I’m a senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey, double majoring in psychology and literature with a concentration in creative writing. I transcribe documents as well as add in the new documents. A lot of the documents that I find while working are actually really interesting and fun to read, showing the full span of the types of people that Jane Addams was in contact with and communicating with. One document that made me laugh was an article from June 25, 1914, that read more like a long joke than an actual published article, but was in fact a story told by Jane when comparing criticisms about women’s right to vote with other problems that men seem to have. As is written in the article, “A tourist one Saturday evening in Glasglow entered a saloon for a lemonade and saw in huge letters behind the bar, ‘Remember the Sabbath.’
“Quaffling his lemonade, the tourist told the landlord that it gave him very great pleasure to see a man of his profession show such becoming reverence to the day of rest.
“‘Oh,’ said the landlord, ‘that ain’t my reason for putting that there sign up there. The idea is to remind my customers of the Sunday closing law, so’s they’ll bring their flasks to be filled on Saturday night.'”
Another that I liked was from A Peace Movement written by Philip Zenner on May 1, 1915, where he makes great points about people and their outlooks on the world and how much perspective can affect opinions. What he says in this document is, to me, a timeless lesson that people can still learn now which is why I remembered it after reading it. It is about men and war, and how some men are saying that they want Germany destroyed and the men to die and suffer, including their leader. Zenner writes, “ I often thought when speaking to some of these men that if they were on the other side, on the firing line, and felt the pressure of this fearful war in their own person, or in that of their families, they might have the same deep feeling, the same bitter hatred, but they would be very much more anxious for peace than they are now. It is much safer and more pleasant to stand and watch while others do the fighting.”
One of the challenges that face 20th century editing projects, especially digital ones, is the need to obtain copyright permission. We are in the midst of researching and contacting heirs to the authors of letters in the Jane Addams Digital Edition. It is a complicated process, but one that is essential for historians, archivists and editors who publish materials online.
Documents published before 1922 are in the public domain. That means newspaper articles, journal articles, books, and other materials.
Documents published after 1922 may be in public domain, but you will need to determine whether the copyright has been renewed.
Unpublished documents are in public domain if the author died more than 70 years ago. If the author was a company, they are in public domain if the document was written more than 120 years ago. That means letters, unpublished reports, articles and speeches.
We have identified over 4,500 individuals and 600 organizations thus far in our work for the digital edition. Not all of these people wrote letters — some received the letter and others were merely mentioned in it. We do not need to clear permission for those individuals and organizations.
The Jane Addams Digital Edition tracks all mentions of people in documents. As our editorial assistants enter each document, they create links to the people already in the edition. For example, in a letter written to Jane Addams by Vida Dutton Scudder, we might record eight personal names — the author (Scudder), the recipient (Addams) and the names of four people mentioned.
If one or more of these people are new to the digital edition, the editorial assistant creates a new record for that person. While we don’t do a lot of research at this point on that person, we do try to secure birth and death dates. This year, the magic number is 1947. If our person died before 1947, we can mark their rights as public domain. Any documents written by them are all set for publication.
If, however, we cannot locate a death date, or we locate a date after 1947, we need to conduct some research. Editorial assistants flag the person’s record as copyright permission “pending.” We do this for all new names, whether or not they are authors.
As we move toward proofreading metadata and transcriptions for publication, we generate a list of all the documents in a given year that are not ready to publish. When we were not able to locate a death date, the editor will make another attempt to find it, and hopefully clear the documents. We are then left with a list of authors that are not in the public domain.
Our copyright research squad consists of two people, researcher Ellen Skerrett and project assistant Nina Schulze get down to the nitty gritty of copyright research.
There are a number of ways to try to locate the copyright holder of a deceased author.
If the person’s papers are stored at an archive, you can contact them. Often times they will have some information about the person who donated the papers, or have contact with family members. A good site to search for archival holdings is Archive Grid.
If the person is a published author, you may be able to contact their publisher, who may know who controls the copyright on the book, or who gets royalty payments. That can lead you to the next link in the chain.
Otherwise, we hope to find the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or more distant relatives. Many people never dedicated their literary rights in a will, but they are assumed to fall to the heirs.
We use the genealogy site Ancestry.com and the digital newspaper site Newspaper.com, among other resources, to try to locate heirs. We look for the names of children in the available U.S. Census records, newspaper articles and obituaries, and other web-based resources. Obituaries are an invaluable resource because they update the names, especially of daughters who might have married, and in many cases provide the city or state where those survivors. We then use internet directories and phone books to try to locate current addresses.
Some people are easier to find than others. People with common surnames can be all but impossible, especially those who lived in large cities. When a person left no children, we try to go up the family tree. looking for a brother or sister, to find nephews, nieces, or cousins. It is usually easier to locate famous people’s families — the chances are better of finding a long and detailed obituary.
We then write a letter, hoping that we have gotten the right person, and wait for a result. These letters are fun to receive, often enclosing a letter written by an ancestor to Jane Addams that opens up a new story a family’s history. Family members are often amazed and intrigued to know how we were able to find them.
