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.

 

Collecting Jane

What does the new editor of the Addams Papers get for Christmas? Addams trading cards, of course, thanks to my sister! And that sent us down the rabbit hole of the Web, investigating other Addams memorabilia.  While nowhere as common as collectibles on the Founding Fathers, movie stars or athletes, these quirky mementos are evidence of efforts to popularize history, commemorate famous Americans, and separate history buffs from their hard earned cash. Enjoy the variety of Addams memorabilia below, and please let us know if you have or know of any other collectibles focused on Addams in the comments below.

Trading Cards

Jane Addams card from Topps' Heritage Heroes series (2009)

If you thought that baseball cards were just for, well, baseball, then you haven’t delved deep enough into the word of collectible cards. In 2009 Topps issued a 150-card collection in its Heritage series, called the American Heroes Edition. Topps identified people who were “the most courageous, valiant, progressive and enlightened American women and men in our nation’s history,” and created a series of cards with designs drawn from the company’s historic baseball card designs.

The Jane Addams card (#78 in the series) is one of the Humanitarian series, which also includes well-known figures like Florence Kelley, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Clara Barton and Jimmy Carter. Other series include Heroes of Spaceflight, Authors and Journalists, Diplomatic Heroes and Civil Rights Heroes. It uses a photograph of Addams from 1914, colorized, and designed in the style of a Topps 1966 baseball card.

Peacemaker-card-back Peacemaker-card

Addams also appears in a smaller set of seven “Peacemakers” mini-cards issued in 2013 by Allen & Ginter, a Topps subsidiary. The others appearing are Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and Jimmy Carter. The Peacemaker card uses an older vintage look, with the same photo, just colorized differently.


 Dolls

Twice as much Jane!

Historically significant women are not often made into commercial dolls, but there is a market for specialty dolls featuring historical figures. The Jane Addams-Hull-House Museum offers a nattily dressed Addams (currently out-of-stock) that we hope will grace our shelves one day! She carries a copy of Twenty Years at Hull-House and wears her Nobel Prize as a necklace.

 

Addams-dollSearching etsy.com brings up UneekDollDesigns‘ page which offers a series of historical and cultural icons made into handcrafted dolls. Jane Addams’s doll is posed holding a replica Twenty Years at Hull-House. Photographed with a historical photograph in the background, this Jane seems a bit dour. Others in this series include actress Bette Davis, the Marx Brothers, and Sojourner Truth.

 

NAW-paperdollsIn 1979 Dover published the Notable American Women Paper Dolls book, by Tom Tierney, with 16 “accurately rendered” historical women, with a change of clothes. Addams appears along with Margaret Sanger, Emily Dickinson, Clare Booth Luce, Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart. This book features short biographies of each woman and outfits that are based on historical photographs of the women.


Stamps

addams-stampIn 1940 the United States Postal Service issues a series on Famous Americans that was comprised of 35 stamps, issued in groups: Artists, Authors, Composers, Educators, Inventors, Poets, and Scientists. Jane Addams was included in the Scientist category, along with John James Audubon, Dr. Crawford W. Long, Luther Burbank and Dr. Walter Reed. A mint condition 10-cent Addams stamp goes for about $3.50 today.

Hull-House100thAnniversaryThe Post Office also commemorated the 100th anniversary of Hull-House in 1979, with a printed post-card. The example on the right, a first-day issue, is postmarked from Chicago and has a drawing of Addams, her neighbors, and Hull-House.

 


 Jewelry

addams-braceletJewelry-maker Sarah Wood crafts necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, using historic photographs under the slogan “History is Handmade.” She has a gallery on Women’s History and Feminism that includes Jane Addams pieces like the one shown to the left.  The designs are also available with images from a wide array of historical women, many lesser known, as well as a series of suffrage images.


 Off the Beaten Path….

Famous women on sugar packets? Sure, why not! Red & White Sugar released a set of sugar packets with the likenesses of Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Pocahontas, Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger, Carrie Nation, Louisa May Alcott, Jane Addams, Annie Oakley, & Juliette Gordon Low.  These emptied packets go for a mere $17 on eBay.

