts to represent African Americans who purchased homes under the segregated practice of contract buying in the 1950s and 1960s.  Her award-winning book, Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America, put a human face these predatory lending practices that devastated the social fabric of the neighborhood and its housing stock.

Rufus Williams of the Better Boys Foundation and Amara Enyia of the Austin Chamber of Commerce argued convincingly that the loss of manufacturing jobs and the closing of public schools has made it difficult to attract development and investors.  Indeed, many stores have become vacant lots since the riots along Madison Street in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   In a city with a flourishing downtown and North Side, Williams and Enyia agreed, the challenge is how to get policy makers to see value and equity in the West Side.

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Hull-House’s Smith Hall in 1910 (Library of Congress)

The West Side wasn’t always invisible.  In fact, just the opposite.  In the second panel, historian Rima Lunin Schultz reminded the audience that 126 years ago on May 19, 1890, Chicagoans got their first glimpse of Hull-House in a Tribune feature illustrated with exterior and interior drawings of the settlement. Entitled “Two Women’s Work,” the newspaper story praised Addams and Starr for organizing “lectures and classes and parties [for] the uncultivated.”

Committed to being better neighbors, the Hull-House residents investigated conditions in local sweatshops and mapped thirty blocks east of the settlement as a way “to focus attention on the worst scenario of industrial conditions that immigrant laborers faced.” Part of a federal study of “slums,” Hull-House Maps and Papers was published in 1895 and received widespread acclaim as innovative and influential.

Ironically, noted Schultz, “by defining its neighborhood as the poorest and most disadvantaged, Hull-House unintentionally . . . began a process of urban renewal.”

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A map from Hull-House Maps and Papers (1895) that identifies the ethnic background of the neighborhood.

Continuing the discussion of the role of social scientists and neighborhood change, UIC historian Cynthia Blair characterized the 1895 study as a “map of exclusion that begins to define African Americans in Chicago.”  Hull-House Maps and Papers were not free of bias. In the wages map, for example, Blair noted that brothels near the train stations were designated white, even though they employed African American women.

Ohio State University historian Lilia Fernandez recounted the presence of Mexican Americans in the Hull-House settlement, particularly in the pottery program in the 1920s and 1930s.  So it is all the more puzzling that the displacement of Mexican Americans by urban renewal and expressway construction is so little known.

Richard Anderson of Princeton brought the conversation full circle in recounting the attitudes of reformers in the 1950s and 1960s who believed that urban renewal was the “surgery” necessary to eradicate “blight and slums.” Often glossed over in accounts of the siting of the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois, for example, is the role the federal government played in terms of public housing and expressway construction.  Understanding this history also challenges us to reclaim the work and vision of women activists such as Florence Scala, dismissed as a “housewife” in the battle to save Hull-House from demolition in 1963.

The fourth and final panel of the afternoon featuring Rosa Cabrera, Dave Stovall, Kathy Catrambone, and Quiwana Bell was a powerful reminder that community organizers and activists work on behalf of ordinary people whose voices are not heard in public policy debates over education and health care. As I listened to their stories, I couldn’t help but think of the old saying, “If only walls could talk.”

More than a century ago in the Hull-House dining room, Jane Addams and the Hull-House residents engaged visitors from around the world who were eager to debate solutions to the thorny problems of poverty and workers’ rights.  What I heard on May 19th was something else: historians and community activists grappling with the legacy of Hull-House and the challenge of making the West Side, once again, visible.

A Nation in Mourning: The Death of Jane Addams

Jane Addams's funeral at Hull-House. Photographed by Wallace Kirkland. (Courtesy of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Special Collections, Lea Demarest Taylor Papers).
Jane Addams’s funeral at Hull-House. Photographed by Wallace Kirkland. (Courtesy of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Special Collections, Lea Demarest Taylor Papers).

On May 21, 1935, Jane Addams died, at the age of 74. Her funeral was held at Hull-House 81 years ago today.

Addams’ body was brought from the hospital and lay in state at Hull-House from 10am to 6pm on May 22nd and then from 9am to noon on May 23rd. A brief twenty-minute non-denominational funeral was held on May 23 at Hull-House. The papers reported that over 20,000 people pressed in to view and pay tribute to Addams at a rate of over one thousand an hour.

There was no demonstration. There was little conversation. The people stood about in little groups. They were waiting, and had been waiting for hours, just for a chance to pass rapidly through the hall inside and view for a second the peaceful face of their benefactor before she was taken to her girlhood home in Cedarville, Ill. to be buried in the tiny cemetery there. (Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 23, 1935)

Reporters talked to mourners, and noted the wide variety of people present. “Foreign-born men and women who claimed her as their best friend grieved beside millionaires and society matrons from the gold coast across town. Shiny limousines stood at the curb where several hundred Hull House “neighbors” waited, unable to find room in the court.” (DeKalb Daily Chronicle, Oct. 23, 1935).

