Last spring I had the pleasure of working with two undergraduate students, Taylor Lundeen and Catie Olson, enrolled in the University of Michigan’s School of Information. They worked on a capstone project on data visualization, using our Jane Addams digital edition databases. Anneliese Dehner, our web developer, helped out with the some technical aspects of the collaboration.
One of the many great things about digital publication is that the information we create can be reused and repurposed in ways that we might not have thought of. Making our data available to researchers to explore has been one of our goals from the start of our work on Jane Addams, and with this investigation we have learned what we can do fairly easily, and what is more complex.
Accessing the Data
Our first step was to get a copy of our data exported out so that Taylor and Catie could work on it. What they found worked the best was an Omeka plugin (Omeka Rest API) that allowed them to export data in a format that worked well with data manipulation software.
Our ultimate goal is to have a utility on the digital edition that will enable users to download all or parts of the data for investigation.
One problem that reared its head immediately is that we have a very large dataset, and it is growing larger every day. This made it difficult, using the tools they had available to work with the whole set.
Natural Language Processing
One of the approaches, which Catie worked on, was seeing what we could learn from analyzing the “Text” field in our database, where transcriptions are stored. This kind of analysis can track the frequency of words, or compare word usage over time. Eventually it could be used for topic modeling, where a digital tool tries to make sense of words that appear together. These groupings can uncover connections that we sometimes don’t expect.
An important step in working with our texts was data cleaning, the process by which HTML and special characters were cleaned out and text was split word by word. Then Catie built bar charts that displayed the most common words. She built a separate chart for each year to allow us to compare years to see what Addams was thinking and writing about.
The most obvious finding to me, was that we needed to think about stop words — words that are excluded in the results because they are too common or have no analytical meaning. Articles, like “a” and “the” are common stop words– we also had to consider “page” which we use to signify the next page in our transcriptions, and, gulp, even “Hull House” because we transcribed the letterhead that Jane Addams used. Other words like “Mrs,” “Mr.” and “Miss” and salutations like “Dear” are candidates for being pulled from the analysis.
We also got to see the frequency of that nemesis of editors – “illegible.” This comes up far more frequently than I would like, but I was gratified to see that in the years where we have proofread the texts, the frequency is much lower.
It will surprise no one that “peace” and “war” shot to the top in 1915.
In 1905, the most frequent words deal more with the plight of children and represent Addams’ work on child labor and welfare in Chicago.
Catie also worked on another way to show the content of Addams’ writings, plotting the frequency of a word over time. Similar to the Google n-gram viewer that can compare the frequency of words in Google Books over time, this gives you a sense of the chronology. We did not have the capacity at this point to allow users to type the words they want, but were able to produce n-grams for some of the most popular words.
Seen together, it is a little frightening, but on the live version on the site, you can select a single word to analyze.
The n-gram for “Illegible” shows the power of proofreading! When the data was downloaded for use, we had just finished proofreading 1915!
Social Network Analysis
Another approach was to see what we could learn from social network analysis. Using Omeka’s Item Relations plugin, we have been tracking relationships — mostly between documents and the people, organizations, and events that are mentioned in them. We also are building connections between people and organizations, tracking which people were members of which organizations, for example, or who participated in a specific event. We wondered whether the relationships between people and organizations might yield some interesting insights, or whether we could find other connections between people and the metadata gathered about them. Taylor was responsible for this project.
Our large dataset proved to be problematic for developing a meaningful social network based on shared connections. We think there is promise for this in future by controlling which people are included in the network, but the sheer number of people and the amount of common tags produced a daunting graph.
Instead, Taylor created a geographical visualization of Addams’s social networks related to several topics. We used our tags for movements like “Woman Suffrage,” “Child Labor,” and “Peace” and plotted their geographic locations. Compare Addams’ Settlement Movement network and her Peace network below to see the expansion of her work internationally.
It was amazing to see what two talented students could do in such a short period of time! The experience has helped us think more about how we want to make our data accessible, and has uncovered challenges that we need to think about. Our database is large and complex and developing means to limit the queries is going to be important.
We are looking forward to working with other UMSI students and any digital humanists interested in advancing this work.
Mary Rozet Smith was well-loved by a long list of extraordinary, historically important women who came through the doors of Hull-House in Chicago. From 1889, when she first visited the settlement and met its young, then unknown founder Jane Addams, until 1934, when she died suddenly of pneumonia at the age of sixty-five, Smith was an unwavering supporter of Hull-House, its residents, and its activities. She became, along with her wealthy and generous family, one of Hull-House’s most important donors. She was also for nearly forty years the dearest friend and most intimate companion of the incomparable Jane Addams. Yet Mary Rozet Smith remains something of a mystery.
