Cathy Moran Hajo is the Editor and Director of the Jane Addams Papers Project at Ramapo College of New Jersey. She is an experienced scholarly editor, having previously worked for over 25 years as Associate Editor at the Margaret Sanger Papers at New York University. Dr. Hajo received her Ph.D. in history from New York University in 2006, and is addition to her work on the Sanger Papers, published "Birth Control on Main Street, Organizing Clinics in the United States, 1916-1940," in 2010.
Her teaching interests include scholarly editing and digital history, and she currently teaches for the Institute for Editing Historical Documents, the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. She teaches a digital history course at Ramapo College.
The peace movement dominates Jane Addams’s work from 1914 until her death in 1935. Working through the Woman’s Peace Party, the International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Addams worked with her counterparts in many nations in a global movement to bring about peace, social justice, and equality. She also served as the de facto leader of the American women’s peace movement.
Our detailed focus on the content of the documents and our efforts to identify the people mentioned in them yields a different kind of history than one that only focuses on the leaders of movements. As we have begun publishing WILPF documents from both the United States and abroad, we are finding the names of early adherents, donors, and activists and adding them to the project’s database.
We know about Emily Greene Balch, Crystal Eastman, and Lucy Biddle Lewis, who were Addams’s coworkers for peace in the United States. But what about the rank and file? The women whose dollar donations funded the work of the WILPF? It turns out that within Jane Addams’s correspondence, we can learn about them too.
Eleanor Daggett Karsten, the secretary of the Woman’s Peace Party and then the United States Section of the WILPF, updated Addams every few weeks in 1920 with information about the women joining the new league, founded in 1919 at the International Congress of Women. As a document to add to our edition, I have to admit that each time I saw one of these multi-page columnar lists, I sighed, knowing that this one document might take a week or more to completely enter into our system due to the number of names. Thankfully, most of these lists contained street addresses, which made it easier (though not always easy!) to identify the women.
It didn’t take long to realize that instead of drudgery, adding the names of the early members of the WILPF was historical excavation of the best kind. Our biographical work is carried out in two steps. First the student or editor who enters the document into our system tries to link the name on the document to an existing name in our database. We use an Omeka-based system and a plug-in called Item Relations, to search the more than 12,0000 names in the system. When the person is not there, we add them. In this stage, the goal is to simply identify the person so that we are sure they are not duplicated and that we have verified their basic information.
We strive to add birth and death dates, full names, and a short biography, which we don’t publish until the second stage, when a student researcher does more in-depth work and drafts a full biography. Our goal is to then create relationships between the people in the edition and the organizations and events they participated in. This social network of Addams’s world being built slowly document by document, is one of the results of the project that we are most excited about. It will take time to build the data up, but it is time well spent.
For women, that means that “Mrs. Jerome H. Frank on 168 Hamptondale Road in Hubbard Woods, Illinois,” becomes “Florence Kiper Frank (1887?-?)” A draft biography, that isn’t publicly available yet notes that she was a member of the United States Section of the WILPF and was married to lawyer Jerome H. Franks and had a daughter named Barbara. Much of this comes from census records (having a street address on these lists is an enormous help), local newspapers, and other web-based resources to get accurate information. We create a bibliography pointing to the sources used so that others can follow our trail.
It is extremely exciting to find a photograph of the women, often in the U.S. Passport Applications that we access via Ancestry.com. Though the images are not of the best quality, hopefully we can add scanned originals at some point in the future. We have also found that having even these short biographical stubs accessible on the web means that family members can find the project and see the associations that their ancestors had with Addams and peace. We have already received some photographs and biographical information from family members and hope that this will increase as we add more names.
Some of the more challenging research revolves around women who worked for peace outside the United States. There are many complicating factors—misspelled or partial names, the lack of genealogical resources for most non-English speaking countries, lack of language skills among our staff to read and search foreign-language resources (Google Translate only helps so much!), and often a lack of detailed geographical information about where they lived. Many of these peace activists are hard to trace through World War II, as records of pacifists and peace organizations often did not survive the war.
But adding them, even with partial names and limited dates, accomplishes something. As we enter more documents and move into the 1920s and 1930s, we uncover the names of those who participated in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and in time we will learn more about their lives as well.
We are delighted to announce that, with a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, we will be working with a group of New Jersey high school teachers and an educator from the Jane Addams – Hull-House Museum to explore ways to use the Jane Addams Digital Edition in high school AP classes.
The award, Developing Digital Educational Modules for High School AP Courses, will support a series of virtual meetings between Addams Project staff, and a select group of high school teachers from around the state. We are especially excited to also be working with Michael Ramirez, the Education Manager at the Jane Addams – Hull-House Museum in Chicago.
Two Ramapo College teacher-education students, Allie Cheff and Marina Kaiafas, will work with the teachers and Addams staff to develop primary-source-based educational materials that draw from the digital edition.
Jane Addams’s work during the Progressive Era and early 20th century was wide-ranging, and available topics range from her work in establishing social settlements, professionalizing social work, fighting against child labor and the persecution of immigrants and African-Americans, working to win support for woman suffrage, and her efforts for peace and social justice through the Woman’s Peace Party and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
We will hold a virtual symposium at the end of the grant to talk about what we learned and make publicly available to the materials on the project’s Education hub. We will also develop a guide for archives and other editing projects to help them create similar resources based on their holdings.
