Jane Addams’ Pragmatist Theories of Democracy and Education

This is a guest post, written by Parysa Mostajir, a Teaching Fellow in Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago. She is currently researching the role of experience in diverse human practices like science, art, and democracy, and setting up an academic blog, Woman is a Rational Animal, dedicated to diversifying syllabi in the history of ideas.

 

Jane Addams is deservedly well-known for her tireless activism, having spent her life engaged in efforts to improve her society: She served on the boards of national and international organizations like the International Association for Labor Legislation, she campaigned for the rights of women, children, and workers, and she offered educational, recreational, and organizational resources to the immigrant communities surrounding Hull House. Although she spent most of her time in the world of action rather than the world of ideas, fewer people (including philosophers) give Jane Addams due credit for her role in developing a philosophical movement called ‘pragmatism.’

John Dewey (Wikimedia Commons)

Jane Addams was admired by some of the most celebrated pragmatist philosophers of her time, including John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, and William James. The correspondence of these professors at the University of Chicago and Harvard University, show that they recognized Addams as an imposing intellect from whom they had much to learn. In a 1908 letter on the Jane Addams Paper Project Digital Edition, George Herbert Mead describes “how deep an impression” Addams’ speech on ‘War and Progress’ made on him and others in the audience. In a 1902 letter, William James describes Addams’ Democracy and Social Ethics as “one of the great books of our time” and claims he “learned a lot” from it. Dewey’s correspondence reveals years of extensive visits and engagements with Hull House, during which he exchanged ideas with Jane Addams, the latter of whom he described as “the most magnificent exhibition of intellectual & moral faith I ever saw” [1894.10.10 (00206): John Dewey to Alice Chipman Dewey]. He even attributed to Addams the first definite statement of the pragmatist thesis “that democracy means certain types of experience,—an interest in experience in its various forms and types” [Volume 1: Political Philosophy, Logic, Ethics p. 2379].

Jane Addams with Hull House children (ca. 1930)

So what is pragmatism, and how does Jane Addams’ work fit in? Pragmatism is a tradition of philosophy that began in the United States in the late 19th century and was characterized by several core beliefs to do with action and experience. Addams’ major contributions to the tradition of pragmatism were her theories of democracy and education, which contained substantial developments on these core principles of pragmatist philosophy. Pragmatists believed that knowledge and theories should be based on our practical experiences, and be constructed in such a way as to take our practical experiences into account. Most striking about Addams’ writings in philosophy is the extent to which she adhered to the pragmatist conviction that knowledge and theories should be consistent with practice. While other pragmatists were involved in practical applications of their theories, such as John Dewey’s founding of the Laboratory School in Chicago, none of them were quite so embedded in everyday society as Jane Addams was at Hull House. Addams’ theories were derived from her practical activities at Hull House, instead of becoming lost in philosophical speculation. It was appropriate and inevitable, she wrote, that her experiences at Hull House would affect her convictions (Twenty Years, p. 308).

Pragmatists believed not only that theories should be derived from practical experiences, but that they should be applied to practical experiences in attempts to improve, enrich, and make sense of our lives. Unlike many contemporary philosophers who engaged in highly abstract theories having no relationship to the everyday world, pragmatists believed that theories gained their value by serving as instruments for empowering us to successfully take action in the world—this is the practical aspect of ‘pragmatism,’ from which the tradition derives its name. As a pragmatist, Jane Addams therefore rejected the idea, popular among sociologists of her time, that settlements like Hull House were ‘laboratories’ from which to derive pure theory (Deegan 1988, pp. 34-5; Twenty Years, p. 308). She wrote that her energies were directed “not towards sociological investigation, but to constructive work” (Hull House Maps and Papers, pp. vii-viii). Her pragmatist goal was to use the knowledge she gained from her experiences at Hull House in the application of practical changes and improvements to society and the lives of the people she served, not to derive knowledge for its own sake or out of pure curiosity.

These core pragmatist convictions concerning knowledge, practice, and experience are evident in Addams’ theories of democracy and education. To begin with her theory of democracy, Addams did not believe that democracy was a matter of ticking a ballot box once every few years. In her celebrated book on Democracy and Social Ethics, she argued that democracy was not just “a sentiment” or “a creed,” but “a rule of living,” which needed to be integrated practically with people’s everyday lives (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 6). Many failures of contemporary democracy, she claimed, could be linked to the isolation of different sectors of society from each other, preventing familiarity with each other’s experiences. In order to resolve them and make our democracy more robust, we needed to ensure the connectedness of diverse types of people who shared the same society. For that reason, democracy could not be compartmentalized as a handful of remote political institutions, with the citizens’ democratic participation reduced to a single act of casting a vote. Democracy had to be an active practice for all citizens, embedded in their lived experience as a way of life. This would only be achieved by “mixing” the diverse members of society together and giving them “a wider acquaintance with and participation in the life about them” (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 5). Addams argued that it was through exposure to the different ways of life, struggles, and needs of the many people with whom we share our society that we can develop attitudes of sympathy, respect, and a democratic sense of moral obligation towards each other. For example, she mentioned the importance of newspaper and literature in giving people the chance “to know all kinds of life” (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 8). This kind of “diversified human experience and resultant sympathy” were, for Addams, “the foundation and guarantee of Democracy” (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 7).