Despite her importance to the story of Hull-House and to the personal life of Jane Addams, Mary Smith is an elusive wisp of a historical figure. She was, apparently, content in the shadows, wanting nothing more, or so it seems, than to be generous, to be a devoted daughter, to be a cherished friend, and to be a special confidant of Jane Addams. Mary Smith’s proximity to the most famous social experiment in American history could have made her a valuable witness and informant of that history. Instead, she left historians very few clues about her life, and the loss of her letters to Jane Addams deprive us not only of her voice in that relationship but also of her own importance as a Chicago philanthropist. As Jane Addams’ nephew James Linn wrote in his biography of his beloved aunt: “the interests of [Hull-House] remained the center of her own interests, and the friendship of Mary Smith soon became and always remained the highest and clearest note in the music of Jane Addams’s personal life.”
Just after Mary Smith died, long-time Hull-House resident Dr. Alice Hamilton wrote her sister from Chicago: “I can’t look at my grief over Mary because I should lose my grip. When I came out here I told Mary that she must get well, that she could live on without J. A., but J. A. could not live without her.” Jane Addams had suffered a second heart attack and died just thirteen months after Smith, so the statement was, perhaps, prophetic. But more importantly, what resonates in Hamilton’s words and in Linn’s words, too, is the centrality of Mary Rozet Smith to the Hull-House universe. She was embedded in the heartbeat of the institution and its women, and to one woman in particular, Jane Addams, she offered quiet domestic solace to balance the chaos of public life. However, we cannot truly know who Mary Rozet Smith was, because there is so little evidence of her activities found in newspapers, pubic documents, and organizational records; and, most unfortunately, very few of her own words survive her.
As I work on the annotation for Vol. 4 of the Selected Papers of Jane Addams, covering the years 1901-1913, and as I research and write the more than 100 footnotes about Mary Rozet Smith that will appear in the volume, I am missing her voice. When I read any of the seventy-three letters Jane Addams wrote to her during that period, I mourn the loss of her letters to Addams. Not a single letter of hers to Addams survives from those years, and I sometimes curse Jane Addams for destroying correspondence which would, I suspect, provide rich context not only for their relationship but also for Smith’s engagement as a sister of Hull-House. I am editing Addams’ papers and not Smith’s, I know, but I also know we are impoverished in our ability to fully contextualize Addams’ letters without Smith’s corresponding letters. One-sided correspondence is always a disappointment to the historian, who is left by the absent voice of one of the correspondents to answer the historical questions they raise and to ponder the important historical contexts they inspire with half of the pieces of the puzzle missing.
We have selected thirty of Addams’ letters to Smith for Vol. 4, and on their own they are rich, filled with the details of Addams’ reform activities, her writing habits, her ideas, her public speaking, and her daily life. They are also filled with details of the travels of Addams and Smith, of their health, of their shared concern for each other’s families, of their shared network of friends, and of their frequent separations from each other, due to Smith’s illnesses and Addams’ extensive lecturing and involvement in national and international organizations. However, without Smith’s letters, we are left wanting more to fill in the details, gaps, and silences that are an unfortunate characteristic of one-sided correspondence.
When Addams wrote to her “Dearest,” her “Darling,” sometimes her feelings of love and longing for Smith are clear. In a 1902 letter she wrote: “You must know, dear, how I long for you all the time—and especially during the last three weeks. There is reason in the habit of married folk keeping together. Forever yrs.” In a 1904 letter, she opined: “Your letters are the most cheerful things that I have and you must know that I am mightily empty hearted without you.” And in a 1909 letter she offered three little words that she offered to no other correspondent: “I love you.”
Jane Addams’ letters to other women among her close circle of friends and Hull-House residents, such as Lillian Wald and Julia Lathrop, were filled with affection. Addams wrote with the intimate language that was the natural and ordinary way of letters between women during this period in American history, when half of all college-educated women did not marry and the kinship of female friends was loving and strong. In a precious few letters, the reader cannot help but to see Addams’ particular tenderness for Smith. However, in most of her letters, Addams’ language is more muted, her tone more guarded, and the content merely practical and informative, many the hasty missives of a busy woman. In those less intimate letters, Addams almost always addressed Smith as “Dearest,” a moniker of affection she reserved for her alone, and she closed all letters with very tender words, but these letters offer far fewer clues about the relationship between the two women and the various contexts of their lives together.
I wonder if the language Smith employed in her letters to Addams mirrored the language Addams used. Was there a tonal difference in her letters to Addams than what she employed in letters she wrote to their mutual friends? What words did she use to express her feelings for Addams? What terms of endearment did she choose to begin her letters to Addams, and did she often write “I love you.”? When Addams shared with Smith her doubts and fears about a book manuscript or an important speech, did Smith respond with a pep talk, a gentle critique, or some soothing, emotional refrain? Did Smith share her own doubts and fears with Addams in her letters, and did she share her hopes and dreams and opinions on the reform topics that occupied the minds of Jane Addams and other Hull-House residents? Did she provide details of her asthma attacks and nervous anxiety and other philanthropies, as well and her travels, and did she offer gossip or news that might explain a vague reference we cannot define and may never define without her letters? What was the character of the letters Smith sent that Addams reported as “a great comfort,” and what were the words Smith offered to soothe that others could not?
