When you edit the documents of a historical figure, you live with them as their life progressed, chronologically. They are alive with you, day in and day out, as you edit their correspondence and other papers, sometimes paused in a very concentrated place and time in their lives. As a result, I have an odd habit of thinking and speaking about the subjects of my work in the present tense. Jane Addams has been dead eighty-eight years, yet here I am in the present, for example, recording in the detailed life chronology I am creating for her: “takes the train from Paris to Marseilles.”
As I type that entry for Jan. 11, 1923, Jane Addams, in my mind, is stepping on that train. Right now she is finding her seat and beginning a conversation with her traveling companion Mary Rozet Smith. Perhaps they are talking about the RMS Kaisar i’Hind, the steamship they will meet in the Port of Marseilles that will sail them to India. Maybe they are already thrilling at the prospect of the white marble of the Taj Mahal glinting in the moonlight.
See, even my tense construction in the previous paragraph writes Jane Addams alive, at a moment in her life when she is anticipating an exciting vacation in her immediate future. And I am right in there with her on that train, dreaming of the Arabian Sea, Darjeeling and Mt. Everest, and the markets of New Delhi. I cannot wait to see what she will see. Now that I think about, maybe what my unusual problem with tense really means is that I am the one out of time. Jane Addams is not alive in my present. Rather, I am alive 100 years in the past with her.
You might think I need therapy. Maybe you just need to borrow my time machine: the editing of historical documents.
Anyway. I digress.
When I joined the Jane Addams Papers in 2017, I began working on documents from 1901 when Jane Addams was 41-years-old, in her prime, younger than I am, and with so much important work and life ahead of her. At first, her death never occurred to me at all, like it probably never occurred to her in 1901, either. She was too busy to die then, and I was too busy getting to know her for her to die.
I am now working in the 1920s and recently began proofreading transcriptions of documents from late 1922 to early 1923, when Addams was setting off on a grand tour of Asia. During that trip, she experienced a serious health scare. A lump in her breast and emergency surgery in Tokyo reminded the world and Jane Addams (and me) that she was a mortal woman. The tumor was benign, and she recovered, but I did not. I was coming on fast to her death, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and the acknowledgment of it grew a lump in my throat. For me there is an empathy for a subject that I develop in the day-to-day examination of a life, and I am the kind of historian who has been known to cry over death or tragedy that happened to people who were long dead before I was even born.
I suspect there are at least a few other editors or biographers or historians like me who feel a human connection with the past, but I will admit such an emotional reaction is probably quite strange. Perhaps even ridiculous, and so I swallowed the lump in my throat and decided to face Addams’s death and get over it. I jumped ahead to May 1935 and spent a couple hours looking at Addams’s calendar and reading the documents we have for the last month of her life.
On May 1, Jane Addams arrived in Washington, DC, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). As the founding president of the League, she was the honored guest at luncheons, participated in two international radio broadcasts, and attended a gala dinner hosted by Eleanor Roosevelt.
She was in frail health at this time, her heart still weak from a heart attack and the grief of losing her life partner, Mary Smith, who died of pneumonia in February 1934. Yet in Washington, she appeared radiant. In photos of these events, Addams is lovely, a silver-haired woman of seventy-four years commanding all audiences. In one photo, she has the undivided attention of the First Lady, and in another she is depicted with a rare smile upon her lips, enjoying a conversation with a gaggle of female reporters.
Jane Addams returned to Chicago on May 5 and holed up at her friend Louise de Koven Bowen’s home to complete the book she was writing about Julia Lathrop, her deceased friend and fellow reformer. In the following days, she presided over a Hull-House dinner for about sixty residents to tell them about her trip to Washington, worked on the manuscript and some correspondence, visited with friends, and attended a meeting and a lunch at Hull-House. On May 14, Addams went to Mercy Hospital to see an ailing Hull-House employee, penned her last known letter, and enjoyed her final dinner at Hull-House.
At 2:45 a.m. on Wednesday, May 15, Jane Addams awoke with a sudden, severe pain in her abdomen, but she did not call for help. When Louise Bowen woke up a few hours later, she found her friend quite unwell. Addams was running a fever, the doctors arrived, Addams felt a little better, failed again, and still more doctors. At 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 18, an ambulance delivered Jane Addams to Chicago Passavant Hospital, her dear friend Dr. Alice Hamilton traveling with her. When Louise Bowen arrived at the hospital soon afterward, Addams, who was sitting up in her bed reading a book, said to her worried friend: “Don’t look so solemn, dear.”
Later in the morning, Addams underwent surgery to remove a blockage in her bowel. She survived the surgery, but she would not survive the cancer. Over the next forty-eight hours, Addams was in and out of consciousness. On May 19, Weber Linn, Addams’s nephew, wrote his brother Stanley Linn, who lived in California: “Aunt Jane is old, she has done a great work, and she has never been the same since Mary Smith died.” The next day, Alice Hamilton wrote to Grace Abbott: “There is something I have told only Mrs. Bowen and Weber Linn and nobody is to be told of it, for all of JA’s doctors are agreed that she herself is not to know. She will not get well, she may have a few months of comparative comfort but if she lives on, it can only mean pain, it is quite hopeless.”
At 3 a.m. on Tuesday, May 21, Hamilton telephoned Weber Linn to come to the hospital immediately. By the time he arrived, his beloved aunt had slipped into a coma. Louise Bowen arrived at the hospital at 7 a.m. to join the daylong vigil. At 4:14 p.m., Bowen sent a telegram to Stanley Linn: “Your aunt is dying cannot last more than an hour would not advise coming much sympathy.” Bowen, Hamilton, Weber Linn, and a few Hull-House residents kept to the bedside for two more hours, until 6:15 p.m., when the good heart of Jane Addams stopped beating.
Jane Addams was dead. I could now return to where I was when I went off on this odd little death tangent. January 1923. I add the next entry in the chronology for Jan. 12: sails at 5 a.m., bound for the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, and onward to India.
By Stacy Lynn
Sources:Evening Star (Washington), May 2, 1935, 3, 22; “Peace Leader Honored at Dinner,” Evening Star, May 3, 1935, 3; “First Lady at Dinner for Jane Addams,” The Los Angeles Times, May 6, 1935, 11; “Jane Addams, , Undergoes an Operation,” Chicago Tribune, May 19, 1935, 1; “Jane Addams Gains; Hope for Recovery,” Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1935, 1; Alice Hamilton to Grace Abbott, May 20, 1935, in Barbara Sicherman, Alice Hamilton: A Life in Letters (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 353; Jane Addams to Esther Loeb Kohn, Jan. 11, 1923, Jane Addams Digital Edition; from Jane Addams Papers Microfilm: NBC International Broadcasts, Celebration of WILPF, May 3 and 4, 1935 (26:1519-20); Jane Addams to Grace Abbott, May 14, 1935 (26:1547); James Weber Linn to Stanley Linn, May 19, 1935 (45:1249); Louise de Koven Bowen to Stanley Linn, May 21, 1935 (45:1251); Certificate of Death (cause: intestinal obstruction from cancerous lesions), May 21, 1935 (27:1049); and Alice Hamilton, Account of Jane Addams’s Last Days, May 1-21, 1935 (45:1279-80). Addams’s book, My Friend Julia Lathrop, was published posthumously in November 1935.
On June 27, 1923, Jane Addams had a mastectomy, and the world held its breath. She was the most beloved woman in the United States and was respected worldwide for her reform work and efforts for international peace. News about this serious threat to her health spread rapidly in newspapers across the globe, and telegrams and letters filled with get-well wishes poured into Tokyo, where she and her partner Mary Smith had been traveling when the tumor in her right breast was discovered.
Newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane published a syndicated article on the day of her surgery, closing with: “If pure goodness, unselfishness and devotion count in Heaven as we believe they will do, Jane Addams will have a seat in front of Washington, Jefferson and many others, and very likely next to Lincoln.”
Addams’s recovery was painful and long, but the tumor was benign and she would live another twelve years, publish three more books, preside over two more international women’s congresses, and win the Nobel Peace Prize. However, already in 1923 the historical significance of Jane Addams was under consideration. Her name could sit comfortably in a sentence with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. And she was on the level with Abraham Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln and Jane Addams were worlds apart. He a man of the nineteenth century. She a woman of the twentieth. Yet their stories are connected. Their lives overlapping, their experiences across 126 years of American history were lived in the midst of revolutionary political, social, and economic change, his old-world nineteenth-century contexts evolving into her modern twentieth-century contexts. Both Lincoln and Addams were inspired by books and craved knowledge. Each of them had compassionate hearts and carried the weight of their country’s problems upon their shoulders. Both were shaped by historical events while at the same time making history by their own determined actions.
In accepting an invitation to speak on the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth in 1909, Addams wrote: “I have always been a Lincoln enthusiast.” Classic Jane Addams understatement. Abraham Lincoln was, in fact, a figure who rooted her, who guided her work to define her place and her purpose. She drew inspiration from Lincoln’s life for the entirety of her own. She was born in Illinois exactly one month before Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. Her father John Addams knew Lincoln well and supported his candidacy. One of Jane Addams’s earliest childhood memories was of the gate in front of her home in Cedarville draped in black crepe and her father weeping over President Lincoln’s death. So important the spirit of Lincoln in her life and her chosen path of social settlement work that in her autobiography Twenty Years at Hull-House she included a entire chapter entitled “The Influence of Lincoln,” in which she wrote:
Is it not Abraham Lincoln who has cleared the title to our democracy? He made plain, once for all, that democratic government, associated as it is with all the mistakes and shortcomings of the common people, still remains the most valuable contribution America has made to the moral life of the world.
In her reform work, Jane Addams connected democracy to human progress. Like Lincoln, she understood that the betterment of society meant the expansion of democratic institutions and the full inclusion of a growing number of the nation’s citizenry. She believed that equality was the answer to modern society’s most pressing problems. She saw her settlement work and efforts for social justice as an extension of the ideals Abraham Lincoln articulated.
Let [the law] become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.—Abraham Lincoln, Springfield Young Men’s Lyceum Address, Jan. 27, 1838.
That the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom.—Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863.
With malice toward none and charity for all.—Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1865.
