Jane Addams and the News Babies of Chicago

In the early twentieth century, newsboys were a characteristic of the urban landscape, a ubiquitous presence on big city street corners across America. Boys and girls as young as five or six peddled penny and two-penny papers in the wee morning hours, during the school day, and long, long, long after dark. On muggy and sunny summer days and on blustery winter nights, children sold the news and collected their pennies. In 1900, there were ten major, general-circulation newspapers in Chicago and dozens more specialty publications, as well; and at least 4,000 newsboys and newgirls sold them from established newsstands, from pull carts advertised with newspaper mastheads, from makeshift box displays, and from right out from under their own little arms. The exuberant voice of the newspaper crier, which cut above the chaotic din of the bustling Chicago streets, was more often than not the voice of a child.

And where there was the voice of a child on the streets of Chicago, there was, of course, Jane Addams. In a number of speeches in the early 1900s, Addams argued that “something should be done to take the babies from the streets.” Through her work at Hull-House, Addams witnessed firsthand the dangers faced by children who earned a living on the urban streets. Popular culture has romanticized the newsboy as a “saucy, chattering” chap, whose smudged, little face and crooked Gatsby-hat belied street smarts and worldliness that made him wise beyond his years. Yet Addams would never have succumbed to such romance, for her experiences had shown her otherwise. So while Chicago’s newsboys raised their voices to sell Chicagoans the news, Jane Addams raised her voice to protect them.

Many programs at Hull-House kept children off the streets, maybe even keeping some from resorting to the sale of the evening news. Addams spent a lifetime lobbying for child labor laws, and her hard-hitting articles and widely attended speeches raised public awareness about the difficulties of life for poor children, particularly those of Chicago’s immigrant families. But as was the way of the world in the Progressive Era, many children in the inner city had few choices; and for some, the freedom of movement and money in pockets made selling the news quite an alluring prospect. There were a few newsboys who made $3-5 dollars a day. One small Italian boy named Antonio, who operated two stands on the corner of Clark and Monroe streets, sold 1,000 newspapers a day. The thirteen-year-old Antonio had inherited the prime location from his father, and he benefited from a corner monopoly at a very lucrative location. Antonio was one of the lucky ones, however. Most newsboys were fortunate to take in a fraction of Antonio’s income, as typical pay was just 50 cents per 100 penny papers sold each day; and most did not have the luxury to stand still in one spot and sell such a large quantity of papers. Instead, they lugged heavy, wheeled carts, toted bulky satchels, or secured their product under their arms, as they searched the streets for customers. And it was those roaming newsboys who were, of course, most vulnerable to the dangers and temptations of the city.

Children selling papers at rush hour, at dark, in terrible weather, and without protective supervision faced many perils. In June 1903, Cornelius Scanlan, a twelve-year-old newsboy was selling papers to street car travelers on 47th street when he was hit and killed by a northbound train. Many newsboys were orphans or from poor families and were inadequately attired for Midwestern rains and for Lake Michigan cold. One newsboy named Peter was found sleeping in News Alley at 2 a.m. on one of the coldest days of the winter. He claimed to be an orphan who came to Chicago from Milwaukee. Weather was a constant problem for those who worked and lived out of doors. Newsboys were also frequently the victims of crime. William Cullen was a blind newsboy who was “a familiar figure” at Blue Island Avenue and Twelfth Street. He sold newspapers from a small wagon and with the protection of a dog, but one night as he slept two men stole his newspaper stand, jeopardizing his means of subsistence.

Particularly troubling was the potential for sexual assault. The Chicago police collected evidence on one adult news dealer who had a prosperous corner on Halsted Street. He made eight boys who worked for him come to his room to receive their pay “and there committed violence” on each, most under the age of 14. One-third of the newsboys sent to one reform school in Chicago had venereal disease, an unfortunate reality for many kids who risked life and health on the streets. Of course, even those who were not abused suffered lung ailments and other sicknesses that went untreated; and if they became too unwell to sell papers, they lost income, as well. Sadly, too, adults who should have protected them were often the perpetrators of mistreatment. Many parents, some desperate themselves, pressed these children into the newsboy “economy.” Police officers were sometimes guilty of harassment, as some in Chicago took payoffs from newspaper companies to guarantee particularly lucrative corners, muscling away newsboys who “trespassed” upon those monopolies, and even arresting others for loitering.