 

shot-glassesThose who are over 21 can drink a toast to Jane Addams and others founders of sociology using a set of shot glasses featuring Jane Addams, Harriet Martineau, W. E. B. DuBois, and Marianne Weber offered by CalacaCreations, available along with a series of other printed items on etsy.com.

HullofaHouse

Finally, there are the puns!  You can get the slogan “Jane Addams Ran a Hull of a House” on nearly everything, from pacifiers and infant onesies, to iPhone cases, t-shirts, and coffee mugs. These are offered through zazzy.com.

Did She Really Say That? Jane Addams Quotes on the Web

John Oliver on Last Week Tonight

A few weeks ago on Last Week Tonight,”  John Oliver lampooned the growing use of “historical” quotes as a means of legitimizing current political opinion. While this is by no means a new problem, it has gone viral through the use of memes, such that, as Oliver said, “If you have the right font and the right photo, any quote can seem real.” Oliver proceeded to put up a website (http://www.definitelyrealquotes.com/) with a set of historical photos randomly combined with dubious quotes.

While Jane Addams doesn’t appear on his site (Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart do), you can find many lists of Jane Addams’ quotes and illustrations, most noble-sounding and completely unattributed. How many of them are accurate? It can be difficult to be certain that someone did not say something, and until we are able to transcribe the entire corpus of Addams’ work, we can only offer initial results–but there are enough problems that you should be wary.


 

(Cheezburger.com)

 Searching for this text in Google Books, in quotes, results in a hit from James Weber Linn’s 1935 biography of Addams, Jane Addams (p. 104). He claims that it comes from an 1892 paper given at a Plymouth, Mass. summer institute on ethical culture, but provides no citation. Linn uses the quote two times in the biography, the first rendered: “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain . . . until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”  A few pages later Linn uses the quote again, this time without the ellipses.

What was missing from the quote? In this case, it wasn’t much. It came from “The Subjective Necessity of Social Settlements,” which was republished in Philanthropy and Social Progress (1893), p. 7. The excluded portion is not terribly significant, but by omitting it, it becomes harder to locate the source of the quote using search engines. We’ve highlighted the differences in orange:
The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in mid-air,  until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.

 

 Jane Addams “sort of” wrote this one, in “The College Woman and Christianity,” an article published in the Independent (Vol. 53, No. 2749) from Aug. 8, 1901, on page 1853. The full quote is:
I once heard Father Huntington say that the essence of immorality is the tendency to make an exception of one’s self and I would like to add that to consider one’s self in any wise unlike the rank and file of human life is to walk straight toward the pit of self righteousness.”
Addams refers to Father James Otis Sargent Huntington (1854-1935), founder of the Order of the Holy Cross, a monastery near West Point in New York. So while Jane Addams “wrote” it, she credited the sentiment to another. Her own addition isn’t half bad though!

Jane Addams wrote this too, though the beginning of the sentence was removed. It is from A Second Twenty Years at Hull-House (1930), p. 101, and says:
As congress at Honolulu proceeded we felt that Oriental women had unique opportunities to stand free from the tyranny of mechanization and to act upon the assumption that civilization is a method of living, an attitude of equal respect for all men.
This is a good example of a specific sentence being turned to serve a far broader purpose.  Citations help us to determine whether or not the quote is being used properly when it is pulled from its context.

Several lists of quotes (WisdomQuotes and AboutEducation for example) credit Jane Addams as the author of this William Shakespeare line from Measure for Measure.

 

This one has been attributed to Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and Michael Corrleone from the Godfather. And, per Goodreads, to Jane Addams as well.

 Accurate quotes

Jane Addams in 1935.

Jane Addams in 1935.

Many of the quotes out there are accurate, though few have citations. Below are some that have been verified.

Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.

This quote comes from Democracy and Social Ethics (1907), p. 273.