Jane Addams described her views of the Pullman Strike in her 1912 article, A Modern Lear.”

As a true pragmatist, concerned with the connection between theory and action, Addams based her theory of democracy on what she encountered in her practical experiences, and applied her theory of democracy to suggest resolutions to the problems she encountered. For example, Addams was involved in mediating the 1894 Pullman Strike in Chicago, in which the workers of a large factory went on strike to demand better wages. What Jane Addams saw in this conflict was a failure of the democratic practice of connecting with the experiences of others. Pullman, the owner of the factory, had built a town for the use of his factory employees, with parks and recreational facilities, believing that he was acting generously. The factory workers, on the other hand, resented the extension of Pullman’s control into the private lives. When the workers went on strike, Pullman was confused by their anger, and he felt that the factory workers were being ungrateful for the resources he had given them. In her philosophical work, Democracy and Social Ethics, Addams wrote that the “good deeds” Pullman thought he was conducting were in fact incomplete, because they were not conducted democratically. By not “calling upon the workmen either for self-expression or self-government,” he ended up lacking any familiarity with the experiences and desires of the workers (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 143-4), and had operated undemocratically in making his decisions. “To attempt to attain a social morality,” Addams wrote, “without a basis of democratic experience results in the loss of the only possible corrective and guide” for actions—the daily experiences of other human beings (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 176).

Addams’ theory of education was also deeply pragmatist in its commitment to connecting educational experiences to the practices and experiences of the individuals being educated. At that time, it was common for people to assume that manual laborers had no need of general education. When education was sometimes offered as part of universities’ charitable efforts—for example, University Extension Programs which sent professors to give general courses to the working class on topics like evolution, astronomy, psychology (Twenty Years, Chapter XVIII), or philanthropists who supported children in receiving clerical education—the idea was that such education either gave laborers a temporary mental escape from the mundanity of their work, or gave them the opportunity to leave their lives as factory workers and enter into more respected professions. Such educators did not consider education as having any possible genuine connection to the ordinary lives of factory workers.

Hull House class on immigration, held at the Coffee House, 1920s (Wallace Kirkland, Jane Addams Memorial Collection, University of Illinois at Chicago)

Addams, unsurprisingly, rejected these assumptions. Her pragmatist theory of education was based on extensive practical experience providing educational resources to the working-class neighborhood surrounding Hull House. In Democracy and Social Ethics, she insisted that factory workers could, and should, be provided with education on topics like history and economics which directly connected to their everyday practical experiences. Because of the division of labor, industrial workers spent most of their waking life operating machinery and manufacturing products to which they had no connection. They had no opportunities to understand the history of the invention and development of the machines they operated; they did not know the uses to which the products were put; and they did not understand the sales and distribution aspects of the businesses they worked for. Addams argued that this contributed to the poor quality of life of industrial laborers, and that education in how they fit into the workings of society would help to improve and enrich their daily experiences of manual labor. If educators, the state, and business owners were to take the value of their employees seriously, they needed to provide them with opportunities to connect their own experiences with the wider social, economic, and historical processes of which their manual labor was an important part. Such education would allow workers to make sense of the significance, purpose, and utility of their work, and would positively alter their sense of self, and their estimation of their own worth. In this way, education could be used not as an escape (either as temporary mental relief from monotony, or as an opportunity to move into a different line of work), but as a way of connecting to the ordinary lives of factory workers in such a way as to improve, enrich, and make sense of their everyday practical experience.

Jane Addams, ca. 1910

Amidst her extensive social, political, and community work, Addams found time to write several books threaded with innovative philosophical ideas and play a key role in establishing the new, pragmatist philosophical tradition in the United States—a tradition which was characterized by its beliefs in the importance of connecting knowledge with action, enriching individual experience, and solving social problems. Because Addams had so much experience taking action in the world, her philosophical writings are, more than any other pragmatist, threaded with connections to social, political, and economic problems, and filled with practical suggestions for how to ameliorate those problems. She remains one of the greatest examples of how our philosophical ideas can impact the practical approach we take to politics, economics, and culture, and how politics, economics, and culture can influence the development of ideas. In a time like ours, when universities are highly specialized and losing touch with the needs of wider society, we can look to Addams as a model public philosopher, who put her theories into action and let her real-life experiences guide her theories.