In 1902, a group of some 200 newsboys organized the Chicago Newsboys’ Protective Association. This union tried to mediate the conditions of newsboy employment with newspaper publishers, to lobby for better conditions, and to help members who were sick or injured. Strides were minimal, and the streets were no less dangerous. As well, newspapers in this era had multiple editions, and papers were published at morning, at noon, and at night. As such, days for newsboys were often long; and truancy from school was a common problem. Working on the streets also exposed newsboys to the temptations of gambling, smoking, and other vices that resulted from a vagrant lifestyle. Some of these kids were runaways. Edward Fink, a twelve-year-old from South Bend, Indiana, took $30 from his mother and traveled to Chicago on a freight train. He was selling papers on the streets of Chicago and living with other newsboys when he was arrested and returned to his parents. Another boy, a sixteen-year-old from Texas moved to Chicago to work as a newsboy because black newsboys were not allowed in his town. But when he arrived in South Chicago, police arrested him for vagrancy.

In 1903, Jane Addams was part of a two-day investigation into the lives of newsboys in Chicago. Commissioned at the behest of the Federation of Chicago Settlements, a committee of twenty investigators hit the streets to interview 1,000 newsboys (including 20 newsgirls) in Chicago’s “Loop.” They reported that “while favorable to the legitimate features of the newspaper industry” their investigation confirmed their “impression that Chicago needs a city ordinance which would obviate many of the abuses now apparent in the news trade.” The committee printed a 28-page, illustrated pamphlet, which outlined the work and social conditions of the children who sold newspapers and offered proposals for child labor laws to protect them. The investigation in Chicago reported that the newsboys they interviewed had ranged in age from 5-22 and that 127 of them (12%) were under the age of 10. Among the number, Italian, German, Irish, and Jewish immigrants were numerous. The investigators turned up one five-year-old child and five other kids who were just six. The report noted that “the small boy, under ten years of age, is on the ragged edge of the newspaper business.” No doubt, younger newsboys faced the most hardships and dangers, too.

The pamphlet garnered some attention, but six years later Addams was frustrated. In a speech in March 1909 about children and street trading, she complained that newsboys had fallen in the category of “merchant” and were not subject to child labor regulations. Addams was annoyed that even as Illinois had enacted a child labor law, which should have limited the working hours of all children and protected them from harsh labor conditions, it did not apply to Chicago’s newsboys. “So far, we have been unable to secure any legislative action on the subject,” she lamented. “It is a very disgraceful situation, I think, for Chicago to be placed in while the Illinois child labor law is so good. The City of Chicago is a little careless, if not recreant, towards the children who are not reached by the operation of the state law.” And so, Jane Addams’ battle for the safety and wellbeing of all children would continue.

The remarkable, illustrated pamphlet that Jane Addams and her group published is now a part of the Jane Addams Digital Edition, where you can read the document in its entirety. You will also, no doubt, enjoy the poignant photos of real newsboys and newsgirls who worked on the gritty streets of early twentieth-century Chicago.

By Stacy Pratt McDermott, Assistant Editor

Sources: Jane Addams, “Address to the Merchants Club, March 8, 1902,” Jane Addams Digital Edition;  Jane Addams and Federation of Chicago Settlements, Newsboy Conditions in Chicago (1903),” Jane Addams Digital Edition, accessed March 31, 2017; Chicago Daily Tribune, 7 May 1903, 3:1; 24 June 1903, 1:6; 9 October 1903, 4:3; The Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL); 5 August 1903, 9:5; 13 September 1903, 25:1-7; Aaron Brenner, Benjamin Day, and Immanuel Ness, eds., The Encyclopedia Strikes in American History (New York: Routledge, 2015), 614; “Chicago Newspapers,” https://chicagology.com/newspapers/; Myron E. Adams, “Children in American Street Trades,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 25 (1905): 23-44. The photos featured here are included in Newsboy Conditions in Chicago.

Jane Addams and Her Conflicts with Tolstoyism

Addams’ affection and admiration for Tolstoy is evident in both her correspondences and her published works. In her 1910 book Twenty Years at Hull-House, Addams recollected her visit to the Count’s residence in Russia. She embarked in search of the answer to a question: “I was most eager to know whether Tolstoy’s undertaking to do his daily share of the physical labor of the world, that labor which is ‘so disproportionate to the unnourished strength’ of those by whom it is ordinarily performed, had brought him peace?”