Teachers invited to participate are from all over the state and have extensive teaching experience. They are: Staci Anson (Ramapo High School), Yvonne Beatrice (Mahwah High School, ret.), Katherine DeVillasanta (Clearville Regional High School), Joseph Dobis (Franklin High School), Joseph Dwyer (Nutley Public Schools), Angela Funk (Indian Hills High School), Keri Giannotti (Bloomfield High School), Scott Kercher (Sparta High School), Faye Johnson Brimm Medical Arts High School), Allison McCabe Matto (Red Bank Regional High School), Louis Moore (Red Bank Regional High School), Frank Romano, Jr. (Perth Amboy Public School), Robert Schulte (Neptune High School), and Patricia Yale (Hillsborough High Schoo).
This grant builds on work that we did a few years back, also funded by the NJ Council for the Humanities, that developed National History Day guides and lesson plans using the digital edition for middle school students. Renee Delora, who led that effort, has joined this project to provide support to the student workers.
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.’
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].
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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.
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’ life. Addams’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.
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).
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.
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.
My first visualization of the mentions data was, to be frank, underwhelming, unless you like big black boxes of goop!
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.
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.
While Emily Greene Balch, a peace activist, is far more interconnected.
The idea here is to explore the various networks that Addams built in her work for peace, social justice, social work, and other causes.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Last spring I had the pleasure of working with two undergraduate students, Taylor Lundeen and Catie Olson, enrolled in the University of Michigan’s School of Information. They worked on a capstone project on data visualization, using our Jane Addams digital edition databases. Anneliese Dehner, our web developer, helped out with the some technical aspects of the collaboration.
One of the many great things about digital publication is that the information we create can be reused and repurposed in ways that we might not have thought of. Making our data available to researchers to explore has been one of our goals from the start of our work on Jane Addams, and with this investigation we have learned what we can do fairly easily, and what is more complex.
Accessing the Data
Our first step was to get a copy of our data exported out so that Taylor and Catie could work on it. What they found worked the best was an Omeka plugin (Omeka Rest API) that allowed them to export data in a format that worked well with data manipulation software.
Our ultimate goal is to have a utility on the digital edition that will enable users to download all or parts of the data for investigation.
One problem that reared its head immediately is that we have a very large dataset, and it is growing larger every day. This made it difficult, using the tools they had available to work with the whole set.
Natural Language Processing
One of the approaches, which Catie worked on, was seeing what we could learn from analyzing the “Text” field in our database, where transcriptions are stored. This kind of analysis can track the frequency of words, or compare word usage over time. Eventually it could be used for topic modeling, where a digital tool tries to make sense of words that appear together. These groupings can uncover connections that we sometimes don’t expect.
An important step in working with our texts was data cleaning, the process by which HTML and special characters were cleaned out and text was split word by word. Then Catie built bar charts that displayed the most common words. She built a separate chart for each year to allow us to compare years to see what Addams was thinking and writing about.
The most obvious finding to me, was that we needed to think about stop words — words that are excluded in the results because they are too common or have no analytical meaning. Articles, like “a” and “the” are common stop words– we also had to consider “page” which we use to signify the next page in our transcriptions, and, gulp, even “Hull House” because we transcribed the letterhead that Jane Addams used. Other words like “Mrs,” “Mr.” and “Miss” and salutations like “Dear” are candidates for being pulled from the analysis.
We also got to see the frequency of that nemesis of editors – “illegible.” This comes up far more frequently than I would like, but I was gratified to see that in the years where we have proofread the texts, the frequency is much lower.
It will surprise no one that “peace” and “war” shot to the top in 1915.
In 1905, the most frequent words deal more with the plight of children and represent Addams’ work on child labor and welfare in Chicago.
Catie also worked on another way to show the content of Addams’ writings, plotting the frequency of a word over time. Similar to the Google n-gram viewer that can compare the frequency of words in Google Books over time, this gives you a sense of the chronology. We did not have the capacity at this point to allow users to type the words they want, but were able to produce n-grams for some of the most popular words.
Seen together, it is a little frightening, but on the live version on the site, you can select a single word to analyze.
The n-gram for “Illegible” shows the power of proofreading! When the data was downloaded for use, we had just finished proofreading 1915!
Social Network Analysis
Another approach was to see what we could learn from social network analysis. Using Omeka’s Item Relations plugin, we have been tracking relationships — mostly between documents and the people, organizations, and events that are mentioned in them. We also are building connections between people and organizations, tracking which people were members of which organizations, for example, or who participated in a specific event. We wondered whether the relationships between people and organizations might yield some interesting insights, or whether we could find other connections between people and the metadata gathered about them. Taylor was responsible for this project.
Our large dataset proved to be problematic for developing a meaningful social network based on shared connections. We think there is promise for this in future by controlling which people are included in the network, but the sheer number of people and the amount of common tags produced a daunting graph.
Instead, Taylor created a geographical visualization of Addams’s social networks related to several topics. We used our tags for movements like “Woman Suffrage,” “Child Labor,” and “Peace” and plotted their geographic locations. Compare Addams’ Settlement Movement network and her Peace network below to see the expansion of her work internationally.
It was amazing to see what two talented students could do in such a short period of time! The experience has helped us think more about how we want to make our data accessible, and has uncovered challenges that we need to think about. Our database is large and complex and developing means to limit the queries is going to be important.
We are looking forward to working with other UMSI students and any digital humanists interested in advancing this work.
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.
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”