My Inspiring Research at JAPP

Talia Felner, ’19

The kind of work I’m doing at JAPP is hands on, because I’ve always been interested in working with primary sources and looking at artifacts. This summer, when I started working in the office, I was assigned to search newspaper and find transcriptions of Addams’s speeches. For the first time in my college career, I learned and really enjoyed my summer job. I was pouring through months of newspapers that praised, condemned, and even mundanely wrote about Addams in all forms. It really gave me a different perspective about American history and culture, especially the roots of the suffragist movement as written about in Addams’s speeches. The highlight of my findings was when she was given an honorary Masters of Arts at Yale University’s graduation. The preceding newspaper articles from all over the country were about Addams being the first woman to speak at Yale. Looking back at my summer, I really grew to know and love Addams and all that she worked hard for.

Addams in her graduation regalia, 1910

At the end of the summer, and the first few weeks of the Fall 2017 semester, I started looking at letters and logging correspondence between Addams and all her connections; whether it was Dr. Aletta Jacobs, or her family members. The letters ranged from pre-Hull House to her death in 1936. From looking at letters and newspapers, I am now searching through other libraries and archives for more correspondence with Addams. The research that I’m doing really ignites my passion to continue doing research after my time at Ramapo and the Jane Addams Papers Project; I would like to go to graduate school for Library Studies.
At school, I am the president of Ramapo Pride, the school’s LGBT+ club on campus, and am involved with Hillel and other social justice clubs. I’ve wanted to be in the history program here because I have been involved with history all my life, being the historian of my small family, as well as excelling in history in my formative years. I enjoy drawing, laying in bed, making playlists, and listening to music. My favorite era’s to read about is Edwardian and Victorian eras, focusing specifically on fashion and entertainment at the time.

Jokes and Lessons at JAPP

I’m a senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey, double majoring in psychology and literature with a concentration in creative writing. I transcribe documents as well as add in the new documents. A lot of the documents that I find while working are actually really interesting and fun to read, showing the full span of the types of people that Jane Addams was in contact with and communicating with. One document that made me laugh was an article from June 25, 1914, that read more like a long joke than an actual published article, but was in fact a story told by Jane when comparing criticisms about women’s right to vote with other problems that men seem to have. As is written in the article, “A tourist one Saturday evening in Glasglow entered a saloon for a lemonade and saw in huge letters behind the bar, ‘Remember the Sabbath.’

Samantha Risman, ’18

“Quaffling his lemonade, the tourist told the landlord that it gave him very great pleasure to see a man of his profession show such becoming reverence to the day of rest.

“‘Oh,’ said the landlord, ‘that ain’t my reason for putting that there sign up there. The idea is to remind my customers of the Sunday closing law, so’s they’ll bring their flasks to be filled on Saturday night.'”

Another that I liked was from A Peace Movement written by Philip Zenner on May 1, 1915, where he makes great points about people and their outlooks on the world and how much perspective can affect opinions. What he says in this document is, to me, a timeless lesson that people can still learn now which is why I remembered it after reading it. It is about men and war, and how some men are saying that they want Germany destroyed and the men to die and suffer, including their leader. Zenner writes, “ I often thought when speaking to some of these men that if they were on the other side, on the firing line, and felt the pressure of this fearful war in their own person, or in that of their families, they might have the same deep feeling, the same bitter hatred, but they would be very much more anxious for peace than they are now. It is much safer and more pleasant to stand and watch while others do the fighting.”

A Sweet Find at JAPP

As someone that has been studying history for some time now, I find that working for the Jane Addams Papers Project as a student editorial assistant is a great opportunity. It allows me to both learn more about a time period of history that I was at first not really familiar with and use my history degree in a professional environment. I have always wanted to work for a history research project, and now I have the great pleasure to work for one.

At the project, I do initial research on Addams’s unpublished and published work and speeches.  For the initial research, I look at the original microfilm scans of said documents and begin to enter them into our database.  I ensure that the document is correctly entered by the date it was published or the speech was given, as well as make sure all the names of people and organizations are entered into the database, if not already there. The interesting part about this task at the project is that I get to research old newspaper articles to find out who these people and organizations that Addams mentions are.  I really get the chance to use all the research training I learned while studying history.  This part of my job gives me a chance to really understand and learn more about some of the important events and movements that Jane Addams was a part of. Doing the research on all these people and organizations from the past can be really interesting; the things that I get to learn about them is just fascinating. Sometimes they are kind of funny.