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“Leo Tolstoy Barefoot” (1901) – Ilya Repin

Addams gave a lecture in 1902 in which she explained the four types of labor Tolstoy believed every person should partake in. She noted that “he would, of course, always excuse the ill, the aged, and little children” but believed that the bulk of people should perform manual and skilled labor as well as engage in literary work and social effort. According to Tolstoy, by reducing the amount of “brutal and dehumanizing” labor that one performs it gives those unaccustomed to performing that type of labor a perspective that will change the way they view their own lives and commodities. Addams spoke of skilled labor: “If we had some of this experience we would try to simplify our lives, because we would then realize, as we do not now, some of the work on which it is founded. Many people would then stop wearing many things, and having many things in their houses which are not needed.”

Many people fear meeting their favorite celebrity since it is possible it will result in embarrassment or the shattering of a previously held illusion. Addams likely experienced both upon meeting the revered author. She recounted the “distrustful” manner with which Tolstoy regarded the sleeves of her dress during their first meeting. Tolstoy, who was clad in peasant’s clothes, commented on the excessive amount of fabric on Addams’ dress and remarked that “there was enough stuff on one arm to make a frock for a little girl.”

Despite originally feeling disconcerted, Tolstoy’s comments did not dissuade Addams from searching for the answer to her question. Addams recalled a particular instance in which she attended dinner with Tolstoy, his family, and his traveling guests in Twenty Years. She wrote:

The countess presided over the usual European dinner served by men, but the count and the daughter, who had worked all day in the fields, ate only porridge and black bread and drank only kvas, the fare of the hay-making peasants. Of course we are all accustomed to the fact that those who perform the heaviest labor eat the coarsest and simplest fare at the end of the day, but it is not often that we sit at the same table with them while we ourselves eat the more elaborate food prepared by someone else’s labor. Tolstoy ate his simple supper without remark or comment upon the food his family and guests preferred to eat, assuming that they, as well as he, had settled the matter with their own consciences.

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Immigrant Visitors Congregating in the Coffee House, 1900

Addams’ time among Tolstoy, his family, and the peasants elicited such strong feelings in her that she made a mental vow to spend two hours each morning in the bakery which had recently been added to the coffee house at Hull-House. Upon her return she realized her vision was not possible due to her overwhelming responsibilities. In Twenty Years she wrote: “The half dozen people invariably waiting to see me after breakfast, the piles of letters to be opened and answered, the demand of actual and pressing wants—were these all to be pushed aside and asked to wait while I saved my soul by two hours’ work at baking bread?”

Earlier she pointed out Tolstoy’s difficult stance:

Doubtless all of the visitors sitting in the Tolstoy garden that evening had excused themselves from laboring with their hands upon the theory that they were doing something more valuable for society in other ways. No one among our contemporaries has dissented from this point of view so violently as Tolstoy himself, and yet no man might so easily have excused himself from hard and rough work on the basis of his genius and of his intellectual contributions to the world.

While Addams admired Tolstoy, his way of life was incompatible with the life she had already established in Chicago. She wished to emulate him in some capacity, but her duties to Hull-House subsumed a great deal of her time. While writing books, giving lectures, traveling, and worrying about her own health and the health of her friends and family, Addams was always finding new ways to improve Hull-House. It is no surprise, then, that she was incapable of designating even two hours each morning to bake bread. The question remains: how might one find a compromise between Addams’ way of life and Tolstoy’s?

Hull-House later received five hundred dollars which were left over from Tolstoy’s profit from publishing his novel Resurrection. The bulk of the profit was given to the Dukhobors, a Russian religious group who had recently settled in Canada with the help of their government. When faced with the choice of what to spend the money on, Addams felt that it was only natural to use it “for the relief of the most primitive wants of food and shelter on the part of the most needy families.”

Ultimately, Addams assisted the Nineteenth Ward without spending two hours per day in the Coffee Shop baking bread. Instead, she used her talent as social reformer to improve the lives of those living in poverty around her. Although she saw the value in performing manual labor, Addams realized there was greater value, in her situation, in devoting her working hours to her role as the head figure of Hull-House.