Addams studied Lincoln, drew inspiration from his words, expanding their purpose to meet the challenges of her rapidly changing world. She applied the underlying ideals of democracy Lincoln articulated into her philosophy of social ethics to include women and immigrants. She developed those ideals into her own creative and ambitious brand of humanitarianism.
Perhaps it is woman who can best testify that the honor of women is only secure in those nations and those localities where law and order and justice prevail.—Jane Addams, “Respect for Law,” The Independent, Jan. 3, 1901.
Most immigrants have come to America because they wanted more opportunity for themselves and their children; because they believed that this was a land of freedom and equality. It is a grave matter to [willfully] destroy the ideal with which they came to us…—Jane Addams, “The Immigrant and Social Unrest,” speech in New Orleans, Apr. 19, 1920.
Our various charitable and benevolent societies and institutions, our laws for the preservation of life and health, all work to teach us the value of human life, and when this new, this broader humanitarianism, is spread worldwide, war will be a moral impossibility.—Jane Addams, “Newer Ideals of Peace,” syndicated newspaper article, Spring 1904.
Some of the activities in which Jane Addams participated were directly related to Abraham Lincoln’s legacy. After the devastating race riot in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908, Addams was the following year one of the signers of the Lincoln Birthday Call for racial equality that established the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. At Hull-House, there was an Abraham Lincoln Club and a large mural of Lincoln painted on the wall of the settlement’s theater. In 1913, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Addams published a scathing critique of America’s failure to live up to the promise of racial equality. And in 1920, Lincoln Memorial University, charted as a living memorial to Abraham Lincoln, conferred on Addams an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Over the years, Addams quoted Lincoln and connected his political positions to her reform ideas. She spoke at numerous Lincoln birthday events and put on some of her own, inviting W. E. B. Du Bois to deliver a lecture about Lincoln at Hull-House in Feb. 1907. She frequently evoked Lincoln’s legacy, like she did in 1921 in her remarks at the dedication of the woman suffrage statue of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. The suffrage statue had been placed in the U.S. Capitol next to the one of Abraham Lincoln, which had been sculpted by a woman, the artist Vinnie Ream. Addams could not resist drawing a direct line to history: “It is fitting that they should stand next to the great emancipator of another group, who has also long since transcended national boundaries,” she said.
Most of the time, however, I think that Abraham Lincoln was in the background, quietly reinforcing all that Jane Addams knew was honest and right. Her interpretation of the past, her work for a better present, and her aspirations for a brighter future world were all her own. Knowing history gave Addams confidence in her own convictions. Whether she was arguing for child labor laws, better working conditions for women, justice for immigrants or Black Americans, freedom of speech, world peace, or woman suffrage, her perspective and her ideas for improving the lives of America’s most vulnerable citizens were always rooted in a long view of history. Jane Addams was a woman who understood the past, but she was a woman who faced forward, pressing toward the future.
Yet during times when the weight of the world was too heavy, she was not afraid to draw inspiration from her idols. When she doubted herself and felt helpless to answer the big human troubles right in front of her, she glanced back over her shoulder, to Abraham Lincoln. She did just that in the violent summer of 1894, when the Pullman Strike was tearing Chicago apart. In her autobiography Twenty Years at Hull-House she wrote:
I recall during a time of great perplexity in the summer of 1894, when Chicago was filled with Federal troops sent there by the President of the United States, and their presence was resented by the governor of the state, that I walked the wearisome way from Hull-House to Lincoln Park—for no cars were running regularly at that moment of sympathetic strikes—in order to look at and gain magnanimous counsel, if I might, from the marvelous St. Gaudens statue which had been but recently placed at the entrance of the park. Some of Lincoln’s immortal words were cut into the stone at his feet, and never did a distracted town more sorely need the healing of “with charity [for] all” than did Chicago at that moment, and the tolerance of the man who had won charity for those on both sides of “an irrepressible conflict.”
It is a romantic reflection, I know. But there is profound truth in it, too. I often visit the Lincoln Tomb in Springfield or the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to find my own magnanimous council in an effort to soothe my sorrows or to silence my doubts. Like Addams, I have also experienced the solace of a quiet visit with Mr. Lincoln in the form of that magnificent statute in Lincoln Park to which Jane Addams was drawn 129 years ago. There is a magic in communing with our admired spirits of the dead. Thinking about Jane Addams making that four-mile, sultry-summer walk from Hull-House connects me to her and to Lincoln in a very human way that anchors my own study of the past. I can imagine Addams making that journey, walking at an ambling pace, her mind thinking about and her heart breaking over the striking workers and their families, the people feeling most keenly the unrest and uncertainty in Chicago. Perhaps she walked north most of the way up Halsted Street, through immigrant neighborhoods and by tenements and storefronts and quiet streetcar platforms, all the way to North Avenue, before turning right, eastward toward Lake Michigan. Arriving then at the extreme southwest corner of Lincoln Park, she made her way into the urban oasis of green space and to the twelve-foot bronze statute. It was a purposeful, meditative walk back to the past to clear the cobwebs of the present.
The threads of history are ties that bind us across the generations, and the best leaders view history as a teacher, making meaning from the past and drawing inspiration from the human beings who went before us. It is a pleasing harmony to me the spirit songs of Abraham Lincoln and Jane Addams, linked to each other, and it is my honor and privilege as a historian to have studied them both.
Speakers at the dedication of the suffrage statue in the U.S. Capitol, Feb. 15, 1920: Speaker of the House Frederick H. Gillett, Jane Addams, and poet Sarah Bard Field. I love it that the statue of Abraham Lincoln is looking on. He was in favor of woman suffrage, you know, advocating for it in an 1836 speech when he was campaigning for reelection in the Illinois House of Representatives (Collected Works, 1:49). Image courtesy of the Records of the National Woman’s Party, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
One day I was proofreading transcriptions of Jane Addams documents, spending a typical day at my desk, when I came across this paragraph in a letter from a Swiss man named Alfred Kammermann:
As I have no relations, where I could find a young lady, who would give me her heart, I respectfully request you to bring me in connection with [an] intelligent serious, kind-hearted young lady, if possible with a certain fortune, who is [prepared] to become my wife. I was thirty yesterday.
Yes, Jane, I made that face, too; and I read the letter again because I could not believe it said what I thought it said. But it did, indeed, say precisely what I thought it said. This male correspondent, writing from Bern, Switzerland, on Dec. 27, 1921, was asking Jane Addams, a world-renowned reformer, to hook him up with a woman. I have been working at the Jane Addams Papers Project for nearly six years, and I have proofread nearly 7,000 documents and read a few thousand more (FYI: we currently have 14,608 documents in our online database!). People wrote Jane Addams asking for all kinds of things—for advice or for money, to speak to their groups, to use her name in a particular cause, or to give them an introduction to someone; and there was one request from a man asking Addams to talk his wife into reconciling with him. But this is the first letter I have seen asking Jane Addams to find a man a wealthy wife.
Good Grief. What kind of a fella writes such a letter?
Well, Alfred Kammermann, who was born in Bern, Switzerland, addressed his letter to Addams as the President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), so this is likely how he knew who she was. Addams had been writing about the food crisis in Europe and lecturing widely on serious problems Europeans faced after the World War. Kammermann was, presumably, following international relief work and was an informed person. He had written to Addams before about a plan he had to educate war orphans; and although we don’t have a reply to his first letter, Jane Addams’s secretary Anna Lloyd apparently wrote Kammermann on Oct. 20, 1921, that he should see Emily Balch, the Executive Secretary of the WILPF, in Switzerland to further discuss his educational scheme. Kammermann was clearly concerned about and interested in the conditions of war-torn Europe.
Kammermann’s full letter of Dec. 27 offers some additional clues. He was currently unemployed and looking for meaningful work. He was eager to “leave in earnest the business line,” which he had taken up to support himself, but for which he had no “real interest.” He told Addams that since his early youth it was his longest wish to work for the benefit of mankind.” Kammermann also mused that some other such “project of education” might be acceptable to him or, perhaps, Addams could just give him a job with the WILPF.
After discussing himself and his reform interests, Kammermann then set up the big request:
I have still a very great, delicate and especially unpolite request, which you however will certainly understand and therefore kindest excuse, if I tell you that I work without success since then years for social problems. If I shall not [lose] soon all my energy to combat further on, I must have somebody on my side, who encourages me. Having lost my beloved mother fifteen years ago at Xmas, I have no body, to whom I can have fullest confidence.
And then he wrote the sentence that prompted this blog post, which I will repeat because it is so good in its unusualness:
As I have no relations, where I could find a young lady, who would give me her heart, I respectfully request you to bring me in connection with [an] intelligent serious, kind-hearted young lady, if possible with a certain fortune, who is [prepared] to become my wife. I was thirty yesterday.
Kammermann then apologizes (as well he should!):
Please do not consider it as an unpolite request, but please try to understand my feeling.
The end of the letter reads like a thousand other letters I’ve read: polite and not at all weird:
May I by this opportunity offer you, though too late, my sincerest congratulations for a happy New Year, trusting that you may always enjoy of best health and of a happy futurity. Trusting to be honoured with an early and favourable reply, and thinking you in advance very sincerely for your great kindness, I have the honour to be, dear Madam, Very respectfully Yours, Alfred Kammermann.
Apparently, Jane Addams did not answer Kammermann’s Dec. 27 letter, because he wrote her again on Jan. 18, 1922, asking her to confirm receipt of his letter of Dec. 27. In his January letter, Kammermann asked for help in obtaining a loan to begin his educational scheme. He does not mention his previous request for a wife. Whew. Maybe he took better hold of his senses.
There is no evidence at all Jane Addams helped this poor lonely guy find a wife because, of course, she would not have done so. For the purposes of this quick blog post, I was unable to do the kind of research necessary to figure out if Alfred Kammermann ever realized his goals to educate war orphans or ever married. Quick searches in a few online databases yielded nothing but a Swiss document indicating Kammermann was born in Bern in 1891 and traveled to Shanghai in February 1920. Not enough information to understand him. From the ten letters related to Kammermann in the Jane Addams Digital Edition (JADE), we know that in late 1922 he put together a fairly detailed proposal for educating European orphans and shopped it around. In the proposal he argued:
The whole world is in duty bound to adopt and support a scheme for the education and well-being of the thousands of unfortunate war orphans, many of whom suffered great hardship and untold misery, from which they have not yet been able to escape.