References:

Addams, Jane. Democracy and Social Ethics. New York, London: The Macmillan Company, 1907.

Addams, Jane. Twenty Years At Hull-house: With Autobiographical Notes. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1911.

Deegan, Mary Jo. Jane Addams and the Men of the Chicago School, 1892-1918. New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1988.

Dewey, John. Lectures, Volume 1: Political Philosophy, Logic, Ethics. Ed. Koch, Donald F., and The Center for Dewey Studies, 2016.

Monuments vs. Documentary Editions: How Best to Remember the Past

A statue of Christopher Columbus outside the Minnesota State Capitol was taken down by American Indian Movement members on June 10, 2020.

We have all been thinking and talking about monuments, about how they are created, what they mean,  and when or whether they should come down.  Whether it is the toppling of the likeness of Christopher Columbus in Minnesota, efforts to remove the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, or the removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from Planned Parenthood of New York’s downtown clinic, the meaning of monuments and our understanding of the past is being challenged. Monuments are a problematic way to understand history. They are a one-note, simplistic way of claiming that a person  mattered to the people that put them up. Over time, they become something else, icons of the cities in which they are located, and a shorthand guide to a history that glorified mostly male and mostly white political and military leaders. They offer a simple message — hey, this guy was great! We understand the danger of this kind of simplification when talking about living people. We even have a phrase to warn us about the risks of doing it — putting someone on a pedestal — or to believe or behave as if someone  is perfect  to the extent that one ignores that person’s flaws or faults.

The Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond has been defaced with graffiti. The governor announced plans to take it down on June 4, 2020, but this has been challenged in court.

And it is the faults and the flaws of the people we have honored with monuments that are being exposed now.  It is past time. No one, now or then, is perfect. How can we reconcile honoring an individual who owned slaves, or who fought against the Union, or who held racist, sexist, or eugenic views? On the flip side, how can we ignore the context of the times they lived in? Is it right to hold people to ahistorical standards of behavior? We have to place people in historical context, based on an understanding of what the world was like when they lived. This isn’t just making excuses or becoming an apologist for figures from the past.  We have to stop seeing people as either good or evil, heroes or villains, and instead be able to see the grey, to praise what they did well and condemn what they did that was intolerable. We have to stop putting them on pedestals.

A Better Way to Learn About the Past

A name on a sign or a building, or a statue doesn’t tell much about the person, for good or ill.

If a monument is too simplistic — too one-note — to convey the complexity of a human life and the historical times they lived in, what is the alternative? I would argue that it is the documentary edition, made freely available, that brings understanding of the complexities of the past. My career as a historian has been as a documentary editor, first with the Margaret Sanger Papers, and now with the Jane Addams Papers, so I may be biased, but I also speak from experience.

A documentary edition is not a film, it is a compilation of historical documents, prepared by scholars, on a theme of historical importance. It is usually centered around a single person’s life, but occasionally describes a group, such as the Freedmen and Southern Society Project or the Yale Indian Project’s Native Northeast Portal.

We center the work around the words of the historical figure

Much of the work of the editor revolves around finding, selecting, and transcribing the letters, speeches, diaries, and other texts produced by a historical figure. We use our historical training and long hours of reading literally everything a person wrote to select documents that offer a nuanced and complex view of that person’s life and career.

We don’t shirk from the negative or controversial. When selecting documents for the Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger, we made sure that her views on race, on eugenics, and on abortion were included alongside her views on women’s rights, civil liberties,  and reproductive freedom. With the Selected Papers of Jane Addams, we look to highlight Addams’s views on race, poverty and immigration, just as much as her ideas about social work and peace.

The Jane Addams Papers Project consists of a microfilm, print edition (6 volumes planned) and a digital edition based on the microfilm.

Many editions create two products. The first is a comprehensive edition, often digital nowadays, but in the past they were published on microfilm. These collections, resulting from years-long searches in archives and private collection, are extremely valuable for scholars because they bring together materials that were dispersed over the globe. The selected edition, often published in book form, though increasingly in digital form, takes the most historically significant materials and adds annotation, to create a readable series that tells a shorter, yet nuanced, story of the figure’s life.

We work really hard to make sure that the texts of the documents that you read in our editions are accurate and complete.  You won’t find snippets of texts removed or taken out of their context  in order to make an argument.  We proofread the transcriptions as many times as is needed to get a good, accurate text. The focus is on the document, and by reading them, one after another, you gain a deeper, personal understanding of the subject.