Jane Addams and an Anonymous Bull Moose

Members of the losing party of a presidential election are met with disappointment and sadness. In the following months the party is left to recuperate and reorganize. The losing and winning party must also plan how they will function with each other in the future. In the election of 1912, the election involved a variety of political parties with some overlapping and some clashing goals. Jane Addams had an important role in the election of 1912 and its many political parties as she became the first woman to nominate a presidential nominee by seconding the nomination for Theodore Roosevelt in the Progressive Party. The backlash she received for seconding the nomination of Theodore Roosevelt for the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party, was astounding. It lead to some of the most interesting letters I have ever read throughout my time at the Jane Addams Papers Project. After the election, Addams continued to receive letters about her participation in the 1912 election.

roosevelt-and-addams-cartoon

A 1912 US cartoon, showing the “Big Four at the Two Chicago Conventions”. Front row (Progressive or “Bull Moose” party): Theodore Roosevelt, Jane Addams, Hiram Johnson, Albert Beveridge. Back row (Republican party): Boies Penrose, William Barnes, Jr., Winthrop M. Crane, Elihu Root.

While the Progressive Party was attempting to recover after a presidential loss, Addams received a letter that claimed that the party would potentially be destroyed by all of the other political parties involved in the election of 1912. An anonymous writer, referring to himself as “a Bull Moose,” wrote Addams on December 13, 1912 an at first seemingly innocent letter, praising Addams for her efforts with the suffrage movement. As “Bull Moose” continues, he wrote to Addams about an alleged “disaster” for the Progressive Party. In this alleged disaster the Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, and Prohibitionists had created a trap for the Progressive Party to fall into and ruin the party forever. “Bull Moose” decided to take it upon himself to create five “shamtraps” for the Progressive Party, in order to expose the traps of the other parties, but the “shamtraps” needed to be dealt with before December 15th or the plan would not work.

This was not even the strangest part of the letter. “Bull Moose” then goes on to say that Addams can tell no one else about the letter except Theodore Roosevelt, who he refers to as “our future President,” despite the fact that Roosevelt has already lost the 1912 election. “Bull Moose” must have been hoping for a 1916 victory for Roosevelt. Unfortunately for “Bull Moose,” Roosevelt would not enter the 1916 election. “Bull Moose” proceeded to give Addams a list of instructions that will prevent the other political parties from trapping the Progressive Party. The first few seem pretty reasonable – instructions such as “not to side with either Drys nor Wetts,” which makes sense since the Prohibition Party is allegedly involved in this “shamtrap” plot. Instructions six and seven are the strangest. In rule number six, “Bull Moose” instructed Addams that he would come to her as a “polish tramp to wash windows, with a raincoat on” and told her all of the horrible ways to treat him. Rule number seven instructed Addams to treat a hobo the same way, perhaps worse, if “Bull Moose” should have sent a hobo in his place.

Addams was instructed by “Bull Moose” not to share the contents of this letter with anyone besides Theodore Roosevelt until 1917. So far there has been no indication that Addams ever shared the contents of the letter with anyone, including Theodore Roosevelt. The Jane Addams Papers Project works chronologically so we have not yet read and transcribed the letters from 1917. I will certainly keep my eyes peeled for any letters about “Bull Moose” once we get there.

political-humor-1912

This political cartoon follows the 1912 Presidential Election in which Woodrow Wilson (D) won in a landslide defeat over Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive/Bull Moose Party), William Taft (R), and Eugene Debs (Socialist Party). (From the November 8, 1912 issue of the Sandusky Register.)

“Bull Moose” was not entirely off the mark when he said that the other political parties were planning to destroy the Progressive Party. The Progressive Party ultimately did fall because of other parties, mainly the Republicans. The Progressive Party essentially merged back together with the Republican Party, especially after Roosevelt refused to accept the Progressive presidential nomination in 1916 and chose to campaign for the Republican Party. Maybe the Progressive Party would have lasted longer if Addams had followed “Bull Moose’s” instructions!

This document can be located on the Jane Addams Papers microfilm on Reel 7, frame 542. It will soon be freely available to read and view in digital form on our database website, which can be found by clicking the link to the right of this post.

