Cassandra and Bread Givers – The College Speeches of Jane Addams

by Patricia M. Shields, PhD, Texas State University

Jane Addams attended Rockford Female Seminary and was among the first class to receive a Bachelors degree. At Rockford she honed skills that would later be used in her career as the founder of Hull House, leader of the Suffrage, Settlement and Peace movements and her literary career as author of 11 books and hundreds of journal and magazine articles. At Rockford she was the Valedictorian, Editor of the school newspaper, President of the Debate Club and President of her class.

Her addresses at Rockford show that even at ages 20 and 21, Addams saw a new, exciting and complicated future for the women in her class. In her Junior Class Oration (1880), entitled “Bread Givers” she catalogued “the change which has taken place … in the ambition and aspirations of woman.” As women developed their intellect and direct labor something new had emerged. “She wishes not to be a man, nor like a man, but she claims the same right to independent thought and action … [She] has gained a new confidence in her possibilities, and fresher hope in her progress.” At age 20, Addams recognized that women of her generation were poised to cross boundaries. Yet they were not interested in a complete break with the past, woman’s traditional role and experiences had great value. “As young women of the 19th century, we assert our independence … we still retain the old ideal of womanhood – the Saxon lady whose mission it was to give bread onto her household” (Addams, 1880). Over her entire life, Addams acted in accordance with these insights. She, indeed, developed her intellect and claims of “independent thought and action”. She also understood the Bread Giver’s role as she brought an ethic of care to her work at Hull House and organized efforts to feed the starving children of post WWI Europe (Addams, 1922).

In her Valedictory speech (1881), Addams had a cautionary and hopeful message. Here she drew on Greek mythology and the tragic story of Cassandra a princess who was cursed to share true prophesies that no one would believe. As educated women entered the broader world, their gift of intuition and sense of morality could be dismissed as Cassandra’s prophesies. Women should guard against this and bring “force to bear throughout morals and justice, then she must take the active, busy world as a test for the genuineness of her intuition.” Addams believed that educated women had the ability to help establish “actual justice” in the world through their “trained intelligence” and with their “broadened sympathies toward the individual man and woman…  Only an intuitive mind has a grasp comprehensive enough to embrace the opposing facts and forces,” and meet future challenges. If women like she and her fellow classmates are able to balance their intelligence and intuition “the story of Cassandra will be forgotten”. Addams certainly foresaw the difficult struggle she and her future sisters would have to be taken seriously as full participants in the modern world.

—————————-
Addams, Jane. (1880). “Bread Givers” (Junior Class Oration). Dailey Register (Rockford April).

Addams, Jane (1881). Cassandra (Valedictory Speech). Rockford Seminary Magazine (July).

Addams, Jane (1922). Peace and Bread in Time of War. New York: Macmillan.

Patricia Shields is the author of the 2017 book, Jane Addams: Progressive Pioneer of Peace Philosophy, Sociology, Social Work and Public Administration published by Springer.

 

Dangerous Jane author Suzanne Slade Talks Inspiration for Children’s Book

Suzanne Slade is no stranger to Jane Addams, who is commonly referred to as “the mother of social work.” Addams was a pioneer American settlement activist/reformer, social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, public administrator, protestor, author, and leader in women’s suffrage and world peace. Continue reading “Dangerous Jane author Suzanne Slade Talks Inspiration for Children’s Book”

Fame, Love, and Murder: The Story of Actress Mary Miles Minter

by Sara Catherine Lichon.

Mary Miles Minter, silent film star and suspect in her lover’s 1922 murder.

Sometimes the stories and scandals of celebrities come up when researching for the JAPP. Oftentimes, the famous are only mentioned briefly in one of Addams’ letters, and their scandals become known when we research their lives to write their biographies. Continue reading “Fame, Love, and Murder: The Story of Actress Mary Miles Minter”

Jane Addams’ “Helping Hands”

Chicago, Il. is home to “Helping Hands,” the city’s first monument devoted to Jane Addams and those whom she helped. Addams fought for equality and is best known as the founder of Hull-House and the mother of the social work movement. She was also a passionate advocate for the rights of immigrants, the poor, and women, and a founder of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. It’s safe to say that Jane Addams deserves recognition for her humanitarian and legendary work.   Continue reading “Jane Addams’ “Helping Hands””

The 1915 Trojan Women Tour

1915 was a momentous year for women’s efforts for peace and suffrage. Jane Addams and others established the Women’s Peace Party (WPP), met at the International Congress for Women, formed the International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace (ICWPP), (known today as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom [WILPF]), and held a massive Suffrage parade in New York City, N.Y. While they worked together for one ultimate goal — equality — they used a variety of methods, one of which was revisiting Ancient Greece.

Continue reading “The 1915 Trojan Women Tour”

“From Hull-House to Herland”: Lorraine Krall McCrary’s Guest Blog Post

I had the pleasure of asking Lorraine Krall McCrary about her new article “From Hull-House to Herland: Engaged and Extended Care in Jane Addams and Charlotte Perkins Gilman,” (Politics & Gender, August 2018, 1-21). She examines the writings and activities of Jane Addams and Charlotte Perkins Gliman and how the two activists’ opinions on the roles women have in politics, society, and family differed. Continue reading ““From Hull-House to Herland”: Lorraine Krall McCrary’s Guest Blog Post”