We provide historical context, but leave interpretation to you

Editions use annotation (headnotes, footnotes, and introductory texts) to give the reader a sense of the times, to fill in the gaps when the texts don’t do it. Editorial annotation is not the same as historical interpretation. This was brought to my attention when working on an early draft of my dissertation on birth control clinics, when my adviser, Linda Gordon, pointed out that I wasn’t disclosing what I thought about all the materials. My text was descriptive and it needed to be analytical and interpretive.  I was writing like an editor, carefully researching and describing situations, but not bringing my own views, ideas, and analysis to the foreground. Writing an interpretive narrative is a different animal, one in which your experiences and the times in which you live color the way that you approach a topic. Think about multiple biographies of the same person — the basics of their lives stay the same, but the questions we ask, the values we bring to the topic affect the way that we view and interpret the past. Editors aren’t immune to those same biases, but our approach is different.

Our annotation is document-driven. What I mean by that is that we look at the texts, written by our subjects, and explore their content. When a person or event or topic is mentioned, we add a footnote to explain who or what they are talking about. There is no better training than researching for a documentary edition.  You don’t get to decide that the topic is too hard and you can’t skip over things or change your research direction, like you might do in a monograph or term paper.  These notes are generally short and informational rather than interpretive, which teaches you to be precise and succinct. Reading the text with the footnotes helps the reader understand things that a contemporary reader would already know.  I liken it to reading with the town busybody standing over your shoulder, providing you with the backstory for each document.  Except that busybody is a historian.

Jane Addams to Theodore Roosevelt, August 24, 1912.

Annotation can also fill gaps in documentation. The nature of a selected edition is that we have left many, many documents out.  For example, we selected a letter written to Theodore Roosevelt from Addams in 1912 about her role in winning women to the Progressive Party. This was not the first letter written about the topic, so we use annotation to summarize what already occurred before that document was written. It brings the reader up to the now.  We also use annotation to refer readers to material in archives and in our comprehensive microfilm or digital edition where they can go deeper.

Where does interpretation fit in all this? After reading so much and researching every bit of a person’s life, editors do form opinions and interpretations. They might turn up in the introduction to a volume, a conference paper, a blog post,  journal article, or monograph. The litmus test, for me, is whether a person who doesn’t like the subject can use our work with confidence. Will they trust that you haven’t hid or obscured documents or other materials that could make your subject look bad? My favorite review of the first volume of the Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger was from the Weekly Standard, where David Tell wrote:

Somewhere, amidst the sucker punches and cries of foul, the truth must reside. And “somewhere,” it turns out, is the enormous and altogether dazzling selection of public and private records just put out by the manuscript curators at New York University’s “Margaret Sanger Papers Project.” They too, like the earlier biographers, unambiguously admire the woman. But they have done their editing with scrupulous care, they have annotated the documents they reproduce with monk-like dispassion, and on the face of it they have held nothing back. (January 27, 2003)

History for the Masses

Digital scholarly editions, made freely available, are a far better monument to the life of a historical figure than statues or buildings could ever be. They provide a historically accurate, nuanced look at a life. They show the moments of weakness as well as moments of great strength and more than biographies or statues ever can, they render historical figures as real people. People with problems, people who have difficult family members, who follow fad diets, watch plays and movies, and fully lived in their times. They also foster critical thinking about historical figures and moments. While editions won’t fit easily into 140 characters or a 15-second TikTok video; neither does history.

Who we select to be the subjects of editions matters

Editions don’t stand outside society, and there has been a long history of privileging the papers of white male politicians and military leaders. Whether the founding fathers, presidents, or generals, the subjects of these editions sound much like the names on monuments, and the names we all learned in history books. The editions of these papers provide a more nuanced view of those lives, including co-workers, rivals, families, and in some cases, slaves.

A statue of Jane Addams lifting an immigrant child on the campus of Cal State Fresno.

In the 1970s, the field began to open up, adding a handful of projects featuring women and African-Americans. But it is not enough. We need to broaden the topics of editions to include the voices of marginalized peoples. And we need to broaden the range of people who become editors, because more voices will reveal a more vibrant story of America’s past. Smaller projects, based on intriguing people reveal lives and stories that have been erased from popular notions of history.  It is happening, albeit slower than we would like.

Thinking again about monuments, I wonder if there might be an “edition-worthy” check before you put up a monument. Could you devote years of research, funding, and scholarly effort to create the Papers of Edmund Pettus? And after you had done so, exploring his ideas and providing context for his military career, his political views, and his leadership in the Ku Klux Klan, would you build a statue or name a bridge after him?

 

 

 

 

Visualizing Jane Addams’ Social Networks

I recently took a course on Gephi, an open-source network visualization tool offered by the Programming 4 Humanists group at Texas A&M University. This three-session Zoom-based course, taught by Katayoun Torabi was a great entry to a digital humanities topic that I have long been interested in.