Pionono, the pastry

There is one instance when I was looking up information on one of the popes that Jane talks about in one of her speeches.  At first I did not know it was a pope I was looking up; the only name I had to go with was “Pionono,” which was his nickname at the time.  The interesting thing about this was that there is a popular pastry with the same name.  For, what I think was ten minutes, I was searching around Google trying to find out who this person was, and every search the top result and the first couple of pages was this pastry!  I was very confused by this; Jane couldn’t have been talking about a pastry in this speech!  Confused by only finding pastries, I decided to click on one of the links about this and found out that it was named after Pope Pius IX.  It was at that moment that I knew I found the right person; Jane was clearly talking about a pope in context to what she was referencing.

This is just one of the funny moments that happens when trying to find people that Addams talks and writes about.  I wouldn’t have known who she was talking about, people at the time would have. I get to learn more things about a time period that I didn’t know about.  Though I still don’t know why there is a pastry named after a pope.

A Storyteller for the Past

When I first heard the Jane Addams Papers Project had come to Ramapo, I was beginning my sophomore year. I had just been thinking about research opportunities for history majors, so it seemed almost like fate when I saw posters around campus advertising for the JAPP interest meeting. Next thing I knew, I was part of the JAPP team as a research assistant and still am part of it as I begin my senior year.

Sara Catherine Lichon is a senior history major and international studies minor, working at the JAPP as a research assistant.

I’ve always had a passion for research and the past, so I knew when I enrolled at Ramapo that I wanted to be a history major. As I advanced in my academic career, I added a minor in international studies, developing an interest in how the past has led to current events. For both my history and international studies classes, I’ve researched international current events and the history behind them, and as a member of Ramapo’s Honors Program, I’ve attended numerous regional and national conferences to present my research. This past June, I published a paper titled “Identity Crisis: How the Outcome of the Cold War affects our Understanding of the Crisis in Ukraine” in the undergraduate research journal The Augsburg Honors Review. Currently, I am working on my Honors senior thesis, focusing on Scotland’s reaction to Brexit and how the historic relationship between Scotland and the United Kingdom contributed to this reaction. To gain a better understanding of Scotland’s culture and history, I studied abroad in Edinburgh over the summer, taking a Scottish History course and exploring the country from the cities in the Lowlands to the small towns in the Highlands. I even climbed Ben Vrackie, a mountain 2,759 feet above sea level, and visited Loch Ness during my travels!

Mary Miles Minter, an actress who was a suspect in the unsolved murder of her lover in 1922.

As a lover of research, when I heard about the JAPP, I was immediately drawn to it. I began at the project by transcribing documents but soon realized that I preferred to research the people who made appearances in Jane Addams’s life – and I’ve been researching them ever since! I love uncovering the stories of their lives, and I especially love the challenge of digging for information on people who weren’t well-known. It’s very exciting when I can find information, and I feel like a detective! Sometimes I come across people with fascinating lives; recently I just wrote the bio for actress Mary Miles Minter, who was a suspect in the unsolved murder of her lover in 1922. I have even found myself writing the bios of people I’ve come across before, such as Victor Moore, an actor who starred in one of my favorite movies, It Happened on 5th Avenue. The stories of those who came before us are something that I can never get enough of, and at the JAPP I’m able to gather and share the stories of so many people, writing them into a narrative that will be accessible for years to come.

Outside of history and international studies, I have a passion for music, theater, and the arts. I sing, play ukulele, and am a member and business manager of Orchidstra, a barbershop quartet. I am also a Global Roadrunner, a member of Ramapo’s French Club, and in Phi Alpha Theta (history honors society), Sigma Iota Rho (international studies honors society), and Alpha Lambda Delta (first-year honors society). In addition, I enjoy photography, hiking, and spending time in the great outdoors.  I spent two summers interning at the Washington Township (Morris County) Municipal Building, and after graduation, I plan to pursue a career in government.  But while still at Ramapo, I continue to research and write the stories of various historic people, and I am loving my role on the JAPP team.

The Mystery and Empowerment of Working at JAPP

I’m a junior literature major with a creative writing concentration, and I work as research assistant at the Jane Addams Papers Project. My job mainly consists of editing the biographies in the database.

Each person mentioned in any of the documents or letters gets a biography. All of the finished biographies then get sent to me. I go through and make sure all the information on the person is correct.  Sometimes people have missing information like marriage dates, death dates or various personal facts. The most tedious task is finding and fixing citations for photographs and links. It’s a fun puzzle trying to format everything and make it perfect.