 

Elections: Then and Now

As the final homestretch of the 2016 election approaches and peoples’ passionate responses to the candidates hits an all-time high, we at the Project are reading up on the 1912 election where Jane Addams is knee-deep in the political consequences of supporting the Progressive Party. Moving forward and making “progress” is the aim of both the Progressive Party of 1912 and the 2016 Democratic Party, who call to their 2016 Party platform as the most progressive ever. What was progressive in 1912 is not necessarily progressive now, especially with a hundred year gap. Such as a reform close to Jane Addams’ heart, woman’s suffrage. In 2016, progressive voting reform stands against voter discrimination and intimidation. The Progressive Party, as a third party, was a counter to the Democratic Party of 1912, led by Woodrow Wilson, and the Republican Party of 1912, led by William Taft and stood out as the first party to support universal suffrage. It was also the last third party to come so close to the Presidency, though ultimately the split in the Republican Party left the Democrats in control of the White House. Though by our standards the Progressive Party of 1912 is quite conservative, for the time it was remarkably radical.

The Democrats were still the “white man’s party” that they had been during the Civil War era but they were also very focused on wasteful spending and commercial concerns. Republicans were also concerned about money and the protection of American rights at home and abroad.  Progressivism focused primarily on improving the practical conditions of workers. The Progressive Party supported a minimum, living wage, as well as legal, comprehensive safety measures for workers, full and public disclosure about the wages and labor conditions.  In 1912, the Progressives called for a minimum wage and limited work hours specifically for women and “young people” and not for all workers. In 2016 the Democratic platform calls for a minimum wage of $15 for everyone, regardless of race, age, or gender. Both the 1912 Progressives and the 2016 Democrats support of the right of individuals to organize to protect their rights as workers.

The Progressive Party also had strong views on suffrage. While they did support women’s suffrage, the Party in general and Teddy Roosevelt in particular, were less kind to black people. Despite the 15th Amendment, passed in 1870, giving the right to vote to any man, regardless of race, some members of the leadership thought it should be taken away from them. This debate is not shared by the modern Democratic Party, who is firmly behind the right of all people to vote, and more importantly, to vote without intimidation. 2016 Democrats believe in making voting easier by making the voting booth more accessible, particularly for seniors and disabled Americans, an idea that follows the Progressive ideal of granting more rule to the people. Although not so easy that you can text it in quite yet! Maybe one day we will vote from the comfort of our homes, but for now everyone still has to vote by absentee ballot or at the polls. Prior to the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913, US senators were appointed by the state legislature. The Progressive Party strongly opposed this practice, claiming that the people should have a right to elect their representatives more directly, yet another reform that made modern democracy possible

A progressive platform in 2016 goes far beyond the imaginations of Jane Addams and her fellow Progressive 100 years ago. Where they supported women’s suffrage, and Addams was criticized for taking an active role in traditional politics, the Democratic Party of 2016 has nominated a woman to fill the highest office in the country. The rights of minorities, including people of color and those in the LGBT community have taken center stage in 2016 in a way they never did in 1912. The world, including the United States, has changed dramatically since 1912.

And still, the roots of the same types of concerns that were discussed in 1912 are still discussed today. Things like women’s rights, workers’ rights, discrimination, Big Business, healthcare, and voting were hot topics then just as much as they are today. Legal protections for women do not necessarily extend to their paychecks, despite the Equal Pay Act. Class differences are still stark and spark protests, like Occupy Wall Street. Workers rights are still being trampled on, especially for people who are here illegally or are impoverished. There is still work to be done and voting is one way to help make your voice heard.

Don’t forget to vote tomorrow, Tuesday, November 8th!

Questions About Settlements? Ask Jane!

Hull-House-Door_UIC-JAMC Neg 557

The main entry to Hull House. (Jane Addams Memorial Collection, University of Illinois, Chicago).

How many people today know what settlements were? If you have heard of them, they conjure up black and white, or sepia images of large buildings in urban neighborhoods, operated by earnest men and women. Or images of immigrant children in classes or urban playgrounds.

When Jane Addams founded Hull-House in 1889 the idea was a new one and part of her work was in popularizing not only the settlement, but the ideas behind it. The first settlement, and the one that inspired Addams and Ellen Gates Starr to found Hull-House was Toynbee Hall, a British settlement located in London’s East End that was founded in 1884. The first settlement in the United States was Neighborhood house, established in 1886 by Stanton Coit.