Maybe Jane Addams destroyed Smith’s letters because they were too intimate or too emotionally embarrassing. Or maybe she destroyed them because she was a private person, despite her celebrity, and she wished to keep her special relationship with Smith from the prying eyes of the modern world that was pressing in on Hull-House in the early 1930s. I don’t really care what her reason was, but I am quite mad at her for doing it. I can’t help it, but it makes me sad to know so little about the woman to whom Jane Addams spent so much of her personal life.
I do not bemoan the loss of Smith’s letters to Addams simply because I think they would for certain answer the big question about their relationship. Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t, and then again if they did we would still have to be very careful about projecting our modern notions of female sexuality onto women of the past. As an editor, who contextualizes historical documents as windows to the past, it is not for me to interpret the nature of the relationship that existed between Jane Addams and Mary Rozet Smith. Whether they were the dearest of platonic friends or enjoyed a sexual relationship is not for me to decide. No matter, besides, because in the historical record of their relationship, there are far more questions than answers. That fact is, after all, the frustrating reality of one-sided correspondence.
I am missing Smith’s voice and her words for what they might have brought to the big Jane-Addams-Hull-House party. If we had Smith’s letters to Jane Addams, I would use Smith’s words to answer Addams’ words, to balance Addams’ particularly romantic phrases, to provide our readers with the dialogue between two women who were emotionally close to each other for four decades. But I would also use them to better understand Smith’s role in the Hull-House community, to glean some clues about who she was as a person, what she believed in, what intrigued her, and what made her smile. I would employ them to understand for myself why she was so dear to all of the extraordinary women who knew and loved her.
From Hull-House financial records, we know the scope of Smith’s contributions to the settlement and its activities. From the correspondence and personal accounts of her friends, we know something of her kindness, deportment, gentle nature, and the various physical and emotional illnesses from which she suffered. And from the extant letters Jane Addams wrote to her, we can understand a little bit about her emotional importance to the woman who is the subject of our documentary edition. Ah, but alas, there is so much of whom Mary Rozet Smith was which is lost to us because her letters to Jane Addams are lost to us. Mary Rozet Smith may well have been the “highest and clearest note in the music of Jane Addams’s personal life,” but why she was and who she was as a person will likely remain elusive. She is a woman whom historians have defined entirely by her relationship to Hull-House, and that is all well and good, I suppose, because Hull-House needed her thrive.
But darnit, I wish Jane Addams would have allowed us the chance to know her dear friend better. I wish we had Mary’s words to tell us a little bit more about Jane, and to tell us a little bit about herself, as well. I wish I had thirty or ten or even two of Smith’s letters to Addams to enhance the thirty letters to her we have chosen to annotate. They would not likely answer all of the questions I have, nor would they likely fill in all of the gaps and silences in Addams’ letters; but I suspect they would fill in a whole lot of missing details and offer a nuance or two. I know they would enlighten, enrich, and contextualize, because back-and-forth correspondence usually does. And I bet they may even offer some evidence of those highest and clearest notes in the music.
By Stacy Pratt McDermott, Associate Editor
Sources: Allen F. David, American Heroine: The Life and Legend of Jane Addams (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 85-91; Gioia Diliberto, A Useful Woman: The Early Life of Jane Addams (New York: Scribner, 1999), 182-87; Jean Bethke Elshtain, Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 23-24; Louise W. Knight, Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 217-18; James Weber Linn, Jane Addams: A Biography (New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1935, 147; Rima Lunin Schultz and Adele Hast, eds., Women Building Chicago, 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 817-19; Barbara Sicherman, Alice Hamilton: A Life in Letters (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), 346-47; Eleanor J. Stebner, The Women of Hull House: A Study in Spirituality, Vocation and Friendship (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 158-66; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, May 26, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, August 13, 1904; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, October 5, 1904; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, February 12, 1909, all in Jane Addams Digital Edition.
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.
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””
Jane Addams was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in the peace movement and social work, but who were the other women who have won the prize? Learn a little bit about each of the 16 total women winners and when they won their prizes. Continue reading “Women and the Nobel Peace Prize”
In April 1907, Hull-House was likely abuzz when its very own Mr. Le Moyne was named one of Chicago’s most eligible bachelors. The Chicago Tribune reported that the 45-year-old Louis V. Le Moyne—a “good” landscape gardener “fond of the esthetic”—was quite a catch with his $10,000 annual salary. Continue reading “Celebrity Bachelor at Hull-House”