Good faith efforts
We are allowed to publish without securing copyright if we make a good faith effort to locating the heirs. For us, this means following all leads that we can find, tracking all known children. One of the ways that we keep looking after we have exhausted all leads is to post the names of people we still seek on our website. The hope is that you might Google an ancestor and find the project’s site, even if we can’t find you!
If you think your (great) grandmother knew Jane Addams….
We are still searching for more Jane Addams letters. If your family history involves an late 19th or early 20th century social reformer, peace activist, or settlement worker, or if your family had roots in Chicago or worked for woman suffrage, we would love to hear from you. We can check to see whether we have any letters in the archives we have searched, and would be delighted to include any letters your family might still hold.
As someone that has been studying history for some time now, I find that working for the Jane Addams Papers Project as a student editorial assistant is a great opportunity. It allows me to both learn more about a time period of history that I was at first not really familiar with and use my history degree in a professional environment. I have always wanted to work for a history research project, and now I have the great pleasure to work for one.
At the project, I do initial research on Addams’s unpublished and published work and speeches. For the initial research, I look at the original microfilm scans of said documents and begin to enter them into our database. I ensure that the document is correctly entered by the date it was published or the speech was given, as well as make sure all the names of people and organizations are entered into the database, if not already there. The interesting part about this task at the project is that I get to research old newspaper articles to find out who these people and organizations that Addams mentions are. I really get the chance to use all the research training I learned while studying history. This part of my job gives me a chance to really understand and learn more about some of the important events and movements that Jane Addams was a part of. Doing the research on all these people and organizations from the past can be really interesting; the things that I get to learn about them is just fascinating. Sometimes they are kind of funny.
There is one instance when I was looking up information on one of the popes that Jane talks about in one of her speeches. At first I did not know it was a pope I was looking up; the only name I had to go with was “Pionono,” which was his nickname at the time. The interesting thing about this was that there is a popular pastry with the same name. For, what I think was ten minutes, I was searching around Google trying to find out who this person was, and every search the top result and the first couple of pages was this pastry! I was very confused by this; Jane couldn’t have been talking about a pastry in this speech! Confused by only finding pastries, I decided to click on one of the links about this and found out that it was named after Pope Pius IX. It was at that moment that I knew I found the right person; Jane was clearly talking about a pope in context to what she was referencing.
This is just one of the funny moments that happens when trying to find people that Addams talks and writes about. I wouldn’t have known who she was talking about, people at the time would have. I get to learn more things about a time period that I didn’t know about. Though I still don’t know why there is a pastry named after a pope.
When I first heard the Jane Addams Papers Project had come to Ramapo, I was beginning my sophomore year. I had just been thinking about research opportunities for history majors, so it seemed almost like fate when I saw posters around campus advertising for the JAPP interest meeting. Next thing I knew, I was part of the JAPP team as a research assistant and still am part of it as I begin my senior year.
I’ve always had a passion for research and the past, so I knew when I enrolled at Ramapo that I wanted to be a history major. As I advanced in my academic career, I added a minor in international studies, developing an interest in how the past has led to current events. For both my history and international studies classes, I’ve researched international current events and the history behind them, and as a member of Ramapo’s Honors Program, I’ve attended numerous regional and national conferences to present my research. This past June, I published a paper titled “Identity Crisis: How the Outcome of the Cold War affects our Understanding of the Crisis in Ukraine” in the undergraduate research journal The Augsburg Honors Review. Currently, I am working on my Honors senior thesis, focusing on Scotland’s reaction to Brexit and how the historic relationship between Scotland and the United Kingdom contributed to this reaction. To gain a better understanding of Scotland’s culture and history, I studied abroad in Edinburgh over the summer, taking a Scottish History course and exploring the country from the cities in the Lowlands to the small towns in the Highlands. I even climbed Ben Vrackie, a mountain 2,759 feet above sea level, and visited Loch Ness during my travels!
As a lover of research, when I heard about the JAPP, I was immediately drawn to it. I began at the project by transcribing documents but soon realized that I preferred to research the people who made appearances in Jane Addams’s life – and I’ve been researching them ever since! I love uncovering the stories of their lives, and I especially love the challenge of digging for information on people who weren’t well-known. It’s very exciting when I can find information, and I feel like a detective! Sometimes I come across people with fascinating lives; recently I just wrote the bio for actress Mary Miles Minter, who was a suspect in the unsolved murder of her lover in 1922. I have even found myself writing the bios of people I’ve come across before, such as Victor Moore, an actor who starred in one of my favorite movies, It Happened on 5th Avenue. The stories of those who came before us are something that I can never get enough of, and at the JAPP I’m able to gather and share the stories of so many people, writing them into a narrative that will be accessible for years to come.
Outside of history and international studies, I have a passion for music, theater, and the arts. I sing, play ukulele, and am a member and business manager of Orchidstra, a barbershop quartet. I am also a Global Roadrunner, a member of Ramapo’s French Club, and in Phi Alpha Theta (history honors society), Sigma Iota Rho (international studies honors society), and Alpha Lambda Delta (first-year honors society). In addition, I enjoy photography, hiking, and spending time in the great outdoors. I spent two summers interning at the Washington Township (Morris County) Municipal Building, and after graduation, I plan to pursue a career in government. But while still at Ramapo, I continue to research and write the stories of various historic people, and I am loving my role on the JAPP team.