Library of Congress

The idea of the settlement was simple–to bring education and social welfare to the people who lived and worked in impoverished cities. In the United States, settlements were also known as places that helped stir the melting pot of immigration. What was unique about the settlement movement, compared with other Progressive Era charitable efforts, was that the settlement workers moved in to the slum neighborhoods they sought to help, and they sought to act as neighbors, not distant benefactors to the working poor. Addams and other settlement workers wanted to understand the lives of immigrants and the working-class not be analyzing them, but by living side-by-side and helping when they could.

In the December 5, 1905  Toledo Daily Capital, Addams’ theory was described as:

that every man is an individual and equally capable of good. The Hull House idea is to develop the individual. Miss Addams also stated that a much larger number of immigrants could be taken care of in this country and assimilated to advantage than was being done now.

When Addams lectured, she often answered questions about her work. Some questions that were reported included:

What about anarchy in the slums?

I think the cry of anarchy has been greatly exaggerated in America. There is not nearly as much of it as some people seem to think. Much of the violation of law in the slums and among the foreigners is due to ignorance of the law rather than the result of criminal intentions.

How many children are taken care of at the Hull House every day?

We have a day nursery and this takes care of an average of forty children a day.

Are there any day nurses or visitors in connection with Hull House who visit the homes of those in your district?

We never go to any house unless sent for or there is some good reason for our visit. We never make it a practice to invade the homes of the poor.

Is there any religious instruction at Hull House?

No, there are no religious exercises at Hull House on account of the different beliefs of those in the house. We have Roman and Greek Catholics and Jews in addition to other creeds and denominations.

What are the political opinions of the voters of the settlement district?

That depends entirely on which party gets hold of them first. Their political beliefs are easily subject to change. For instance the Italians formerly were almost entirely Republicans. Now, however, they are swimming over to Democracy. The Russian Jews are mostly socialists. Other nationalities have similar political principles. In Chicago there is so much intense interest in ward and city politics that national politics are entirely lost sight of in the shuffle.

Is there any drinking in the Hull House?

No, there is no drinking in Hull House, but there is a great deal of it among certain classes in the slums. Most of the Jews congregate in the shops and little stores instead of in the saloons. Formerly there was very little drunkenness among the Italians when they drank only light wines. Now they are learning to drink the American beer and whisky and drunkenness among them is on the increase.

What is being done to counteract drinking by the Hull House?

We try to counteract it mainly by means of amusements. The social feature of the saloon s what appeals to most of them and so we give Saturday evening parties, dances and socials. The saloon dance hall is one of the great pitfalls of the city and we try to oppose it in particular. We have a big coffee room but it is not a great success for the reason that only a few care for coffee in the evening.

Settlements were one solution proposed by progressive reformers to alleviate the social problems caused by increasing numbers of new immigrants and rapid urbanization. Rather than build walls to keep people out, or hem them into crowded slums, Addams and other social workers sought to learn about them, live with them, and understand their cultures; all in an effort to help them navigate American life.  She believed in treating her neighbors with respect and as intelligent and capable individuals who could contribute mightily to American society.


For more on settlement houses in Chicago, see the University of Illinois at Chicago’s photo exhibit, “Changing Neighborhoods: Photographs of Social Reform from 7 Chicago Settlement Houses.

 

The Averbuch Incident: A Century in Chicago’s Violence

March 3, 1908. Headline proclaiming the death of Lazarus Averbuch. – The Pantagraph, Bloomington, IL.

When thinking about the issue of police brutality in Chicago, many of our first thoughts find their way to the incidents of the recent past.  The images that still burn freshly in our minds are those of Laquan McDonald being fatally shot from behind by Officer Jason Van Dyke, or a recently discovered history of gruesome torture by former police commander Jon Burge.  While Chicago certainly has a history of police misconduct – Burge had reportedly been using torture to provide false confessions from his suspects since 1972 – that history sees its true beginnings in the early 20th century, as Jane Addams attempted to make sense of the violence she saw in her city of Chicago.