Unless our conception of patriotism is progressive, it cannot hope to embody the real affection and the real interest of the nation.
Jane Addams wrote this in Newer Ideals of Peace (1906) p. 216.

Social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself.
Jane Addams wrote this in Peace and Bread in Time of War (1912), p. 133.

Old-fashioned ways which no longer apply to changed conditions are a snare in which the feet of women have always become readily entangled.
Jane Addams wrote this in Newer Ideas of Peace (1906), p. 186.

In his own way each man must struggle, lest the normal law become a far-off abstraction utterly separated from his active life.
Jane Addams wrote this in Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910), p. 66.

I am sure that anything we can do to widen the circle of enlightenment and self-development is quite as rewarding to those who do it as to those for whom it is done.
Jane Addams wrote this in “Widening the Circle of Enlightenment: Hull House and Adult Education” (Journal of Adult Education 2, no. 3 [June, 1930]: p. 279.

Private beneficence is totally inadequate to deal with the vast numbers of the city’s disinherited.
Jane Addams wrote this in Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910), p. 310.

If the meanest man in the republic is deprived of his rights,then every man in the republic is deprived of his rights.
Jane Addams wrote this in an address to the Union League Club of Chicago; it was published in Union League Club of Chicago, Exercises in Commemoration of the Birthday of George Washington (1903), p. 9.

A deeper and more thorough-going unity is required in a community made up of highly differentiated peoples than in a more settled and stratified one, and it may be logical that we should find in this commingling of many peoples a certain balance and concord of opposing and contending forces; a gravitation toward the universal.”
Jane Addams wrote this in Newer Ideals of Peace (1922), pp. 16-17.

We have learned to say that the good must be extended to all of society before it can be held secure by any one person or class; but we have not yet learned to add to that statement, that unless all men and all classes contribute to a good, we cannot even be sure that it is worth having.
 Jane Addams wrote this in Democracy and Social Ethics (1907), p. 220.

 When Quoting Jane Addams

Really?! Google it–this one appears on more than one quotes site.


As most historians and students working on history papers know, you should not quote people without citing the source of your quote. And that does not mean the website where you saw the meme or the “Jane Addams Quotes” page you found on an anonymous website (see right).

Try to locate the quote in its original context. That means finding it in one of Jane Addams’ own writings, not on a website or secondary source.  A good tactic for locating a good source is to search one of the book sites that have full text for public domain books (Google Books, Internet Archive, Hathi Trust, to name a few). Most of Jane Addams’ books are in public domain, which makes things easier. Using the original texts will not only ensure that the quote is correct, but seeing it in its context will give you a better sense of what Addams meant.

You may find that your search turns up a huge number of hits. Just like on the web, book authors cite quotes from Jane Addams and other famous people, and many of them do not cite the source of their quote either! To get to Addams’ own works, you can limit the date of publication to between 1870 and 1940. You might be tempted to use searches that narrow the author as well, but you may miss documents from compilations with an editor or author.

Putting the text in quotes will narrow your search dramatically, but remember that it will only work if the quote you search for is accurate. If a word is wrong or missing, you may not be able to find it, though it is mostly accurate. So if the whole text does not come up, try a phrase that seems unique, like “precarious and uncertain” or “affection and the real interest of the nation.

Dig deeply, and if you have too much trouble verifying the quote, don’t use it!

Hull House Haunting

Hull-House

Hull-House

As Halloween nears, we turn to the more spirited side of the Hull House that Jane Addams started. The House itself, which was built by Charles Hull in 1856, was in an area of Chicago that was extremely fashionable before the Great Fire in 1871. After the Great Fire, the wealthy of the area left and moved to other areas, leaving the West Side of Chicago to be turned into a place for the poorest of the poor, from prostitutes to immigrants. It was these people that Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr wanted to reach out to. They therefore rented the house…and made a surprising discovery. The house was haunted by Charles Hull’s late wife.

Addams and Starr were not the first inhabitants of the Hull House to meet the late Mrs. Hull. The house had been rented out before and the tenants saw her ghostly figure in the room that had been hers. Terrified, they attempted to combat it by placing a pitcher of water over the threshold, believing that spirits could not get over the running water.