Kammermann was, it seems, a caring man, concerned for the welfare of humanity. On Sep. 23, 1922, Emily Balch wrote Kammermann:
Miss Addams and I read your proposition about the education of war orphans with great interest, but as we are obliged to restrict our work very strictly to the programme of our league as defined in the enclosed leaflet, we are sorry not to be able to deal with it officially or in public. We keep your letter filed among our documents and shall be glad to show it to any of the guests of Maison Internationale interested especially in this nation.
I don’t know if Kammermann ever got his project to educate war orphans off the ground. Nor do I know if he ever found a wife (I hope so). Part of me wishes I did know the answers. Part of me suspects he failed on both counts. Drawing from the phrasing of his letters and reading between the lines, to me he seems to have been something of a lost soul, groping for purpose. Kind of like this blog post, groping for purpose beyond being amused by this poor lonely guy hoping Jane Addams would introduce him to a good woman.
Sometimes the incoming letters we collect lead to significant stories that illuminate fascinating historical contexts, and sometimes they offer only mildly interesting vignettes that make us smile.
By Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor
Sources: Swiss Overseas Emigration, 1910-1953, Records on ancestry.com; letters from the Jane Addams Digital Edition: Alfred Kammermann to Jane Addams, Nov. 23, 1921; Dec. 27, 1921; Jan. 18, 1922; Aug. 23, 1922; and Oct. 6, 1922; Alfred Kammermann to Emily Greene Balch, Aug. 23, 1922; and Oct. 4, 1922; Alfred Kammermann, “Proposition for the Education of War Orphans in Europe,” Aug. 1922; Emily Greene Balch to Alfred Kammermann, Sep. 23, 1922; Adolf Finkler to Jane Addams, July 9, 1921, and Sep. 16, 1921. Image of Jane Addams looking weary, courtesy of Chicago Tribune, May 1, 1905, 3.
I am an impatient woman, which makes me feel particularly indebted to patient women like Jane Addams who struggled year after year after year to convince men to give them the right to vote. I salute those women and whisper to their spirits that I am grateful for their patience and that it is lucky good they didn’t have to count on me. I would have wanted to bonk upside their heads those men in power who looked on, made fun, and kept saying “NO!” That the suffragists stayed the persistent course in the face of persistent rejection in order to gain a right so obvious (yes, even back then it was obvious) is heroic to me. I would have found it quite impossible to maintain for decades the energy it took to keep advocating, educating, marching, lobbying, writing, and coming up with new arguments and new nonviolent activities to bring awareness to the injustice of men denying women the right to vote, only to fail in that effort over and over and over again.
Suffragists were superheroes. They are my superheroes.
However, I must admit that it is a challenge sometimes to study the woman suffrage movement knowing how many freaking years it was going to take to be successful. It is hard to see some of the suffrage activities through the long and winding history of the movement as anything other than futile. But, thankfully, there are some suffrage efforts so inspired, so bursting with wisdom and enthusiasm that I wish I could have been there fighting with those goddesses of persistence.
Take the 1909 suffrage train from Chicago to Springfield as one shining example.
In the spring of 1909, there were three suffrage bills bouncing around like playground balls in the Illinois State Capitol, because there were a few suffrage supporters among the men in the Illinois General Assembly (Senators William M. Brown and Charles L. Billings, along with Rep. James M. Kittleman, all of Cook County, for example, each introduced suffrage bills). One such measure was a long-shot constitutional amendment to grant universal suffrage to Illinois women. There was also a Senate bill to allow Illinois women to vote in city and state elections, which had little-to-no support in the House. And there was the Chicago Municipal Suffrage Bill to give women in Chicago the right to vote in city elections. Illinois suffragists understood that the constitutional measure was on par with “when pigs fly,” but they were hopeful for the third measure and praying for the second, which would render the third measure moot.
Enter Superhero Catharine Waugh McCulloch.
McCulloch, a lawyer and justice of the peace in Evanston, Illinois, was chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association. In order to raise public awareness of the suffrage bills and hit members of the Illinois legislature with reasoned arguments, coming at them from every angle imaginable, she spearheaded a star-studded, public spectacle, suffrage extravaganza. The event was to start in Chicago with a special suffrage train filled with the “wisest and most influential women” in Illinois, continue with whistle-stop suffrage speeches in six cities on the way to Springfield, and culminate in a public hearing of joint committees of the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives at the State Capitol Building. It would be the biggest, boldest lobbying effort of the Illinois suffrage movement to date, a giant push to collect new converts to the cause.
Superhero Jane Addams was one of the other women leading the charge.
Addams was a member of the municipal suffrage committee in Chicago. In January the committee set up headquarters in the Stratford Hotel and “began the work of canvassing the entire city for the right to vote.” They held Saturday morning meetings and covered the city with posters. In February, Addams sent a suffrage postcard to her sister, writing: “Doesn’t this look as if our new movement was coming on?” The suffragists in Illinois were turning up the heat, as Addams declared in March: “There are plenty of things we need in this country for the protection of the health and the morals of our people. We could have them if we would ask for them, but the men won’t ask for them, and the women cannot.”
The women would, therefore, descend upon Springfield to make the case. On Tuesday, April 13, the special train, costing $5.50 for the round-trip fare and with a reported 150 suffragists on board, left Chicago on the Chicago & Alton Railroad at 10:30 in the morning. The train arrived at the first whistle stop in Joliet an hour later. Leading a group of four women who addressed a crowd at the Alton Depot of several hundred from a platform at the rear of the train, Jane Addams said:
“For many years the women have gone to Springfield, and in fact to all the capitals in the United States, asking for the right of voting. Their enfranchisement is no longer considered a radical move. The adherents of the move have steadily grown in numbers until today the movement has assumed an important position throughout the world. The women of today are treated in many ways the same as men. They have equal responsibilities and should be enfranchised. In Finland, which is a part of Russia, there are women in the parliament. It is hard to believe that America would be behind such a country in a matter so important. Belgium, England, and English colonies are giving more and more rights to women, and Illinois should not be in the rear. We ask reasonably for your sympathy in this movement. You have representatives in the legislature. Those men are anxious to please their constituents. A delegation of women is not going to have much weight with them, but your wishes will. We ask you to use what influence you have for our cause. It is but a reasonable request.”
A reasonable request, indeed.
After the rousing stop at Joliet, the suffrage train continued on, stopping in Pontiac, Lexington, Bloomington, Atlanta, and Lincoln. Greeted by large crowds at each depot, the women took turns on the rear platform making their case for the vote. The Joliet News called them the “Conquering Heroines.”
At the hearing the next day, Senator Kittleman gave the chair and gavel to Jane Addams, who introduced each of the nineteen suffrage speakers, all women except for one. Each of the speakers made their unique arguments in favor of woman suffrage grounded in their own particular experiences. The sheer magnitude of this brilliant lobbying effort was inspiring. By way of celebrating all the superheroes who took part I offer the full roster of speakers and the titles of their speeches:
“Increasing Evidence that Women Want the Ballot,” Ella Stewart (1871-1945), President of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association, married to Oliver Stewart, a former member of the Illinois legislature
“Changing Public Opinion toward Municipal Suffrage,” Elia W. Peattie (1862-1935), Chicago Tribune literary editor
“The Indirect Benefits of the Ballot,” Anna Nicholes (1865-1917), settlement worker and clubwoman
“The Ethics of Equal Suffrage,” Prof. Herbert L. Willett (1864-1944), University of Chicago Professor of languages and literature
“The Lack of the Ballot the Handicap of the Working Girl,” Agnes Nestor (1880-1948), a trade union organizer representing the International Glove Worker’s Association
“The Need of the Ballot for Working Women,” Margaret Dreier Robins (1868-1945), President of the Chicago branch of the Women’s Trade Union League
“The Woman Official and the Ballot,” Catharine Waugh McCulloch (1862-1945)
“The Farmer’s Wife and the Ballot,” Norah Burt Dunlap (1856-1932) a clubwoman from Savoy, Illinois
“The Professional Woman and the Ballot,” Marjorie Gomery of Rockford, Illinois
“The Foreign Woman and the Ballot,” Lilian Anderson, (b. c. 1883), a librarian at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois
“The College Associations for Equal Suffrage,” Harriet Grimm (b. c. 1886), who earned her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1908
“Church Interests and Suffrage for Women,” Eugenia Bacon (1853-1933), a clubwoman from Decatur, Illinois
“The Ballot for Women and Progressive Legislation,” Mary McDowell (1854-1936), director of the University of Chicago Settlement
“The Experiences of the Chicago Municipal Suffrage Campaign,” Mrs. William Hill
“Improved Sanitary Legislation and the Ballot,” Dr. Caroline Hedger (1868-1951), a Chicago physician
“The Justice of Equal Suffrage,” Rev. Kate Hughes (b. 1854), minister of a church in Table Grove, Illinois, and former president of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association
“The Attitude of the Illinois Club Woman toward Equal Suffrage,” Elizabeth Hawley Everett (1857-1940), President of Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs, Highland Park, Illinois
“Modern Philanthropy and the Ballot for Women,” Flora Witkowsky (1869-1944), President of Jewish Chicago Women’s Aid
“The Ballot for Woman and Legal Protection of Children,” Harriet Park Thomas (1865-1935), Secretary of the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago
None of the measures about which the speakers hoped to inspire legislative action that day passed into law. However, the suffragists won some allies and shifted momentum in their favor. They showed up and they proved they were in it to win it. They were determined to persevere, and just because I know it would take another four years until Illinois women would win voting rights does not render that suffrage train and hearing futile. The superhero suffragists did not get what they wanted in April 1909, but they made some serious noise and changed the game. The suffrage train of 1909 and the hearing orchestrated by the dynamic Catharine Waugh McCulloch and conducted by the cool and collected manner of Jane Addams was the dramatic beginning of the final push.
Nineteen cheers for these nineteen superheroes. And a hundred cheers for their persistence.