Dead body of Lazarus Averbuch held up in a chair by Captain Evans of the police department, front view. – Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society

Addams’ first published opinion on file of a police brutality incident comes during the time of the “Averbuch Incident” in 1908. The chronicle, told in the papers from the point of view of Officer Shippy, begins with Lazarus Averbuch, as the press called him, though in realty his name may have been Harry or Jeremiah, a Russian born Jew who had recently immigrated to America.  Averbuch was a young man, almost 19, who in the early morning of March 2, 1908 called upon Chicago’s Chief of Police, George Shippy, at his home in Chicago’s North Side.  Shippy, having been informed that this was the fourth time Averbuch had called upon him in two days, became suspicious; assuming Averbuch was an anarchist bent on assassination, Shippy seized Averbuch by the arms.  Before Shippy could disarm him, Averbuch drew a knife and stabbed Shippy in the arm.  As Shippy’s son, Harry, ran downstairs due to the commotion, Averbuch drew a revolver and fired two shots, one of which struck Harry.  At this, James Foley, an officer assigned to be George Shippy’s driver and bodyguard, entered and attempted to seize Averbuch.  Before being embraced by Foley, however, Averbuch fired a shot into Foley’s hand.  Very shortly after, both Foley and Shippy emptied their revolvers into Averbuch’s body, who then fell dead.

Funds were raised by prominent Jews for a private investigation into the claims made by Shippy that Averbuch was an anarchist intent on assassinating the Chicago Chief of Police.  Jane Addams organized an investigation to be led by young Chicago attorney Harold Ickes, who later served as Secretary of the Interior under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  At the same time, the Jewish press, mainly the Jewish Courier, tried to argue that Averbuch was following foreign protocol in order to obtain a letter from the chief of police indicating that he was in good standing and of good character in order to obtain a job outside his community.  All shots, the Jewish press argued, were the result of wayward bullets fired from either Foley’s or Shippy’s guns.  Addams witnessed the aftermath of the Averbuch Incident from an immediate proximity.  Addams’ Hull-House was located near Averbuch’s community, and the settlement often served as an interpreter between foreigners and the city’s native populace, and vice versa.  She understood that foreign-born anarchists were feared in the city of Chicago after their involvement in the Haymarket Riot two decades prior.  Addams, however, was not convinced of Shippy’s story, believing there to be too many inconsistencies.

Caption under photograph: Lazarus (Harry) Averbuch, anarchist and assassin. (From a postcard photograph he had made recently to send to his mother in Austria.)

Caption under photograph: Lazarus (Harry) Averbuch, anarchist and assassin. (From a postcard photograph he had made recently to send to his mother in Austria.)

In the wake of the aftermath of the Averbuch Incident, Addams wrote a piece for Charities and the Commons, a publication created to help charities give and receive information and advice, called “The Chicago Settlements and Social Unrest”.  This article, while spurred by the Averbuch Incident, also gave Addams’ opinion on the cause of and solutions to the growing unrest around immigrants with varying political and religious beliefs.  Addams believed that she had a unique vantage point as the head of a settlement house – as a member of a prosperous family, Addams understood the points of view of the fearful public, as well as those of the fearful immigrant population.  “This settlement interpretation,” she said, “may be right or wrong, but it is at least based upon years of first hand information and upon an opportunity for free intercourse with the foreign people themselves.” (Addams, 1908)  She attempted to assuage the fears on Chicago, reminding the city that

“the more excited and irrational public opinion is, the more recklessly newspapers state mere surmises as facts, and upon these surmises arouse unsubstantiated prejudices against certain immigrants, the more necessary it is that some body of people be ready to put forward the spiritual and intellectual conditions of the foreign colony which is thus being made the subject of inaccurate surmises and unjust suspicion.” (Addams, 1908)

Addams reminded the public that Russian-Jews, like Averbuch, had escaped very harsh treatment from police while in their home country; she also argued that the treatment they received from American police was no better.  “The older men,” she stated, “asked whether constitutional rights gave no guarantee against such violent aggression of police power, and the hot-headed ones cried out at once that the only way to deal with the police was to defy them; that that was true of the police the world over”.  “It registered,” she said, “a conviction that in a moment of panic a republican government cared no more for justice and fair play than an autocratic government did” (Addams, 1908).

In true Addams fashion, the philanthropic philosopher gave her own homegrown solution to the problem at hand.  “The only possible way to break down such a persistent and secretive purpose,” she said, “was by the kindliness which might have induced confession, which might have restored him into fellowship with normal men” (Addams, 1908).