One of our long-range goals at the Jane Addams Papers Project is to make the underlying data in the digital edition accessible so that digital humanists can use it for research. Having a chance to play around with network visualizations helped me to think through how we might use this tool to understand Jane Addams’s life and her causes in new and interesting ways. It also helped me better understand what we need to do to make data from our edition available.

A few ideas popped out immediately:

    • a visualization of Addams’s correspondence, modeled on the ideas used to create the Mapping Republic of Letters project at Stanford.
    • a visualization of how people in the Addams’ digital edition were connected via organizations, looking at for example, the interactions between women involved in the suffrage movement and the peace movement.

In this post we will look at correspondence networks.

Thinking About Data

The examples that Katayoun used in our class were all drawn from literature. We mostly worked with data from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, looking at instances of speech between characters to create visualizations of how the characters related to one another.

Here is my visualization of Hamlet using Katayoun’s data set. Central characters have larger circles and appear in the center, while less important characters are further out, smaller and have fewer appearances.

What struck me almost immediately was that the difference between this kind of analysis and what I hoped to do, was that with a literary work (or any single historical record), this analysis can provide an accurate representation of that text. As I thought about how we could this tool to understand the Jane Addams Papers, the problem of incomplete data reared its ugly head.

We have to understand that any visualization of the Jane Addams papers cannot fully be a visualization of Jane Addams’ lifeAddams’s papers are incomplete. We are missing many of Addams’ most intimate letters between family members and her long-time companion, Mary Rozet Smith. At best, we might be able to visualize more of her professional life than her personal one. But we are also missing many, many letters sent to colleagues and acquaintances that never made it into archives and private collections. Many of the papers of Addams’s European counterparts did not survive World War II. So what we are left with is an impression, a partial glimpse into her world, but an imperfect one.

What can counts of letters tell us about Addams’ life? When I first took on editing the Addams Papers, I tried to estimate (by counting entries in the microfilm edition index) how many documents we had in the base collection so that we could estimate how long the project would take. Even as basic a visualization as the one below can help you see the broadening of Addams’s life as she moved from a local activist to one who operated on a global scale.  It can give a rough visualization of when things happened in her life.

Counts from the microfilm index.

This red line (total documents) gives us a good sense of scale, and also the  years where we could expect the heaviest number of documents. In the first ten years (1901-1910) we had low document counts, which rose dramatically in 1912 (Addams’s participation in the 1912 presidential election), 1915 (Addams’s establishment of a peace movement in the U.S. and international peace congresses). Her activity through the 1920s and early 1930s remains high, with peaks in 1927 and 1931 (Addams’s Nobel Prize).

Looking at the lighter green line (letters written by Addams), we see a fairly consistent output until the end of her life. The only outlier is 1923, a year in which Addams was on a tour of Asia and then suffered from serious illness.  It is possible she wrote fewer letters, or fewer of them survived. Most of the dramatic peaks come from increases in incoming letters.

Anneliese Dehner, our web developer prepared a spreadsheet that represented the Item Relations for people in our digital edition. I was able to work with that in a rudimentary way to explore Gephi.

Nodes and edges

In network visualization there are two tables of information, nodes, which are unique objects, and edges, which link nodes by some kind of action. The hard work of network visualization is gathering all this data so that it can be displayed by Gephi or any other tools.

    • For a correspondence network, the NODES are the people in the database. They get an ID (in our case the Omeka ID number on our database) and a LABEL (the name of the person).
Here is a snippet from the Nodes table. Each name in the database is assigned a unique identifier.
    • The EDGES represent the letter. They contain an unique ID, a SOURCE (the ID number of the author of the letter) a TARGET (the ID number of the recipient of the letter) and a WEIGHT (the number of times that that same combination appears). They can also have a LABEL (the relationship — in this case “Written by”). The most common recipient, with 234 letters, is Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman (#50), the sister of Jane Addams. In second place is Emily Greene Balch (#501), a co-worker in the peace movement, donor Anita Blaine McCormick (#60) in third place, and social worker and settlement founder Lillian Wald (#33) in fourth place.
This table of edges show author Jane Addams’ (#5) most frequent recipients.
    • Another table of EDGES describes the people who were Mentioned in a document, not just the authors or recipients. This might get at a more representative understanding of Addams’s network because one could surmise that important people might be mentioned in letters even if the correspondence between those two people might be lost. And here we do see different results. On this table Mary Rozet Smith (#164), Addams’s companion comes out at the top, with Woodrow Wilson (#4596) coming in second, donor Louise DeKoven Bowen (#814) in third place, and Addams’s niece, Marcet Haldeman-Julius (#30) in fourth place.
This table shows the most commonly mentioned people in letters written by Jane Addams (#5).
Basic Visualization

My first visualization of the mentions data was, to be frank, underwhelming, unless you like big black boxes of goop!