The legislative suffrage campaign in Illinois had begun in 1891 with a failed vote on a constitutional amendment to grant woman suffrage, continuing with more failed bills in 1893, 1895, 1897, 1901, 1903, 1905, 1907, and 1909. Finally in 1913, the Illinois legislature voted on S.B. 63 to grant women aged 21 and older full presidential and municipal suffrage and partial state and county suffrage. The vote in the Senate was 29 to 15 in favor of passage. In the House, the successful vote was 83 to 58. The suffragists had never wilted in the face of rejection. They were persistent. They kept on asking for the vote. And on June 26, 1913, when the bill became law, Catharine Waugh, Jane Addams, and all the other suffrage heroes finally got the answer they deserved.
Sources: Steven M. Buechler, The Transformation of the Woman Suffrage Movement: The Case of Illinois, 1850-1920 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1986), 174-82; Rima Lunin Schultz and Adele Hast, eds., Women Building Chicago (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 560-65, 623-26, 634-36, 846-49; Martha G. Stapler, ed., Woman Suffrage Year Book (New York: National Woman Suffrage Association, 1917), 16, 29; 46th Illinois General Assembly, listed in John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 265-67; Laws of the State of Illinois (1913). 333; “An Act to confer the right to vote at municipal elections upon women citizens of the city of Chicago,” Mar. 23, 1909; Journal of the House of Representatives of the 46th General Assembly of the State of Illinois (Springfield: State Printers, 1909), 324; “An Act granting women the right to vote at certain elections,” Jan. 11, 1910, Journals of the Senate and House of Representatives, Special Session of the 46th General Assembly (Springfield: State Printers, 1910), 86, 218; “Petticoat Diplomacy,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 17, 1908, p. 7; “Chicago Suffragettes to Stop in Joliet Thirty Minutes,” The Joliet Evening Herald-News, Apr. 8, 1909, p. 3; “Crowds Gather at Stations,” Chicago Tribune, Apr. 14, 1909, p. 3; “Critic Fires Hot Blast at Suffragists,” The (Chicago) Inter Ocean, Apr. 14, 1909, p. 1, 3; “The Conquering Heroines Came,” The Joliet News, Apr. 15, 1909, p. 3; Illinois Equal Suffrage Association Flyer, c. April 1909, Jane Addams Papers Microfilm Edition, 41:1082; and from the Jane Addams Digital Edition (JADE): Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, Feb. 23, 1909; Jane Addams Says that American Women are Slower, March 19, 1909; Woman Suffrage Is Needed in Chicago, March 24, 1909; Jane Addams to Agnes Nestor, April 9, 1909; Jane Addams to Agnes Nestor, April 9, 1909; Address to Women’s Suffrage Rally at Joliet, Illinois, April 13, 1909.
Images: Elizabeth Hawley Everett in Illinois Club Bulletin 1 (Oct. 1909): 2; Lathrop/Addams/McDowell, Nestor, Ella Stewart, and NYC parade, all from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs; Suffrage Train from The (Chicago) Inter Ocean, Apr. 14, 1909, p. 3: Postcard, JADE.
In the wealthy suburb of Highland Park, Illinois, a place where Jane Addams sometimes vacationed on the shore of Lake Michigan, a gunman with a high-powered assault rifle mowed down innocent people attending the city’s Independence Day parade. In a planned attack, from an elevated position, the gunman killed 7 people and injured 30 more. It was another preventable tragedy in a long-line of preventable tragedies in a country in which mass shootings are, outrageously, normal. The Gun Violence Archive in Washington, DC, reported on July 5, 2022, that there have been 318 mass shootings this year, ten alone on July 4 ( including the one in Highland Park). A physician, who was at the Highland Park parade and attended to the victims in the aftermath of the shootings, told a CNN reporter that the injuries he saw were “wartime injuries,” bodies “blown up by that gunfire—blown up.”
But it wasn’t a war zone. It was a parade.
Every day there is a new mass shooting (or two, or three…), and every day I am horrified, like the majority of us, who want gun legislation to stop this madness, are horrified. I can barely read the news anymore for the horrendous stories of senseless gun violence, story after story of people murdered by men with military-grade weapons designed for the battlefields of war.
Someone asked me what Jane Addams would think about this constant violence, about people gunned down in churches, grocery stores, public spaces, and schools. Jane Addams, a pacifist, would be heartsick. She would be in disbelief that she had worked so hard to get small children out of the factories and into classrooms, only to see that 100 years later children are not safe in their schools. She would be disgusted, like she was disgusted by the lynching of Black Americans in her era. She would be shocked, like she was shocked over the unthinkable deaths of more than 600 people, many of them children, burned alive in 1903 in the Iroquois Theatre Fire in Chicago because fire safety laws went unenforced. Most importantly, she would be furious with the inaction of our leaders and would turn that fury into action. If she were alive today, she would be lobbying in Springfield and in Washington, demanding change.
So, of course, I wondered if Jane Addams had any wisdom to impart on the subject of firearms and gun control. And as is always the case when I search the Jane Addams Digital Edition for answers to our modern problems or consolations for our current sorrows, I find in the words she left us nuggets of wisdom, truth, prescient observation, astute analysis, and sane advice. What I was not ready for this time, however, was the setting—Highland Park, Illinois—of the first nugget I found when I starting searching for “guns” and “gun control” and “firearms” in Jane Addams’s papers, dated from 1901-1931.
Below is a sampling of what I found. Some of it is eerie in its relevance:
On Dec. 21, 1903, two armed cavalry soldiers, who had deserted their post at Fort Sheridan, held up a hotel clerk and guests in Highland Park, Illinois, at gun point and robbed them of cash and personal possessions. Upon hearing the news, Howard H. Gross, a Chicago attorney, advocated repeal of the Chicago ordinance, passed in 1881, which made it unlawful “for any person within the limits of the city to carry or wear under his clothes, or concealed about his person, any pistol, colt or slung shot, cross knuckles, or knuckles of lead, brass or other metal, or bowie knife, dirk knife or dirk, razor or dagger, or any other dangerous or deadly weapon.” Jane Addams weighed in on the suggestion the following day, declaring it “a most pernicious idea.”
Lawlessness would only be encouraged by such a measure. Enforcement of the existing laws is the proper remedy for crime.
In 1907, the Peace Association of Friends published a pamphlet that asked the question: “Do We Want Rifle Practice in Public Schools?” The effort was a response to a growing military preparedness movement in the United States in which advocates argued that children should conduct military drills in school. Jane Addams, who had served three years on the Chicago Board of Education, was not having it and offered this statement for publication:
I am of course shocked at any proposition to introduce rifle practice into the public schools. The increasing number of accidents and murders due to the totally unnecessary and illegal “carrying of concealed weapons,” makes it difficult to understand why familiarity with fire arms should be encouraged. If war is to continue, at least let us insist that the use of fire arms shall be confined to the soldier, as strictly as the surgeon’s knife is limited to the man professionally prepared to use it.
In an article about juvenile delinquency published in the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1909, Addams wrote:
There is an entire series of difficulties directly traceable to foolish and adventurous persistence in carrying loaded firearms. The morning paper of the day on which I am writing records the following:
A party of boys, led by Daniel O’Brien, thirteen years old, had gathered in front of the house, and O’Brien was throwing stones at [Niezgodzki] in revenge for a whipping that he had received at his hands about a month ago. The Polish boy ordered them away and threatened to go into the house and get a revolver if they did not stop.
Pfister, one of the boys in O’Brien’s party, called him a coward, and, when he pulled a revolver from his pocket, dared him to put it away and meet him in a fist fight in the street.
Instead of accepting the challenge [Niezgodzki] aimed his revolver at Pfister and fired. The bullet crashed through the top of his head and entered the brain. He was rushed to the Alexian Brother’s Hospital, but died a short time after being received there. [Niezgodzki] was arrested and held without bail.
This tale could be duplicated almost every morning; what might be merely a boyish scrap is turned into a tragedy because some boy has a revolver.
In 1927, during Prohibition and much gang violence in Chicago, Addams published an essay that appeared in The Prevention and Cure of Crime, Discussed by the American Crime Study Commission. In that essay, she argued:
The sale of arms should be prohibited, for if a criminal has a gun he will shoot, and that he will try to shoot first, when in danger of arrest is perfectly obvious. We have had a great deal of shooting in our neighborhood in Chicago in connection with bootlegging. Illicit liquor is stored in empty warehouses, in stores and in the basements of disused houses. Bootleggers are much afraid of being detected not only by Federal officers and the police, but by the hijacker—the man who steals goods which are already illicit, so it is almost impossible to arrest him as a thief.
For all of these reasons the bootleggers employ lookouts to protect their goods, sometimes blocks away, and many of them are boys and very young men. Of course, many of these boys are armed. In fact, they do not like the job unless they are armed. They know that not only the hijackers, but the Federal officers and the police are armed, and in the spirit of sheer excitement they also wish to be armed “to the teeth.” Of course, the whole situation becomes dangerous to the community, perhaps most of all to the innocent passer-by.
In a statement supporting the presidential candidacy of Herbert Hoover in 1928, Addams argued:
What the prohibition situation needs first of all is “disarmament,” if this necessitates federal control of the sale of firearms so much the better, but whatever is necessary for the final result, the government agents should promptly be taught some other method than those of gunmen. That the police of the Irish Free State established immediately after the evacuation of the English Black and Tans and after Ireland’s civil war, could go unarmed in the midst of a population still carrying “concealed weapons,” encourages me to believe that brave and conscientious men may be found in America who realize that it is their business to bring the culprit to court.
In a speech at the Conference on the Cause and Cure of War in Washington, D.C., in January 1931, Jane Addams, clear and loud as a clanging bell, said:
About two years ago, a bill was introduced into the legislature of Massachusetts, in an attempt to control banditry, which has developed so rapidly into our American cities, by curtailing the manufacture as well as the purchase of firearms. While this bill was being discussed, it is said that a telegram came from Washington, stating that such legislation was contrary to the National defense policy, that wished the manufacturing of firearms to go on at a good pace, so that in time of war, arms might be easily available.
We have not gotten to the point of discussing this in Chicago, or reducing it to law, but you all know very well that our situation would be enormously improved in every great city, if some such law were passed.