Jane Addams, ca. 1907 (Library of Congress)

Jane Addams, ca. 1907 (Library of Congress)

Addams slept originally in the room where Mrs. Hull died, which was where her spirit allegedly remained. While there, she saw Mrs. Hull a few times and, though Addams determined that she seemed to mean no harm, eventually decided to move into another room. They did not completely close off the room, however, and sometimes had guests stay in there. Some of these guests also saw Mrs. Hull’s spirit. Today, the house is included on Ghost Tours in Chicago and has a reputation as one of the most haunted places in Chicago, despite the relatively benign nature of the ghost.

In addition to the rather less frightening ghost of Mrs. Hull, there was the rumor of a Devil Baby ensconced in the attic of the Hull House. Though Jane Addams continually denied the existence of such a disfigured child hidden away in the attic, the legend persisted and even grew before it eventually died down, though it never vanished completely. Jane Addams herself took to The Atlantic in 1916 to explain the truth of the matter. In that article, she explores not just the legend of the Devil Baby, but why that story held the minds of the women that she serviced.

Headline from the Muskogee Times-Democrat, June 16, 1914.

Headline from the Muskogee Times-Democrat, June 16, 1914.

The Devil Baby has two different versions, one for the Italian Catholics and one for the Jews, though they were essentially the same. In both versions, there is an innocent bride whose husband is the villain and causes their child to be born with horns and a tail- a Devil Baby. In some versions, the baby can also spout profanity within a few months. All stories, however, conclude with the distraught mother bringing the baby to the Hull House, where a mystified Jane Addams locked it in the attic because she had no idea what to do with it.

This story, of course, was fervently denied by Addams and the rest of the Hull House staff. They insisted that the first time they ever heard the story was when two women appeared at the doorstep, wanting to see the Devil Baby for themselves. Though they were quickly turned away, they were just the first in a steady stream of visitors, seeking to see this mysterious child. Though the child never existed, the legends of it persisted, and in many ways are similar to other urban legends, such as the Jersey Devil.

So why do these kinds of stories hold the imaginations of the people, even today? Jane Addams’ theory was simply that they were a form of warning tale. Abuse was exceptionally prevalent in this period, particularly domestic abuse of wives by their husbands. Thus, the story of the Devil Baby is a morality tale of what can happen when the man of the household fails to be faithful and appropriately religious and therefore disrespects his wife and family. Though there was no actual Devil Baby caused by a cruel father, the hope that it gave the women that it would keep the menfolk in line to hear of the potential consequences of their actions was an important aspect of Jane Addams’ work and this rumor helped her determine where the women needed the most help.

Whether the hauntings of Hull House were real or not, they are certainly a rich part of the house’s legacy and the importance of the house in the history of Chicago.


 

Sources:

Jane Addams, “The Devil-Baby at Hull House,” The Atlantic, Oct. 1916.

Weird and Haunted Chicago: A guide to Ghosts, Local Legends, and Unsolved, Mysteries of the Windy City.

Social Settlement as Contested Space: Addams’ Personal Faith versus her Public Uses of Relgion,” in Urban Experience in Chicago: Hull-House and its Neighborhood, 1889-1963.

Jane Addams and the Legends of Hull-House,” Chicago’s Haunt Detective.

 

The Spirit of (White) Youth in the City?

Khalil Gibril Muhammad (NYPL)

Khalil Gibran Muhammad (NYPL)

On Wednesday evening, the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, spoke to a group of students and faculty here at Ramapo College about the history behind the use of criminal justice as a system of racial control.

One part of the talk looked at the ideas about race and delinquency that came out of the turn-of-the-century Progressive movement, which used statistics about rates of imprisonment to characterize black youth as particularly violent and unlawful. (These kinds of statistics are still being cited uncritically.) The assumption was that the criminal justice system was even-handed when making arrests and thus the disparity between the percentage of blacks in prisons and the percentage in the general population reflected an unbiased truth about African-Americans. This led to calls for blacks, even from black intellectuals like W. E. B. DuBois, to regulate their own behavior and take responsibility for their actions. Black criminality and delinquency were perceived as moral failings, blamed either on the criminal or his or her parents.