Crystal Eastman

However, there are imperfections that I do enjoy. One of my favorite people that I’ve researched was named Western Starr. His name is was struck me as interesting first, but his life was also intriguing. Starr was a lawyer trained at Cornell and Columbia Law School who also worked in a real estate business in Chicago. He later abandoned the law and moved to Maryland to become a farmer. There’s no information on him after 1920s. He’s such a mystery and I love it.

Another person I found to be interesting was Crystal Eastman. As a lover of feminism and history, I was overjoyed to research this suffragette. Eastman was a lawyer, feminist and journalist who was considered a leader in the women’s suffrage movement. She also co-founded and co-edited the radical arts and politics magazine The Liberator.

Besides being a socialist, Eastman was part of the anti-militarist movement. She was so progressive, and it was very empowering to read about Eastman’s life. I truly admire all of the efforts and the work that she did in her time.

Jane Addams: Taking a Stand

This spring, the Jane Addams Papers Project was delighted to help fund two eighth grade students, Lucy Roberts and Lindsey Alexander, from Chamblee Middle School in Georgia present their ten-minute performance on Jane Addams at the National History Day competition.  The students advanced through their regional and state competitions and needed some help funding their trip to Maryland and the national contest.  When preparing for the competition, they relied on the Jane Addams Digital Edition to provide primary source materials.

“National History Day requires projects to have a variety of sources, both primary and secondary,” said Lucy Roberts, who portrayed Jane Addams in the performance. “The Jane Addams Papers was so organized and helpful to help with primary sources. As far as the actual sources themselves, we used her letters and speeches to learn about her thoughts and political views.”  The girls used excerpts from Addams’s autobiographies, which they found on the digital edition, as well as her opinions on immigration and labor to make their performance more historically accurate.

“What I think was the most interesting thing about Addams was her work as the city’s garbage collector. To me that was not only pretty surprising but admirable as well,” added Lucy.

National History Day invites students between sixth and twelfth grade to research a historical topic based on an annual theme and present their findings in a creative style manner as documentaries, research papers, exhibits, performances, or websites.  With this year’s theme called “Taking a Stand in History,” Lucy and Lindsey were assigned to research Addams in class.

Lucy and Lindsey’s performance, “Jane Addams: Taking a Stand,”  opened at Addams’s funeral in Hull-House in 1935.  Lindsey, portraying a resident, passionately recited a eulogy about Addams and her life.  Then, the play took the audience back in time by dramatically portraying Addams’s most significant accomplishments, such as becoming valedictorian at Rockford Seminary, co-founding the Hull-House, opposing World War I, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize.  As Addams, Lucy used direct quotes from Addams’s letters and speeches, and Lindsey acted as a variety of Addams’s associates, such as Ellen Gates Starr, a Chicago Tribune reporter, and a poor immigrant, providing context for Addams’ views.

“Performing was much more difficult than I expected,” said Lucy. “There are a billion things you need to think about: facing the audience, speaking clearly, remembering your lines, blocking, props, etc. That’s why I enjoyed it so much. Not only do I love a challenge, but I got to see an idea turn into something tangible and real.”

Lucy enjoying time in Baltimore

Lucy and Lindsey did not win the national award, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience and their sightseeing in Baltimore. They visited Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium, and Hard Rock Café. “I really enjoyed that because the hard work was over and we could finally relax and enjoy the city,” said Lucy.

We are glad to have been able to help the girls have such a rewarding experience and congratulate them on their success.

The theme for 2018 is: Conflict and Compromise in History.

NJ Council for the Humanities Awards Jane Addams Papers Funds to Enhance Use of the Digital Edition by Students

We are delighted to announce that the New Jersey Council for the Humanities has awarded the Jane Addams Papers a grant of $11,400 for our “Expanding Audience Participation with the Jane Addams Papers” project.

This project aims to encourage use of the digital edition among students, teachers, and the general public. We will  build a crowdsourcing site where members of the public can engage with documents, create transcriptions, and rate the documents to build a new search option to highlights the most useful documents. We also want to encourage students to work with the digital edition, and will create guides for high-school and grammar school students working on National History Day projects and school projects. These tutorials will introduce topics, provide suggestions for the best texts and search strategies for that topic, and suggest sources for further research.

We will be collaborating with students in Ramapo’s Teacher Education program, with the New Jersey National History Day coordinators, and local middle and high school teachers to develop these new resources on our digital edition site.