Our thugs are armed and our policemen are armed, so it is largely a question of who shall shoot first; one sometimes longs for the English police who carry no arms…
Dear Jane Addams, please come back to help us. Please. We need you.
Over the past couple of years, as I’ve worked to contextualize the documents we have chosen to publish in Volume 4 of The Selected Papers of Jane Addams, I have made a good effort to decipher Jane Addams’s engagement diary. She kept an annual engagement calendar during most of her years in Chicago, although some of them are more rich with details about her life than others. As with any such diary a person keeps, the diaries we have for Jane Addams are riddled with abbreviations and cryptic notes, and some entries are impossible to understand. Addams’s handwriting, which was abominable even in her professional correspondence, is particularly illegible in these private diaries, and the microfilm images we use at the Jane Addams Papers Project (the originals are located in the Jane Addams Memorial Collection at the University of Illinois Chicago) add to the difficulty. Yet despite all the problems with reading these diary entries, they are invaluable.
Snapshots of these calendar entries offer a good sense of the cadence of Addams’s life, especially when she was in Chicago. They help us track her meetings and lectures, doctor’s appointments, and her special engagements, likes dinners and teas, with friends, family, and fellow reformers. Sometimes Addams would record the speaking fee she collected for a speech, particular trains on which she traveled, or the people she stayed with when she was on the road. Other entries indicate various Hull-House activities she attended or groups she hosted at the settlement. And particularly exciting for me as an editor ferreting out Addams’s daily life and activities, often a diary entry corroborates something Addams mentioned in her correspondence or, better still, provides the definitive clue that helps me unlock the mystery of a vague reference in a letter.
By way of celebrating this hidden treasure chest of documents, I thought it might be fun to offer a Day in the Life of Jane Addams. I’ve chosen a week in the spring of 1906, when Addams was up to her eyeballs with work as a leading member of the Board of Education of the City of Chicago. From the images I’ve provided, you can see for yourself what we are up against with Jane Addams’s dreadful penmanship and get a feel for her daily life. For each day in the calendar, I offer a translation of her entries, followed by sources, which corroborate or contextualize the entries or add the fullness of particular day.
Since a trip in early February to Baltimore for speeches at the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association convention and for the Maryland Child Labor Committee, Addams had been in Chicago. She was in her first year on the school board, having been appointed in July 1905, and was serving as chairman of the School Management Committee. Regular school board meetings prevented extensive travel and the work load monopolized much of her time. However, a latecomer to woman suffrage, she was finding time to carve out a new place for herself in the movement. In the spring she was also involved with the National Tuberculosis Exhibition at the Chicago Public Library. On April 2, 1906, she shared the podium with Illinois Governor Charles Deneen, at the exhibit’s grand opening.*
Monday, April 9
2.30 School Mag’t
The Chicago Board of Education had offices on the sixth, seventh, and eighth floors of the Tribune Building, which was located at the corner of Dearborn and Madison streets in Chicago’s business district. Addams likely traveled to and from most meetings on the trolleys; there was a station on Halsted Street near Hull-House. At this afternoon meeting, Addams and her committee considered actions against a chemistry and physics teacher at Jefferson High School for fighting with a school janitor. Thomas H. Furlong made his case for self-defense, and the committee somewhat sympathized with his argument that the janitor had struck first. However, the committee also determined the teacher may have verbally provoked the affray, and because a student had witnessed the fight the committee recommended a one-week suspension for Furlong.
“Fighting Teacher Loses,” The Inter Ocean (Chicago), April 10, 1906, p. 2; “Teacher Suspended a Week for Fighting the Janitor,” Chicago Tribune, April 10, 1906, p. 18.
Tuesday, April 10
H.H. trustees 
As the chairman of the Board of Education’s School Management Committee, Addams was also a member of the Board’s Finance Committee. After attending a meeting of the Finance Committee downtown, she hurried back to Hull-House for the regular meeting of the trustees of the Hull-House Association at 4:00 p.m. Meeting with Addams, who was the president, were trustees Mary Wilmarth, Helen Carver, Mary Rozet Smith, and Allen Pond. The trustees accepted Culver’s proposal to sign over Hull-House land, which she owned, to the Hull-House Association; and they discussed plans for the proposed Boys’ Club. At some point during this same day, Addams declined an offer from a publisher who was interested in turning a series of autobiographical articles, which had recently come out in Ladies’ Home Journal, into book form. Addams noted she liked the idea and had made an outline, but was “so immersed in the Chicago School Board,” she wrote, “that I find it hard to pull my mind out of it long enough to think of books.” This was, of course, an early discussion about Twenty Years at Hull-House, which would be published in 1910.
[two illegible words smudged under “dentist”]
4 P.M. [illegible name] Hall
5.00 106 Randolph
Mrs Blaine dine
Bd. of Ed.
There are no letters in 1906 discussing dental work, but Addams did suffer some problems with her teeth over the years. Although dental hygiene was a new science at this time, most people only went to the dentist when they had to go; routine cleanings were not yet the norm. Board of Education meetings were held in the evenings on alternate Wednesdays. Prior to this meeting, Addams dined with Anita McCormick Blaine, who was one of her fellow school board trustees, perhaps at a restaurant on Randolph Street, which was just two blocks north of the Board of Education offices. The two women may have then traveled to the meeting together. It is also possible the meeting with Blaine had nothing at all to do with what Addams was doing on Randolph at 5 p.m. At the school board meeting, Addams’s School Management Committee offered reports on several issues, including the graduation of three young women from the Chicago Normal School and recommending the full board grant them elementary school teaching certificates. Addams also presided over a contentious discussion about high school fraternities and athletic programs, and she recommended the board enforce a rule that prohibited fraternity members from becoming a member of a school athletic organization. The specific reasons for Addams’s opinion are not known, and the board did not solve the issue that night. At the meeting, however, there was a unanimous vote to disallow private competitions for the city’s school children. Addams argued that the “Granting of these medals and other prizes is not a movement for education. It fosters rivalry rather than wholesome competition among the pupils, and has just the opposite effect to that which is intended.”
“Dental Hygiene’s Grand History, RDH Magazine, July 1, 2010 (online); “Renews Fight on ‘Frats,’” Chicago Tribune, April 12, 1906, p. 3; School Management Committee to Board of Education, Report of Diplomas, April. 11, 1906, Jane Addams Papers Microfilm (JAPM), 39:1158; Statement on Chicago Board School Action, April 12, 1906, JADE. For a letter Addams received on this day in her capacity as a school board member, see: Lilian Smith Haines to Jane Addams, April 11, 1906, JADE.
Thursday, April 12
3 Dr [Hebert?]
3.30-4 Mrs Henrotin
to see newspapers
The doctor reference is curious, and I was unable to identify him (bad spelling, Jane?); nor can I decide if the squeezed in text goes with the good doctor or is another appointment wedged into a busy day. Addams and Ellen Henrotin, a well-known Chicago clubwoman, were serving together on a municipal suffrage committee organized in Chicago to lobby the city charter convention to give women the right to vote. They had been meeting since January and had participated in a mass meeting about suffrage at Hull-House on Sunday, April 8. Addams and Henrotin were likely meeting about their suffrage work on that committee. Addams was likely going to see various newspaper reporters or editors to shop a lengthy article she had written on municipal suffrage, because less than a week after seeing newspapers, at least two of them published the article. At the end of her busy Thursday, Addams attended a session on “The School and Tuberculosis” at the National Tuberculosis Exhibition.
“Women Demand to Vote,” ChicagoTribune, April 9, 1906, p. 11; “To Rid Schools of Tuberculosis,” ChicagoTribune, April 13, 1906, p. 3; Statement on Woman’s Suffrage, January 18, 1906; Statement on Tuberculosis at The School and Tuberculosis Conference, April 12, 1906; Pleads for Suffrage, April 17, 1906, both in JADE.
Friday, April 13
11 a.m. C.J.W. at H.H.
[Hebert?] 4 School Mag’t Moody Play
I have no clue what “C.J.W.” might be, but I suspect it was an organization (Chicago Council of Jewish Women, perhaps?) rather than a person; and there is that mysterious Hebert again. A Board of Education School Management Meeting was cancelled. And finally some leisure for Addams in the evening, when she went to the Garrick Theatre in Chicago to see a play. The theater was in the Schiller Building, which was designed by architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. The play was “A Sabine Woman,” written by the poet and playwright William Vaughn Moody. Addams was an admirer of Moody’s work, in 1901 writing him a letter of thanks for his poem—“On a Soldier Fallen in the Philippines” published in The Atlantic Monthly—which gave her “clarity and comfort.”
On this day, the Chicago Eagle (admittedly not the most reliable of historical resources) reported that Addams and a group of women representing the Consumers’ League met with a Dr. Whalen of the Chicago health commission about meat inspection in the city. This could be the 10 a.m. entry here, but I’m not not even close to certain. I am certain, however, that the second engagement here was a planning meeting of the Chicago municipal suffrage committee, which took place at the Municipal Museum. In the evening, Addams attended a meeting of the Women’s Trade Union League, probably at Hull-House, where it regularly met. As for the dinner afterwards, your guess is as good as mine. If you know the answer, let us know!
Chicago Eagle, April 14, 1906, p. 7; “Women Plan for Ballot,” Chicago Tribune, April 15, 1906, p. 68.
Sunday, April 15
2.30 Brands Hall
Erie & Clark sts
This was Easter Sunday, and Anita Blaine, who was a Hull-House donor as well as a friend, sent a lilac bush to the settlement in celebration. Brand’s Hall, which was located on the corner of Erie and Clark streets, was an auditorium in the Chicago business loop northwest of Hull-House. Perhaps Addams attended an Easter performance of some sort, although I could not find any mention of one in her letters or in the Sunday newspapers. Later in the day, she attended the Tuberculosis Exhibition, still underway at the Chicago Public Library.
And so you can see that Jane Addams was a busy woman, and the editors at the Jane Addams Papers are always busy, too, trying to figure out what the heck she was doing and struggling to decipher the woman’s handwriting. At the end of this particular busy week, Addams declined an engagement at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, writing: “I have delayed replying to your cordial letter hoping that I might be able to accept your very attractive invitation. But I have already so many engagements for June and School Board affairs entail so many special appointments for the second and third weeks of that month that I really cannot add another thing.”