An 1895 summary of nationalities in the Hull-House neighborhood of Chicago.

Muhammad tellingly contrasted this view with the way that many of the same Progressives, Jane Addams included, looked at white crime. Settlements were established in areas with high poverty and crime, but in the early years of the movement, most settlements were founded in urban immigrant neighborhoods.

Most either refused entry to African-Americans, or set up settlement houses in African-American neighborhoods to serve them. Despite Jane Addams’ support for racial equality, Hull-House was segregated until the 1930s, well after the neighborhood’s African-American population had increased.  A recollection by Florence Scala, who attended Hull-House activities in the 1930s was that there was a great mix of ethnic groups there, “however, there were no blacks, blacks were not active in the Hull-House programs when I was going there.” (Near West Side, p. 139.)

Hull-House workers did help found two African-American settlements in Chicago–the Frederick Douglas Center (1904), an integrated settlement located in an African-American neighborhood in the Second Ward, and the Wendell Phillips Settlement (1908), a segregated house also located in an African-American neighborhood in the west side of Chicago.

A Hull-House playground. (news.uic.edu)

Addams’ views on the juvenile delinquency are found most clearly in her 1909 The Spirit of Youth in the City Streets. Addams chronicles the stories of Hull-House neighbors, who were overwhelmingly white immigrants, depicting the causes of crime in far more sympathetic terms:

“A certain number of the outrages upon the spirit of youth may be traced to degenerate or careless parents who totally neglect their responsibilities; a certain other large number of wrongs are due to sordid men and women who deliberately use the legitimate pleasure-seeking of young people as lures into vice. There remains, however, a third very large classes for which the community as a whole must be held responsible. . . traceable to a dense ignorance on the part of the average citizen as to the requirements of youth, and a persistent blindness on the part of educators as to youth’s most obvious needs.” (p. 51)

Delinquent youth, Addams argued, “are overborne by their own undirected and misguided energies.” Young minds were often too immature to avoid “an accidental combination of circumstances” that might entice a youth to crime. Addams argued that the environment of the city, “its thronged streets, its glittering shops, its gaudy advertisements of shows and amusements,” lead young men to seek “adventures,” which often turn into criminal charges.  Addams claims that other crimes could also be seen as “illustrating the spirit of adventure, for although stealing is involved in all of them, the deeds were doubtless inspired much more by the adventurous impulse than by a desire for the loot itself” (pp. 54-56).

This is not the way black crime was discussed.

When Progressives looked to immigrant neighborhoods, they saw society’s flaws acted out in juvenile delinquency–child labor, poor housing and education, poverty, and a lack of public entertainments.  Fixing the problems did not start with the individual or with the immigrant community itself. Addams called for education as the only means of:

organizing a child’s activities with some reference to the life he will later lead and of giving him a clue as to what to select and what to eliminate when he comes in contact with contemporary social and industrial conditions” (p. 109-110).

Addams and other Progressives saw that when groups of people had trouble adjusting to society, it might be that society had to change or adapt. We are undergoing another period in which we need to address the social problems of inequality and the lack of opportunity, especially with regard to race and the criminal justice system. The first step is understanding how we got here.


For more, see

Jane Addams, The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, (1909)

Carolyn Eastwood, Near West Side Stories: Struggles for Community in Chicago’s Maxwell Street Neighborhood (2002), 139-40.

Khalil Muhammad’s “Playing the Violence Card,” New York Times, April 5, 2012.

Wanda A. Hendricks, Gender, Race, and Politics in the Midwest: Black Club Women in Illinois (1998), pp. 56-59.

Bill Moyers interview with Khalil Gibran Muhammad from 2012 on “Confronting the Contradictions of America’s Past.”