There was no discrimination. A large wreath of orchids and lillies-of-the-valley sent by a wealthy man and his wife was no more prominently displayed than the blanket of bright red roses sent by one of the mothers’ clubs of Hull House.” (Chicago Daily Tribune, May 24, 1935.)

From the Adena Miller Rich Papers, Special Collections University of Illinois at Chicago.
From the Adena Miller Rich Papers, Special Collections University of Illinois at Chicago.

Among the prominent mourners were Anita McCormick Blaine, a long-time supporter of Hull-House, Robert Maynard Hutchins, the president of the University of Chicago, Harold Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, and Sophonisba Breckinridge, also from the University of Chicago. But there were many more people from the neighborhood, people who knew Addams by her deeds.

A Negro woman trailed by seven solemn children–four boys and three girls–waited hours to reach the casket and then dropped out, tears streaming from her eyes, as she entered the hall. “I’d rather remember her like the day she brought my Martha a doctor when she was dying,” she sobbed. (Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 23, 1935)

From Bellaire, Ohio, when she learned of Addams’s death, Eleanor Roosevelt commented, “I’m dreadfully sorry. America has lost a great source of inspiration.”  Katharine Lenroot noted, “America has lost her greatest woman, her greatest social worker and the people of America have lost their most understanding and compassionate friend.” (New York Times, May 22, 1935).

 

Six Remarkable Hull-House Women: Guest Blog by Author Ruth Bobick

What stood out in my research about “six remarkable Hull-House women”–Jane Addams, Julia Lathrop, Florence Kelley, Alice Hamilton, and Grace and Edith Abbott–was the crucial role they played in the reform of America’s industrial system. Equally striking was the Supreme Court’s resistance to regulating it.

When the first generation of college educated women discovered that established professions like the law, government, higher education and the church were reserved for men, they sought alternative occupations. As caregiving had long been a female responsibility, reformers responded to the plight of poor immigrant workers and their families by creating “social settlements,” a Consumer’s League, a federal Children’s Bureau, and the field of Social Work.  In turn, their service-oriented programs opened up career opportunities for women, and provided a supporting network of female organizations that fought for social justice from the Progressive Era to the New Deal.

Before proceeding from Hull-House in Chicago onto the national scene, Lathrop devoted her efforts to the reform of state charities, Kelley to an anti-sweatshop campaign, Hamilton to industrial medicine, Grace Abbott to protecting  immigrants, and her sister Edith to social research. As the settlement’s head resident, Addams united them in pursuing common goals, and in pressing for labor legislation. But such hard-won laws as prohibiting child labor, limiting a woman’s workday, and establishing a minimum wage, were all-too-often declared unconstitutional in Supreme Court decisions setting an individual’s “freedom of contract,” above a state’s right to “promote its citizens’ welfare.”

In 1914 with Europe plunged into World War I–and America’s entry in 1917–the progressive period drew to a close. Early on, women activists had mobilized a peace party in Washington, which met with its European counterparts in Holland in 1915 to protest the fighting. Jane Addams presided over the conference, and after the war was elected president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom that evolved from it. During her remaining years, she shared her time between settlement work and the cause of peace–for which she received a Nobel Prize in 1931.

Of Quaker descent on her father’s side and a pacifist during the war, she toured a devastated Germany following its surrender; and gave speeches back home to raise funds for Quaker relief of the defeated enemy. As much as any woman of her day, she was able to transcend national boundaries in the hope of alleviating human suffering.

–Ruth Bobick

What Did Jane Write? Publishing Transcribed Documents in a Digital Edition

Slow down Jane!
Jane Addams, ca. 1915

I’ll be the first to admit it. Reading Jane Addams’ handwriting is difficult, and just when you think that you have gotten it down, you run across a letter that makes you question your profession.

Working on a digital edition with such challenging handwriting has been a bit different than working on a print edition.  With print it is essential to get the transcription as perfect as you can because it is unlikely that there will ever be a revised printing of your edition; the best you can usually hope for is an embarrassing errata page that highlights every  mistake that you have made (at least those that you have found!). With digital publication, we can seamlessly correct errors in transcription as soon as we discover them. And while this means there is less pressure on us to craft a perfect transcription, we do have to grapple with the question of how good our transcription should be in order to publish it.

From Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, April 30, 1901
From Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, April 30, 1901. Our current reading is: “P. S. I am much impressed with the Methodists. Anybody who says “Protestantism is dying out” [ought] to have seen them Sunday night raising $50000. for a clinical University & heard them sing out the [illegible]—”

First pass transcriptions generally have errors. Most of our draft transcriptions are done by students (amazing students!), who have made great strides in reading and transcribing Addams’ hand, but they are not perfect. Errors are made even when transcribing typed documents, which are sometimes long and have repetitive elements. In order to ensure that these errors are caught and corrected, we proofread each transcription at least once, in teams. What this means is that one editor reads from the document (reading punctuation and capitalization aloud as well) while the other follows along with the transcription. Whenever the two do not match, we stop and identify the discrepancy and correct it. It is not always the transcription–sometimes we read the document incorrectly. But this ensures that we have carefully proofread the original.