Addams, ca. 1895

The Jane Addams Papers’ mission is to digitize and describe the documents, and create historical context for them by identifying the people, organizations, and events mentioned in the texts. We have received funding from Ramapo College, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and the Ruth McCormick Tankersley Charitable Trust  to undertake this work.  But we want to do more than build a site and hope that people will use it. Scholars and advanced students will find our site, but this outreach project will advance our mission by reaching out to students, teachers and the general public.

We think the best way to do that is to provide crowdsourcing opportunities and offer guides for using the documents in the classroom. National History Day is a very popular program that challenges students in middle and high school to interpret history through one of twelve general themes.  For this year’s theme “Conflict and Compromise in History,” we advised students to look at Addams’ opposition to World War I, or her decision to open the Hull-House settlement, pointing them to the best documents and providing them with context. We will continue to expand the guides by adding more suggestions as we mount more material on the site. We also want to create topic guides for other issues, such as child labor, woman suffrage, and recreation.

We are looking forward to getting started on this exciting collaboration and will keep you posted on the results.

 

 

 

 

Addams as Inspiration for Modern Students

A lot of times, college students sit at their desks, tapping their pens against their notepads during the middle of a three hour lecture and begin to think, “This relates nothing to my major; why do I need to sit through this?”  Although initially eager to begin the college experience that opens up the doorway for a diverse range of opportunities, students are pummeled by essays and group assignments that heavily decrease their enthusiasm for a college degree.  It’s especially frustrating to heave through the general education requirements, like math, English, and science, when they do not relate to the student’s major.  How am I going to impact the world by sitting in Critical Reading and Writing 102, or First Year Seminar?  Are all these classes I’m taking even going to lead me anywhere?

Addams’s graduation picture from Rockford Seminary, 1881

Like most college students, Addams had a lot of ambition entering Rockford Seminary at the age of 17.  She, too, wanted to impact the world by pursing an education; however, Addams had many barriers and limitations that would delay her successes like the Hull House or recognition for her speeches on women suffrage, child labor, etc.  As New York Times writer David Brooks writes in his article, “The Jane Addams Model,” Addams was a “morally ambitious young woman who dreamed of some epic life service without much idea about how it might come about… In her twenties she was one of those young people who don’t get to themselves quickly.”

During Addams’s education she desired to pursue a degree in medicine, but Rockford, which was a seminary at the time, encouraged careers associated with religion.  Like many college students who are indecisive in choosing their own majors, Addams considered transferring to Smith College in Massachusetts, but never followed through with it.  After finishing school at Rockford, Addams felt limited in her education because there weren’t many career paths options for women in additional education.

Addams faced a range of personal problems that affected her education as well.  After graduating Rockford, her father, whom she viewed as one of her closest friends, died.  She wrote two weeks after his funeral, “how purposeless and without ambition am I.” Any motivation she had about pursuing another degree disappeared with the death of her father.  When Addams did eventually enroll in medical school, she suffered from severe back pains and psychological problems and chose to admit herself into a hospital instead.  In addition to these issues, she felt pressure from her family to focus inward on them rather than pursue her education.

Addams standing with parasol in her class picture at Rockford, 1881

Her life filled with the same uncertainties that many of us students have, Addams chose to leave these pressures and travel outside her comfort zone.  Seeing London’s streets of poverty rekindled the desire to connect with people personally.  Addams recognized the contrast between the way she lived her life and the streets of Chicago and felt inspired to not only provide effective services, but also protect the dignity of those she helped.  In order to do this, she thought about who she ought to be and started changing her life in small ways.  With these small changes, she was able provide comfort and safety to thousands of immigrants through the Hull-House.

Students may not always know where they are headed; but the truth is Addams didn’t know either.  Changing a lifestyle and becoming uncomfortable to do what’s good for others are small steps for big achievements.  A three hour lecture in Math for the Modern World may be boring, or writing an essay on a topic unrelated to a major may seem useless, but they may lead to opportunities or spark a buried passion.  For students, making an impact can be a simple as joining clubs on campus that they are interested in.  If Addams were alive today to speak to these students, she would encourage them to vocalize their desires on a club’s executive board.

Sources: Brooks, David. “The Jane Addams Model.” New York Times, 25 Apr. 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/opinion/the-jane-addams-model.html?_r=1 Accessed 6 Jun. 2017. Schneiderhan, Erik. The Size of Others’ Burdens: Barack Obama, Jane Addams, and the Politics of Helping Others. Stanford University Press, 2015.