There are simply too many points in this data!

We have over 10,000 names in the NODES table. To get to a visualization that is more legible, I excluded edges with less than 10 mentions in the correspondence.  Now that is readable! The weight of the line indicates the number of mentions.

These are the people mentioned the most in the digital edition, thus far.

I played with the appearances of our networks to make them easier to understand. Making the labels and the circle sizes proportional to the number of mentions allows you do see things more clearly.

The visualization is interactive. If I click on Paul Kellogg’s circle, only those names associated with him are highlighted– in this case a small subset of the network.

Paul Kellogg of the Survey’s network.

While Emily Greene Balch, a peace activist, is far more interconnected.

 

Emily Balch worked with Addams in the Woman’s Peace Party and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

The idea here is to explore the various networks that Addams built in her work for peace, social justice, social work, and other causes.

Next steps

Generating the data to build the NODES and EDGES tables requires some work, and filtering the data to get a meaningful result will be critical to creating data sets that the public can use. Our goal is to make this kind of data accessible to students and digital humanists to explore data visualization and Jane Addams.

We are still adding documents to the digital edition, so the first step may be building a dataset of correspondence for each year that we have completed.

In my next post, I’ll look at building a network using our data on people and organizational membership.

Survey on Digital Editions

 
 
The Jane Addams Papers Project, in partnership with the University of Michigan School of Information, is exploring the user experience for both the Jane Addams Digital Edition and scholarly digital editions in general. If you are a student or a scholar who has used at least one print or digital scholarly edition in the past, we would be grateful if you could take 5–10 minutes to participate. The survey will be open until Wednesday 3/18. Responses are anonymous, but we will gather your email address at the end to enter you in a drawing for a Starbucks gift card!

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

When the Jane Addams Papers started work in 2015 at Ramapo College, in many ways it felt like a brand-new project. We were focused on the digital edition, developing metadata rules, learning how to read Addams’s charming handwriting, and immersing ourselves in turn of the century Chicago and the work of Hull-House.  But we were not a new project. We built our edition standing on the shoulders of the original Jane Addams Papers Project, founded by Mary Lynn Bryan in 1975.

Working with a team of dedicated editors, Mary Lynn produced an amazing microfilm that became the basis for our digital edition. We scanned that microfilm in 2015 and started working with the images, beginning in 1901, on our digital edition. The  microfilm edition represented decades of work; they  conducted an international search for Addams documents in archives,  private collections and published sources, organized the documents and indexed them. At the start of our project, they had published two volumes of the Selected Papers of Jane Addams (since then Volume 3 has been published).

The microfilm headers that her team created gave our undergraduates a real head start when working with the texts. A letter to “Alice” was in fact a letter to Addams’ sister “Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman,” carbon copies of letters that had no signatures were identified clearly in the targets. They also identified the place where the letter was written from and sometimes the correct date.

We left the microfilm headers on the scans showing the work of the founding project.

And even more, we had the index to the microfilm. Unlike most other editing projects, the Jane Addams Papers Microfilm Index identified not just the authors and recipients of letters, but most time, the people mentioned in those letters, and in some cases the subjects. So, if “Edith” was mentioned in a letter and the students (or editors!) did not know who Addams was talking about, we could consult the microfilm index, and with a little adjustment, convert a microfilm reel and frame citation to our digital image files. This really helped in the early days of the project, when most of the correspondents and associates were not in our system.

This January, Assistant Editor Victoria Sciancalepore took a road trip to North Carolina to get some of the archives of the original Jane Addams Papers Project. We brought the precious boxes, filled with index cards, copies of the documents and targets that were used to create the microfilm, and archival search records. It was exciting to unpack them and fill our file cabinets (and then some!) with these records, which we immediately put to use.

While most of the scans from the microfilm are good quality, there are some that are difficult to read. In the past we identified documents with poor images with an “Onsite” tag. Slowly but surely we contacted or traveled to the archives to get a new image. Some were penciled originals or light blue carbon copies that had been copied, then microfilmed, and then scanned. To our delight, we were able to substitute the copy in the Addams Project files for a number of light scans, which will save us time and money.

Even more valuable, and appreciated by student transcribers, many of the files also included handwritten transcriptions for some of the more difficult to read handwritten documents. While the first three volumes of the Selected Papers only carry the story to 1900, these transcriptions are throughout the collection. It has helped clear up a lot of [illegible]s from our early transcriptions.

Our debt to the editors that went before us, finding, organizing, transcribing and editing these documents cannot be overstated, and we want to thank each and every one of them!

 

Data Visualizations and Jane Addams

Last spring I had the pleasure of working with two undergraduate students, Taylor Lundeen and  Catie Olson, enrolled in the University of Michigan’s School of Information. They worked on a capstone project on data visualization, using our Jane Addams digital edition databases.  Anneliese Dehner, our web developer, helped out with the some technical aspects of the collaboration.