Problems arise when we cannot make out the words at the proofreading stage either. We mark the places where we are unsure of the meaning of the word with [square brackets], adding [question marks?] when the reading is a bit less certain that that, and we admit that the word or words are [illegible] when we just can’t make them out.  No editor likes to see [illegible words] in her edition–each one stabs at us, taunting us with our own inadequacies–no matter how hard that word really is to read!

hard-2
From Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, Nov. 18, 1902. Our current reading is: “I have given a long lecture. Esther’s baby is so pretty and dear. I spent Sunday in St. Louis and came away with a lot of [cherubic?] [illegible]”
For most editors, the decision of when to give up and publish a problem document’s transcription is a difficult one, and we review and revise our readings of the document over and over until we throw our hands up in frustration and let it go out with an [illegible]. When publishing a digital edition, this decision gets even harder.  Is it more useful for our readers that we publish a transcription of 99% of a document quickly, or that we wait and wait to get that last 1%? We have made the decision to publish the 99% and to invite help, both from experts on our Advisory Board, Addams scholars, but also from the general public, to help tease out that 1%.

Jane Addams to Richard T. Ely, November 27, 1902
Jane Addams to Richard T. Ely, November 27, 1902. Our current reading is: “Women [illegible] tending with the house–conventional [war]. [Women] entering into the commercial life & work industrial condition with its element of warfare, of competition of “racing” [piece] work withdraw the [illegible] in a certain sense.”
We’ve done this by creating a Help! tag for documents in the digital edition that have words that we cannot read. To get a look at them, follow this link, or select Browse Items, and then Browse by Tag. If you think you can read the [illegible words] that we couldn’t, drop us a line in the Comment box at the bottom of the document.  If this is something you enjoy doing, reach out to us; we would be delighted to have you check our problem documents before they are published.

 

 

Sneak Peek at the Jane Addams Papers Digital Edition!

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I’m delighted to announce that we have begun publishing Jane Addams documents on our website — http://digital.janeaddams.ramapo.edu!  We are still in the early stages, and have lots of work yet to do, but the site is up and running.

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The digital edition is built on the Omeka content management system, with plugins built by programmer Daniel Berthereau in order to optimize it for operating a digital edition. Some of the features already in place for documents are:

  • Metadata–the Jane Addams Digital Edition provides detailed metadata on each document in its collection, helping you locate materials by date, type, subject, language, and description.
  • Images–the digital edition includes document images from the microfilm (and some scans from original documents as well).
  • Transcriptions–all documents will be transcribed so that they are text-searchable.

We are also building identifications of the people and organizations, and some events and places named in the documents. These short identifications will provide readers with some context for the documents, and will provide links to our sources and to open-access resources to help them in their research.

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  • Metadata–We are also building ways for readers to explore Jane Addams’ world by searching her correspondents and associates. You can search descriptions of people using tags to identify all social workers, all men or women, all politicians, or all family members, etc.
  • Images–When we can locate a rights-free image of the person, we will include it with a citation.

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We have gathered information on the repositories that contain Jane Addams material, starting by entering over 700 archival collections that appear in the Jane Addams Microfilm Edition, and adding new collections as we locate materials. Once documents from these collections are added to the digital edition, they will be linked to the archival collection.

JADE-Tags

The tag cloud allows readers to find everything on a set of large-scale topics. It also provides a good overview of the kinds of materials that are in the collection.

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We are also using a map to plot people, organizations, events, and documents, producing another way to explore the materials. A search page below the map enables you to limit the items–looking at where Addams’ correspondents lived in 1903, or where settlement houses were located, etc.

Content

We began with the goal of publishing documents between 1901-1903 as our first installment. In order to publish a complete document, we need to:

  • Create and proofread the metadata
  • Create and proofread the transcription
  • Obtain permission to publish the image from the archive, library, or person that owns it.
  • Obtain copyright permission when needed.

We can only publish a document when all four steps have been completed. Fortunately, many of our document’s authors are in the public domain, which makes the process easier. We have received the cooperation of most of the archives and libraries that own the document, but obtaining permission is a cumbersome task. Proofreading our transcriptions of difficult-to-read documents has also been a slow process. This helps explain why not all of the documents between 1901-1903 are up yet. We are clearing them for publication as fast as we can, and will post them as soon as possible.

We have located over 1,000 individual people in our first six months of work, and while we have been creating entries as fast as we can, there are still many to go, and we haven’t proofread and checked all of them. As names go live, the links between documents and subjects will also go live.

What’s next?

This summer we will focus on getting more documents up, more identifications complete and developing the design of the site. Its an exciting time at the Jane Addams Papers Project.

Please let us know here, or by emailing me at chajo@ramapo.edu what you think of the work done so far.