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!