One of the many great things about digital publication is that the information we create can be reused and repurposed in ways that we might not have thought of. Making our data available to researchers to explore has been one of our goals from the start of our work on Jane Addams, and with this investigation we have learned what we can do fairly easily, and what is more complex.

 Accessing the Data

Our first step was to get a copy of our data exported out so that Taylor and Catie could work on it. What they found worked the best was an Omeka plugin (Omeka Rest API) that allowed them to export data in a format that worked well with data manipulation software.

Our ultimate goal is to have a utility on the digital edition that will enable users to download all or parts of the data for investigation.

One problem that reared its head immediately is that we have a very large dataset, and it is growing larger every day. This made it difficult, using the tools they had available to work with the whole set.

Natural Language Processing

One of the approaches, which Catie worked on, was seeing what we could learn from analyzing the “Text” field in our database, where transcriptions are stored. This kind of analysis can track the frequency of words, or compare word usage over time. Eventually it could be used for topic modeling, where a digital tool tries to make sense of words that appear together. These groupings can uncover connections that we sometimes don’t expect.

An important step in working with our texts was data cleaning, the process by which HTML and special characters were cleaned out and text was split word by word. Then Catie built bar charts that displayed the most common words. She built a separate chart for each year to allow us to compare years to see what Addams was thinking and writing about.

The most obvious finding to me, was that we needed to think about stop words — words that are excluded in the results because they are too common or have no analytical meaning. Articles, like “a” and “the” are common stop words– we also had to consider “page” which we use to signify the next page in our transcriptions, and, gulp, even “Hull House” because we transcribed the letterhead that Jane Addams used. Other words like “Mrs,” “Mr.” and “Miss” and salutations like “Dear” are candidates for being pulled from the analysis.

We also got to see the frequency of that nemesis of editors – “illegible.” This comes up far more frequently than I would like, but I was gratified to see that in the years where we have proofread the texts, the frequency is much lower.

It will surprise no one that “peace” and “war” shot to the top in 1915.

Frequency of words in 1915.

In 1905, the most frequent words deal more with the plight of children and represent Addams’ work on child labor and welfare in Chicago.

Frequency of words in 1905.

Catie also worked on another way to show the content of Addams’ writings, plotting the frequency of a word over time. Similar to the Google n-gram viewer that can compare the frequency of words in Google Books over time, this gives you a sense of the chronology.  We did not have the capacity at this point to allow users to type the words they want, but were able to produce n-grams for some of the most popular words.

Seen together, it is a little frightening, but on the live version on the site, you can select a single word to analyze.

The Top 50 Words, all in one place!
Tracking “peace” from 1901-1917.

The n-gram for “Illegible” shows the power of proofreading! When the data was downloaded for use, we had just finished proofreading 1915!

An n-gram of words we could not read.

Social Network Analysis

Another approach was to see what we could learn from social network analysis. Using Omeka’s Item Relations plugin, we have been tracking relationships — mostly between documents and the people, organizations, and events that are mentioned in them. We also are building connections between people and organizations, tracking which people were members of which organizations, for example, or who participated in a specific event.  We wondered whether the relationships between people and organizations might yield some interesting insights, or whether we could find other connections between people and the metadata gathered about them. Taylor was responsible for this project.

Our large dataset proved to be problematic for developing a meaningful social network based on shared connections. We think there is promise for this in future by controlling which people are included in the network, but the sheer number of people and the amount of common tags produced a daunting graph.

This plot includes only 270 Addams connections associated with Chicago. The full data on 8,000 names was too complex to load.

Instead, Taylor created a geographical visualization of Addams’s social networks related to several topics. We used our tags for movements like “Woman Suffrage,” “Child Labor,” and “Peace” and plotted their geographic locations.  Compare Addams’ Settlement Movement network and her Peace network below to see the expansion of her work internationally.

On the live version of these maps, you can zoom in and out and mouse over each dot to reveal the name of the activist.

Going Forward

It was amazing to see what two talented students could do in such a short period of time!  The experience has helped us think more about how we want to make our data accessible, and has uncovered challenges that we need to think about. Our database is large and complex and developing means to limit the queries is going to be important.

We are looking forward to working with other UMSI students and any digital humanists interested in advancing this work.