I’m exhausted just thinking about the rapid pace of Jane Addams’s daily life, but I never tire of editing her papers. Studying her life and her work is a privilege. Even with the daily frustration of reading her handwriting, it’s a pretty darn good gig.
by Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor
*Sources:Board of Education, City of Chicago, 1905-1906 (Chicago: Board of Education, 1906), 6-9; “What the Woman Suffragists Will Do Today,” TheBaltimoreSun, February 9, 1906, p. 7; “Miss Jane Addams Speaks,” TheInterOcean (Chicago), Feb. 11, 1906, p. 3; JA Diary, April 9-15, 1906; “Phthisis Show Opens Tonight,” ChicagoTribune, April 2, 1906, p. 10, JAPM, 29:1181; Jane Addams to Edward A. Ross, April 16, 1906, JADE.
A man once asked me if I thought anyone would see me as a serious scholar wearing such heavy eyeliner. I am sorry now that I did not defend myself to him. But I was a young scholar then, lacking confidence. He was an old scholar, lacking good manners. People called him a curmudgeon, but I called him words that were not euphemisms for what he was. Under my breath, of course. Today if he said such a thing to me, my retort might give him a little ‘ole heart attack. But back then I was polite to my own detriment. I ignored his comment and went on with my life. In eyeliner.
Fast forward about twenty-five years.
Recently, I ran across a photograph of Jane Addams I’d never seen before. In the photo she is young, her face smooth and unlined, and her extraordinary, expressive eyes are bright, and also as yet unlined. She is wearing a hat with a curved brim, atop of which is what looks like a slouchy dark velvet adorned with GIANT chrysanthemum-like flowers, six at least, perched slightly off center. I gaped at the magnificent chapeau atop her brilliant mind, and before I could stop myself, I said out loud, to Jane Addams on my computer screen: “Oh my god, woman, how did people take you seriously in that hat!”
I covered my mouth. My eyes scanned the room as if searching for anyone who might have heard me. Shame on me. Shame, because my mind had immediately conjured the memory, for first time in years, of that old, rude, sexist scholar who dissed me for wearing eyeliner. And now I was dissing Jane Addams for wearing a hat. I know Jane Addams is dead, so it wasn’t like I could actually offend her, or offend anyone for that matter, alone as I was in my home office. But I was so mad at myself for making fun of Addams’s hat out loud with such vehemence, that I answered my own question: “Well, Stace, how does anyone take you seriously in such heavy eyeliner?”
Maybe some people don’t take me seriously in heavy eyeliner, but I am old enough and confident enough in myself and my abilities that I do not care. I’ve written books and given lectures and appeared in history documentaries in eyeliner. I am not a flashy dresser, but I like eyeliner. So what? Jane Addams was a serious woman, a determined advocate for the underprivileged, an innovative reformer, and a brilliant thinker and writer. She lived in the era of spectacular hats, and after a quick search through pictures of her, it became as obvious as the painted lines around my eyeballs that Jane Addams loved a spectacular hat. I still think she might have crossed over the milliner’s line with the chrysanthemum one, but what if she did? So what?
In 1896, Jane Addams visited Leo Tolstoy at his country estate Yasnaya Polyana, south of Moscow. When she met him that day, she was wearing a dress with extraordinary sleeves, and Tolstoy chastised her for them. In 1911, she published an account of that meeting in McClure’s, writing:
“Tolstoy, standing by clad in peasant garb, listened gravely, but, glancing distrustfully at the sleeves of my traveling gown, which, unfortunately, at that season were monstrous in size, took hold of an edge and, pulling out one sleeve to an interminable breadth, said that there was enough stuff on one arm to make a frock for a little girl, and asked me directly if I did not find ‘such a dress a barrier to the people.’ I was too disconcerted to make a very clear explanation, although I tried to say that, monstrous as my sleeves were, they did not compare in size with those of the working-girls in Chicago, and that nothing would more effectively separate me from ‘the people’ than a cotton blouse following the simple lines of the human form; that even if I had wished to imitate him and ‘dress as a peasant,’ it would have been hard to choose which peasant among the thirty-six nationalities we had recently counted in the Hull-House neighborhood.”
I guess you might say Tolstoy was kind of like the old scholar who questioned my eyeliner. Way more accomplished, of course, but still, rather rude. And Jane Addams might have been stung by Tolstoy’s comments, like I was stung, and clearly she was thinking about them fifteen years later. Yet although she most always wore plain and simple frocks, she never shied away from a magnificent hat. She worked hard and dedicated her life to helping others, so I think it rather grand she afforded herself this luxury. Jane Addams kept her face determined and serious, and I suspect a pretty hat was her smile.
In honor of the season of Easter bonnets, here are some of my favorites. And do, please, place your cursor over each image to treat yourself to the full effect. (P.S. We used that last one as the inspiration for our Jane Addams Papers Project logo).
Jane Addams was not the only serious woman who appreciated a stylish hat. Check out these women changing the world while rockin’ a posh headdress.
Now that I’ve thought about Jane Addams’s hats and my eyeliner and written this fluffy blog post, I’ve changed my mind about the chrysanthemum hat. I actually think I rather like it, all naysayers be damned.
by Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor
Notes:The Selected Papers of Jane Addams, 3:510-11; A Visit to Tolstoy, January 1911, Jane Addams Digital Edition.
In June 1907, Jane Addams sent her sister Alice Haldeman handmade bags for her birthday. Made by a Hull-House neighbor, likely a poor immigrant, the bags were a typical gift from Addams, who enjoyed sending handmade goods, particularly from the Hull-House Shops. Items like linens and wooden or metal household objects were typical choices for birthday, Christmas, and thank-you gifts Addams gave to friends, family members, and Hull-House patrons. Most of her recipients were likely grateful for these thoughtful gifts or, at least, they were gracious in the receipt of them. Haldeman, however, did not hide her feelings about much of anything, let alone gifts from baby sister. She did not appreciate the bags, and she told Addams so.
In response to Haldeman’s disappointment, Addams wrote: “I am sorry you didn’t like my poor little bags which were made by [an] old lady in the neighborhood who sells them. I have had one in my traveling bag which I have grown attached to. Of course it would be no use in a bureau drawer. However I will try again and send you a book…”
We cannot know what Haldeman might have written to raise the ire of her sister because her letters to Addams do not survive. However, this passive aggressive response reveals Addams’s frustration, whereas we get so little of her personality in most of her surviving letters, which are guarded, congenial, and professional. Addams’s letters to her sister from 1901 until Haldeman’s death in 1915 contain numerous instances of apologies for failed gifts, evidence that Addams’s failure in this regard caused difficulty between the sisters. To know she chafed at a sister who had the power to put her on the defensive helps us chip away a little at Addams’s constrained, disciplined, public persona.
Haldeman was picky about gifts. Addams was sensitive to Haldeman’s criticism of her gifts. They exchanged strong words. Feelings were bruised. And then the women went on being sisters and friends. Sounds human to me, and I can certainly relate on a personal level. What is interesting to me as a historian, however, is to think about Jane Addams as a sister, as an ordinary human being doing ordinary human-being things, like stressing out over gifts to her nit-picking elder sister. Addams was not just a famous social reformer, or activist, or best-selling author, or recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She was a woman, just like me, who was imperfect, who sometimes lost her cool, and who failed on occasion to please the people she loved most.
After the failed birthday bags in June 1907, Addams was determined to get it right at Christmas. That holiday she sent Haldeman a book and followed it up with a box of sparklers, closing her Christmas Eve letter: “I am always, dear Alice, your loving sister Jane.” In other words, sis, give me a break.
The book she sent was Mother by Russian writer Maxim Gorky. Addams deemed the novel “remarkable,” but it was one of Gorky’s least successful works and Addams sent Haldeman the copy she had read because the new one she ordered did not arrive in time to send. I can almost hear Haldeman grumbling that her sister sent her a crappy, used novel for Christmas. She had complained about books before, in fact, one time accusing Addams of sending her a book for Christmas that she deemed inappropriate for her young daughter. To that snub, Addams had replied: “I hadn’t thought of course of Marcet’s reading it. I might easily send you many books that would be too mature for her.”
The Christmas gift debacle of 1909 is my favorite of Addams’s sister-gift failures. That year she sent a kimono, which seems a perfectly glorious gift to me and likely did to Addams, too. Picked out by a wealthy Chicago friend, Addams hoped it might please her finicky sister. Nope. Haldeman poo-pooed the kimono, and Addams, once again, was annoyed: “I am sorry you didn’t like the kimono, it was bought in Chinatown in San Francisco, selected by Mrs Robert Herrick when she was there, perhaps you are disillusioned about Xmas, last year you didn’t like the book I sent—after all it is only the message of remembrance which reaches thru, isn’t it? Please give the kimono to someone and forget it— next year I’ll try something quite different.”
I am not one who buys into the “Saint Jane” moniker for Jane Addams. She was too shrewd and too determined in her activism to live up to that gendered, ridiculous, otherworldly title. It is clear Alice did not think saint when she unwrapped a gift from Jane. But I do think Jane Addams was a wee bit saintly in dealing with her grumpy, perpetually dissatisfied sister. Nowhere is this clearer than in Addams’s persistent attempts to bestow on Haldeman the perfect gift. She kept trying to please her sister, even though her sister kept throwing the gifts back in her face.
Perhaps it was difficult for Haldeman to acknowledge a kindness or the favor of her younger, famous sister. Maybe she liked to play the cranky-butt. Or, most likely I believe, she took a little pleasure in stirring the emotional pot in the belly of the serious, stoic leader of Hull-House. I wonder if she actually liked all the gifts Addams selected for her, but she just couldn’t allow herself to give her sister the win. In the end, I suppose, Alice Haldeman was probably a difficult woman to please; and I love it that Jane Addams just kept on trying.