Addams’ theory of kindness as an eradicator of terrorism has never really been tested in the city of Chicago, or anywhere else.  One of the most recent stories about police brutality, mentioned above, states that former police commander, Lt. Jon Burge oversaw a torture ring of detectives from 1972 until 1991.  In October of 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot fatally in the back 16 times by Jason Van Dyke – an officer who alone has accumulated 20 complaints, all of which have gone undisciplined.  Citizens are so concerned about the escalation of crime in Chicago, that a website has been created to chronicle police misconduct spanning the years 2002-2008 and 2011-2015.  The Citizens Police Data Project’s findings are astounding.  Without revealing the entirety of the Project’s report, of all 56,384 of the allegations in the study, 54,089 of these, or 95.93%, were found to be “Unsustained”.

In another disheartening flurry of statistics, we also know that violence in Chicago is the highest among all US cities with 2,900 shootings in 2015.  How much of a correlation do these two numbers have?  And if the statistics are intertwined, is the answer to employ and release more officers into a populace that obviously entertains varying degrees of fear for their “protectors”?  Or should we attempt to appeal to our better natures and try actions of kindness?  Perhaps another of Addams’ solutions can be used, an effort to better educate officers, citizens, and members of immigrants and working class communities in lessons of cultural assimilation and understanding could be implemented to foster partnership based on harmony rather than discord.

Reading Jane Addams’ Palms

Fortune telling, in the forms of reading tea leaves, tarot cards, palms, and crystal ball gazing, have long been popular forms of entertainment. People were and are fascinated to see readings of celebrities, hoping to learn more about them.

Nellie Simmons Meier

Nellie Simmons Meier

Palm readers could become celebrities in their own right, like Nellie Simmons Meier (1864-1944) who built an international reputation as a palmist by insisting that it was a scientific practice rather than an occult hobby. Meier did not tell fortunes–she conducted “character readings”–but she gathered them for some of the most famous people in the early 20th century–Albert Einstein, Margaret Sanger, George Gershwin, Walt Disney, and Jane Addams. Meier organized over 100 palm prints and character readings into chapters in a book, called Lion’s Paws, that she published in 1937.

Addams’ palms were included in the chapter “Can The Leopard Change His Spots?,” along with Norman Thomas, Margaret Sanger, Susan B. Anthony, Ben B. Lindsey, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Jacob Riis. She prefaced the readings with a question:

If a reformer or a radical makes his living in the very work of reform, he is doubly suspect; if he makes no money, he is believed to be seeking notoriety, honor, distinction. Do the hands of reformers and radicals sustain this suspicion?

Addams's right hand print, as published in Lions Paws

Addams’s right hand print, as published in Lions Paws

When Meier observed Addams’ palms she noted both the extraordinary similarities and important differences between her prints and those of Susan B. Anthony’s. Both women, she reported, demonstrated practical and executive ability, appreciation of the arts, and honesty, as well as strong wills and love for others. However, she saw important differences, primarily centering around the reasons that they did what they did.

Addams, Meier claimed, was motivated by the individuals she helped. For her it was not about fame or even about the “common good” as she claimed it was for Anthony. Rather, everything came down to her interactions with individuals, and the justice and mercy served, rather than a more nebulous greater good. It is certainly evident that Addams cared about those around her and wanted to help people–if she had not she probably would not have started Hull House or crusaded for the rights of workers and immigrants.

Addams's left palm print, as published in Lion's Paws.

Addams’s left palm print, as published in Lion’s Paws.

According to the palm reader, Addams was also a born conservative, cautious about everything. Something that, intriguingly enough, appears to be present in many of her letters, which paint a picture of Addams as a woman who is faultlessly polite and dignified- the very image of a conservative woman.

Is Meier’s character reading an accurate one? It certainly seems to be in line with the Jane Addams in the letters being transcribed. However, this is also information anyone could get just by reading her books and news articles about her. These present a picture of a woman who sounds exactly as Meier described. Of course, it is possible that Jane Addams’ kindness, generosity, and care for others was indeed written in her hand, but perhaps it is more important that it was written in her life.


For more on Nellie Simmons Meier and her character readings, see finding aids to collections of her papers at the Library of Congress and the Indiana Historical Society. For details on her home, see a description of Tuckaway from Historic Meriden Park.

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

Sneak Peek at the Jane Addams Papers Digital Edition!

JADE-home

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.

JADE-doc

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.

JADE-bio

  • 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.

JADE-repo

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.

JADE-map

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.