Cassandra and Bread Givers – The College Speeches of Jane Addams

by Patricia M. Shields, PhD, Texas State University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Progressin’: My Experience Working for the Jane Addams Papers Project

by Paige Drews, Susquehanna University

What is the one word every college student is guaranteed to hear during their summer break? Internship.  Everyone wants to know the details: what does your day look like? Do you like your boss? Did you get anyone their coffee or copy papers? No two experiences are the same, but if they’re lucky, that student learns new skills and tools, gains valuable insight from colleagues and even has a little fun.  Through my internship with the Jane Addams Papers project at Ramapo College, I can proudly say that I was fortunate enough to accomplish all of these things and more. Here is a first-hand look inside my internship at Ramapo. Continue reading “Progressin’: My Experience Working for the Jane Addams Papers Project”

How Did You Find Me? Copyright Research at a 20th Century Edition

Write on Jane! Because she died in 1935, all Addams’ unpublished works are in the public domain.

One of the challenges that face 20th century editing projects, especially digital ones, is the need to obtain copyright permission. We are in the midst of researching and contacting heirs to the authors of letters in the Jane Addams Digital Edition. It is a complicated process, but one that is essential for historians, archivists and editors who publish materials online.

The Basics

  • Documents published before 1922 are in the public domain. That means newspaper articles, journal articles, books, and other materials.
  • Documents published after 1922 may be in public domain, but you will need to determine whether the copyright has been renewed.
  • Unpublished documents are in public domain if the author died more than 70 years ago. If the author was a company, they are in public domain if the document was written more than 120 years ago. That means letters, unpublished reports, articles and speeches.

The Numbers

We have identified over 4,500 individuals and 600 organizations thus far in our work for the digital edition. Not all of these people wrote letters — some received the letter and others were merely mentioned in it. We do not need to clear permission for those individuals and organizations.

The Process

The Jane Addams Digital Edition tracks all mentions of people in documents. As our editorial assistants enter each document, they create links to the people already in the edition. For example, in a letter written to Jane Addams by Vida Dutton Scudder, we might record eight personal names — the author (Scudder), the recipient (Addams) and the names of four people mentioned.

If one or more of these people are new to the digital edition, the editorial assistant creates a new record for that person. While we don’t do a lot of research at this point on that person, we do try to secure birth and death dates. This year, the magic number is 1947. If our person died before 1947, we can mark their rights as public domain. Any documents written by them are all set for publication.

If, however, we cannot locate a death date, or we locate a date after 1947, we need to conduct some research. Editorial assistants flag the person’s record as copyright permission “pending.”  We do this for all new names, whether or not they are authors.

As we move toward proofreading metadata and transcriptions for publication, we generate a list of all the documents in a given year that are not ready to publish. When we were not able to locate a death date, the editor will make another attempt to find it, and hopefully clear the documents. We are then left with a list of authors that are not in the public domain.

Our copyright research squad consists of two people, researcher Ellen Skerrett and project assistant Nina Schulze get down to the nitty gritty of copyright research.

Research

There are a number of ways to try to locate the copyright holder of a deceased author.

  • If the person’s papers are stored at an archive, you can contact them. Often times they will have some information about the person who donated the papers, or have contact with family members. A good site to search for archival holdings is Archive Grid.
  • If the person is a published author, you may be able to contact their publisher, who may know who controls the copyright on the book, or who gets royalty payments. That can lead you to the next link in the chain.
  • Otherwise, we hope to find the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or more distant relatives. Many people never dedicated their literary rights in a will, but they are assumed to fall to the heirs.

We use the genealogy site Ancestry.com and the digital newspaper site Newspaper.com, among other resources, to try to locate heirs. We look for the names of children in the available U.S. Census records, newspaper articles and obituaries, and other web-based resources. Obituaries are an invaluable resource because they update the names, especially of daughters who might have married, and in many cases provide the city or state where those survivors. We then use internet directories and phone books to try to locate current addresses.

Some people are easier to find than others. People with common surnames can be all but impossible, especially those who lived in large cities. When a person left no children, we try to go up the family tree. looking for a brother or sister, to find nephews, nieces, or cousins.  It is usually easier to locate famous people’s families — the chances are better of finding a long and detailed obituary.

We then write a letter, hoping that we have gotten the right person, and wait for a result. These letters are fun to receive, often enclosing a letter written by an ancestor to Jane Addams that opens up a new story a family’s history. Family members are often amazed and intrigued to know how we were able to find them.

Good faith efforts

We are allowed to publish without securing copyright if we make a good faith effort to locating the heirs. For us, this means following all leads that we can find, tracking all known children. One of the ways that we keep looking after we have exhausted all leads is to post the names of people we still seek on our website. The hope is that you might Google an ancestor and find the project’s site, even if we can’t find you!

If you think your (great) grandmother knew Jane Addams….

We are still searching for more Jane Addams letters. If your family history involves an late 19th or early 20th century social reformer, peace activist, or settlement worker, or if your family had roots in Chicago or worked for woman suffrage, we would love to hear from you. We can check to see whether we have any letters in the archives we have searched, and would be delighted to include any letters your family might still hold.