Regardless of what Haldeman thought about them, Jane Addams’s gifts were good and great and sometimes spectacular. They reflected her economic and aesthetic sensibilities, illustrated her social responsibility and intellectual curiosity, and related to her work at Hull-House, her interest in different cultures, and her respect for the immigrants who lived in Chicago. Jane Addams was a generous, inspired giver of gifts. In honor of her and in the spirit of the coming holiday season, I offer the following annotated list of gift ideas, straight out of the correspondence of the patron saint of gift giving.
Gifts Ideas from Jane Addams (JA)
Art (and for goodness sake, pay for the frame if it needs one)—JA to the wife of her nephew Stanley Linn and her one-year-old great-niece and namesake: “I hope you will like the pictures. We are all very fond of Norah Hamilton’s etching and I put in the Irish geese for Jane. Please have them all framed ‘on me,’ as it were, that is part of it.” Jane Addams to Myra Harriet Reynolds Linn, December 19, 1917
Blanket (Handmade, by YOU. If Jane Addams had time to knit, then so do you. Do you run a social settlement and take trains all over the country giving lectures about starving orphans in Europe? I didn’t think so. Start knitting; the Christmas clock is ticking, people).—JA to her niece and great-nephew: “The blanket I knitted for Henry, got awfully grimy in the process. I did it at H. H. where it is impossible to keep white wool clean. It goes to the little brother with my best love and a Merry Christmas.” Jane Addams to Anna Marcet Haldeman-Julius, December 10, 1919
Books—JA to her niece and great-niece Alice (her sister’s namesake): “I hope her very prosaic little present reached you safely, to [the] rest of you I am sending only books this year — very simple presents indeed! … I am sending things there early because of the crowded mails — don’t open them too soon.” Jane Addams to Anna Marcet Haldeman-Julius, December 17, 1917
Books for Children (one book for siblings to share so as not to be excessive)—JA to fellow suffragist and friend: “I have sent the children one of the Van Loon books which my little nephew so dotes on. I hope they won’t mind having it together altho I am afraid it is not a favorite plan with children.” Jane Addams to Florence Gottschalk Taussig, December 31, 1921, Jane Addams Digital Edition (JADE).
Book of which you are the author—JA to the wife of a HH patron: “May I congratulate you on the new daughter and send you a copy of my new book with best wishes for a merry Christmas. You doubtless know much more about the spirit of youth these days than I can possibly tell you.” Jane Addams to Mary Everts Ewing, December 22, 1909
Holy Water Receptacle (only old ones from Paris)—JA to Alice Haldeman: “I am sending my Christmas package today to avoid the final rush. Knowing your fondness for worked metal, it is an old holy water receptacle I got in Paris last summer. It can of course be used for matches or anything you like.” Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, December 19, 1913.
Japanese Kimono (who cares what Alice thought, a kimono is a great gift idea; pick a colorful pattern you like, and if your recipient doesn’t like it, keep it for yourself and never buy that ungrateful person another gift.)—JA to Alice Haldeman: “I am sending you a short Japanese kimono which is nice to wear in bed or in your room. It goes with my best wishes for a Merry Christmas.” Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, December 19, 1908
Money (money is always good)—JA to a widowed friend: “May I send five dollars for Christmas to each child and ten for you. I wish it were ten times more, it would more adequately express my love and best wishes to the dearest family in the world.” Jane Addams to Mary Kenney O’Sullivan, December 18, 1911
Piano—JA to nephew Stanley Linn regarding gift for his wife: “I will send a little package for Jane later, but the real purpose of this letter is to ask you whether you think that between us we might get a piano for Myra’s Christmas. It might be a little solace to her to have music in the house. I could pay $150. down and the rest might come along on the [installment] plan. Could you have a good piano selected at Los Angeles and let me know the cost and terms of payment before buying. I should want to know what we were in for. It might be possible to get a good second hand one for two hundred dollars in which case I would try to do it all at once.” Following up two weeks later, JA wrote: “[Enclosed] please find a draft for the full amount of the piano. I am so glad you found one, and I hope that it is a good one.” Jane Addams to Stanley Ross Linn, December 4, 1919; Jane Addams to Stanley Ross Linn, December 17, 1919
Russian Things, Box of—JA to eight-year-old great niece: “I am sending you a box of some Russian things which I found the other day in the Russian shop, and I am sending a typewritten list so you may know how to divide them. Jane Addams to Jane Addams Linn, December 20, 1924, JADE.
Silver Box—JA to a regular Hull-House donor: “Some of the advanced boys in the shop have lately been venturing upon silver work and I am sending you a box they have made which has received some praise from one or two artists. It ought to be much bigger to contain all the gratitude and affection which I should like to put into it. But perhaps you will know what it ‘represents’ to use kindergarten lingo. With every possible good wish for the New Year.” Jane Addams to Anita McCormick Blaine, December 25, 1904
Typewriting Table (only go for this if you are giving it to someone who has hated every single gift you’ve ever given them for twenty years)—JA to Alice Haldeman: “I sent you a typewriting table today from Fields for Xmas. I almost sent a much prettier one which was not the right height but finally settled on the plainer one. If it isn’t right for the space please use it in the bank and we will look for another when you come, for your own room.” (Good grief, did Addams have to tell her sister there was a prettier one? ) Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, December 10, 1914
Happy Holidays. And good luck.
by Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor
Notes: It is important to note that there is a disproportionate number of surviving Christmas letters that Addams wrote to her sister Alice and her nephew Stanley Linn and his family. The evidence makes it appear she favored them with her gift giving. While it is true she was fond of the Linns and provided them extra support because they struggled, the extant correspondence only provides a glimpse of Addams’s holiday generosity. Louise W. Knight, Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2005), 489n52, 519; Sherry R. Shepler and Anne F. Mattina, “Paying the Price for Pacifism: The Press’s Rhetorical Shift from ‘Saint Jane’ to ‘The Most Dangerous Woman in America,’” Feminist Formations 24 (Spring 2012): 154-71; “Noiseless Parlor Fireworks,” The Index, 17, Christmas ed. (Dec. 14, 1907): 55; “Rompers and Creepers Come,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 19, 1917, p. 12 (advertisement); Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, January 10, 1901; Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, June 13, 1907; Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, December 18, 1907; Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, January 10, 1909; Hull-House Year Book, January 1, 1916 (boys metalworking), all in JADE. Photo of Jane Addams, c. 1912, courtesy Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress.
In 1893, an African-American woman with an extraordinary academic background came to live at Hull-House, and she spent a decade of her life in residence at the famous social settlement in Chicago. Her story is not a tale of realizing dreams against all odds. It is not a tale of American exceptionalism, illustrative of the possibilities of equality in a democracy. It is certainly no fairytale. It is, instead, a history of realities. It is a history of human experience informed by the harsh constraints of race and gender in the post-Reconstruction United States. Hull-House was remarkably progressive during the nadir of American race relations, and it provided a space for women to thrive. However, it was not a protective bubble against the prejudices of white America. And the city of Chicago, strictly ordered as it was by race and ethnicity and class, even in many forward-thinking reform organizations, could be cold and bigoted and cruel.
When Harriet Rice, a 27-year-old physician, arrived at Hull-House in the year of Chicago’s great and hopeful Columbian Exposition, she understood it was not going to be easy. She was the first and only African-American resident at the Hull-House settlement, which was located in an impoverished neighborhood of white immigrants, many of whom measured their success and status in juxtaposition with that of African Americans, the city’s lowest caste. Dr. Rice was a smart, ambitious Black woman at a time when society relegated women and people of color to subordinate roles. She knew that a majority of the population in the United States believed Black people were inferior. She knew women had to work harder than their male counterparts to make professional careers for themselves. But she was not looking for easy. She was used to hard work and struggle. She had always chosen challenging paths.
Born in 1866 in Newport, RI, Harriet Alleyne Rice was the daughter of a steamship steward who prospered enough to own a home and to send his children to college. Harriet was a bright and curious girl and a gifted student, and she dreamed of following the career path of an older brother and becoming a doctor. In 1887, she became the first African-American woman to graduate from Wellesley College, and she went straight on to the University of Michigan to join an early cadre of female, Black medical students there. Unfortunately, a health crisis brought on by a debilitating injury derailed her medical studies, but after enduring two operations and a lengthy convalescence, she entered the Woman’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. After earning her medical degree in 1891, she completed a year of post-graduate training at the prestigious New England Hospital for Women and Children. Dr. Rice was in a special class of African-American women, only one of 115 who held medical degrees by 1896.
When Dr. Rice settled in Chicago, her plan was to practice medicine, and on Sep. 8, 1893, the Illinois State Board of Health issued her a certificate entitling her to practice medicine and surgery in the state. Yet finding work proved difficult. Most hospitals in the United States did not grant privileges to African-American doctors, and Provident Hospital, established in 1891 on Chicago’s South Side, was the only African-American hospital in the city. As well, many white patients rejected medical treatment from Black doctors, and by 1900 there were only 30,150 African-Americans in Chicago and fewer still who could afford to pay for medical visits and treatments. Rice, who was one of only forty-five African-American physicians in Chicago, faced not only racial prejudice but gendered prejudice, as well. Many male physicians at that time barred women physicians from hospitals, and gender discrimination in all areas of the medical profession was commonplace.
We can only speculate about Rice’s hopes and dreams for herself in Chicago, and the particulars of her decision to live at Hull-House are unknown. But it is likely that Hull-House offered a refuge and an agreeable and affordable housing option. For Black Chicagoans housing was expensive and limited, confined almost exclusively to the city’s “Black Belt,” and much of the housing available to the city’s Black residents was inferior in condition and inconveniently located. There was a growing middle-class in Chicago and a prosperous Black community, but Rice was not possessed of standing and wealth when she arrived in the city seeking to build a better life for herself. When she moved into Hull-House, she might have already been feeling discouraged about her prospects, despite the fact that Jane Addams wanted her to join the settlement and might have even recruited her. Other residents were supportive of Rice, too. Mary Rozet Smith funded a fellowship with a small stipend for her. Florence Kelley shared a room with her at the settlement and, no doubt, offered her advice. And Julia Lathrop helped Rice make contacts in Chicago and counseled her when her medical practice floundered.
At first, Rice settled in comfortably and made friends. Madeleine Wallin, who was also a new resident, found Rice “one of the most lady-like and unobjectionable people” at the settlement. Jane Addams assigned Rice to help establish a medical clinic and dispensary at Hull-House, and when the leading physician, a white woman, left the settlement, Addams was hopeful that Rice would assume responsibility for the operation. However, Rice was either uninterested in dispensing medical care to the poor or, more likely, she was unwilling to accept poor treatment by Hull-House’s clientele of white immigrants, many of whom likely mistrusted the young Black doctor. Black Chicagoans would have been accepting of Dr. Rice, but most of the city’s Black residents lived too far from Hull-House to make use of the dispensary or other of the settlements programs and services.
In January 1895, Addams wrote to Mary Smith: “Dr Rice has an awful cold which has hung on for weeks and is perfectly miserable, she is also desperate about her financial situation, she has no practice save the Jane Club and H. H. Sister Lathrop has taken her life in her hand and is trying to induce her to go to the colored hospital. She said that I might find her in fragments upon my return.”
The following month, Addams updated Smith again: “I forgot to mention Dr Rice in my long screed this morning. She has a wretched cold—has lost her voice for weeks and is altogether doing miserably. I do not know what do for her or about her. She is still working on the library but by the time she pays her room rent and her coal probably does not eat enough. She has not the settlement spirit (if there is such a thing) and makes Miss [Annie] Fryar and indeed the rest of us, indignant by her utter refusal to do anything for the sick neighbors even when they are old friends of the House. I am constantly perplexed about her.”
And later in the month, Addams wrote: “Dr Rice’s cold is no better but she is much more human and charming.”
Rice struggled to establish a private medical practice, and she was struggling to find purpose at the settlement, too. Addams arranged for a $25 monthly stipend for Rice to work in the Hull-House branch of the Chicago Public Library, and then Rice ran the Hull-House Dispensary until it closed in June 1896. After that she took a short-term, paid position for the Illinois Board of Charities to organize records of Cook County’s public institutions serving the poor. From 1897-1898, Rice was the only doctor at the Chicago Maternity Hospital and Training School for Nursery Maids.
Jane Addams may have been right. Perhaps Rice did not have the “settlement spirit,” certainly other residents of Hull-House over the years failed to find the spirit in their own hearts. In Rice’s defense, however, she possessed the skills and education to be a physician, and she wanted to be a physician. Running a dispensary for the poor did not fully utilize her talents, and it is easy to imagine the racial hostility she experienced in that role. Addams liked Rice and felt empathy for her financial difficulties and ill health, but whereas she could accuse Rice of lacking the “settlement spirit,” Addams herself seemed to have lacked the spirit of sympathy for the frustrations Rice experienced. Addams likely believed that having Rice at the settlement was evidence of her own open-mindedness and racial equality at Hull-House. However, she either ignored or failed to fully understand Rice’s unique challenges from the standpoint of race. Hull-House was a safe environment for women, but in the early decades the settlement was probably not always a safe environment for a woman of color.
The truth of the matter is clear. Race and racism played a significant role in the experience of African-Americans, and Rice was not immune. Though she had the mental capacity and the training for a lucrative career in medicine, the color of her skin had more bearing on her chances for professional and financial success than did her preparedness for medical work. As a result, since arriving in Chicago, Rice had had to worry about money. All Hull-House residents were required to contribute to the settlement, to have a purpose, to pull their weight. They were also required to cover their expenses, although Hull-House was an affordable housing option for most of its residents. Rice’s attempt to establish a private medical practice was failing, and she was having difficulty making ends meet.
She also suffered poor physical health, perhaps exacerbated by the stress of persistent discrimination. In 1899, an unknown illness became serious enough that she moved back home to Newport to have another surgery and endure another long convalescence. There is no record of how Jane Addams or any of the other residents felt about Rice’s departure. However, when she returned to Chicago in 1901, she went back to Hull-House.
In July 1901, Jane Addams wrote Mary Smith: “The Bureau of Charities has absolutely no money and we have been more of a relief bureau than any thing else — but — [though] relief was needed Dr Rice is most amiable and charming and likes the work.”
Jane Addams still wanted Rice at Hull-House and, perhaps, felt an obligation to her. In 1902, Rice took a flat in the new apartment building at Hull-House, her salary as postmistress at the settlement’s Post Office allowing her to afford the flat and take her meals in the settlement’s Coffee House. From 1902-1904, Rice’s circumstances were secure, but perhaps she was restless or disappointed that a career in medicine was eluding her. After serving briefly as the Hull-House cashier, Rice left the settlement for good in 1904. If she kept in touch with Addams in the early years after her departure, no correspondence survives to document it. If she had hard feelings for the settlement, we cannot know, although later evidence suggests that Rice did not look upon her years in Chicago as successful, nor particularly pleasant ones.
We don’t know much about what happened to Rice after she left Hull-House, but there is evidence she continued to be restless. In 1910 she was an assistant in a Boston dispensary’s pathology laboratory, and sometime after that moved to France to live with her brother. She was in Europe when war broke out, and she was one of two African-American women who served in WWI, finally getting a real chance to practice medicine. Rice worked in a French military hospital for most of the war. In 1919, she was awarded the bronze medal of French gratitude, the Reconnaissance Française, for her meritorious medical service. Her WWI years were “happy years,” perhaps the most professionally fulfilling years of her life, years that proved to herself and illustrate for the historical record Dr. Rice’s capacity to be an skilled physician.
After the war, Rice returned home to Newport, where she lived with her sister, and she made another attempt at private medical practice. She also returned to the same old discriminatory circumstances she had faced in the past. When her sister died in 1925, Rice wrote to Wellesley classmates to share the bad news and some of her personal disappointments, as well. “I’m a lonely wonderer on the face of earth, without friends, without home, or settled employment of any kind,” she wrote. She was 61 years old and feeling lost. She was also, she added, “looking forward without hope, and backward only, with regret.”
In December 1928, when she was living in Boston, Rice wrote to Jane Addams, and her letter is a heartbreaking illustration of her sorrows. Having read in the newspaper that Addams had been in town for a lecture, she wrote: “I do wish I might have seen you. I should have been so glad to see you once more—although I hardly imagine that you would have been the least glad to see me. I’ve never forgotten once hearing a southern doctor tell about seeing again his old “colored Mammy” and how glad she was to see him; but on his side there seemed to be nothing.”
That sentence of the letter is replete with bitterness, but there is some tenderness in the letter, as well. Rice alluded to a less than amiable final departure from Hull-House, but she was hopeful that the years had softened any hurt there may have been between her and Addams, and also between her and Mary Rozet Smith, who had sponsored her residency at Hull-House all those years ago. “So,” Rice concluded, “please do let me wish yourself, and Miss Mary and Miss Eleanor [Smith] all the best wishes of the Christmas tide—health and good cheer and all the happiness possible in this dreadful world.”
Despite her accomplishments, which were unique and impressive, Rice saw the world through the lens of disappointment. The “dreadful” world had been for her, in large part, cold and bigoted and cruel. The character of race was a living, breathing entity, shaping her life and drawing her experiences; and it is hard to blame her for feeling frustrated and wounded. As for Jane Addams, it is impossible to know what she would have said to Rice to counter her negative narrative or to console her. If she replied to Rice, the letter is lost. But I suspect Addams, who was usually keen to reconnect and keep in touch with previous Hull-House residents, would have taken the time to see her old colleague in Boston had Rice requested a meeting when she was in town.
Between 1928 and 1933, Rice worked in Philadelphia and later in New York City, where she found employment in a laboratory at the Columbia Medical Center. Apparently, her financial circumstances were often precarious in those years. In June 1933, she wrote Mary Rozet Smith for help. In America’s Great Depression, her position at Columbia was in jeopardy. She hated to beg for work, but she had no choice. “This is a man’s world and they won’t let a woman get farther than they can help—or hinder.”
In 1935, Rice received a questionnaire sent to Wellesley graduates. Many of the questions pertained to marriage and family and did not pertain to her, but one of the questions provoked a passionate response. To the question “Have you any handicap, physical or other, which has been a determining factor of in your activity,” she wrote: “Yes! I’m colored which is worse than any crime in this God blessed Christian Country!”
Racial prejudice and discrimination had not subsided in the 1930s. Jim Crow still reigned in the South, “Sundown Towns” restricted the movements of African Americans in the Midwest, and most northern cities were increasingly segregated. There is little evidence of Rice’s later years, but at some point she settled in West Somerville, MA, outside of Boston to live in retirement. She was living there when she died at the age of 92 on May 24, 1958. Although she faced unimaginable difficulties, she had accomplished much in her long life, including a few historical firsts as an African-American woman. Before she died, I hope she gave herself the credit she deserved for reaching beyond what the society in which she lived proscribed for her. I suspect at the end of her life, however, she was still disappointed about the ways in which her country failed her. And it makes me angry that in death she suffered one final indignity, being buried in a public cemetery in her hometown of Newport in the area designated for African Americans.
I was born exactly 100 years after Dr. Rice, and I wish I could tell her things are different now. And they are different; and, in many ways, they are better. There are far fewer obstacles today for bright and curious little girls like Harriet had been, and Black women have greater access to college and professional careers than those who lived in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Still, I suspect, Rice would be disappointed to learn that only 36 percent of doctors today are women, and less than 3 percent are Black women.
By Stacy Lynn,
Sources: Allan H. Spear, Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890-1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), 3-15, 23-30, 57, 97, 103; Irving Cutler, Chicago: Metropolis of the Mid-Continent, 4th ed. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2006), 156-60; Linda Gordon, “Black and White Visions of Welfare: Women’s Welfare Activism, 1890-1945,” in Vicki L. Ruiz and Ellen Carol Dubois, eds., Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women’s History, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2000), 214-41; Rayford Whittingham Logan, The Negro in American Life and Thought: The Nadir, 1877-1901 (New York: Dial Press, 1954); Rima Lunin Schultz and Adele Hast, eds., Women Building Chicago, 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 740-42; Louise W. Knight, Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 387-88; Ann Oakley, Women, Peace and Welfare: A Suppressed History of Social Reform, 1880-1920 (Chicago: Policy Press, c/o University of Chicago, 2018), 53; Allan H. Spear, Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890-1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), 12, 14; Kimberly Jensen, “Uncle Sam’s Loyal Nieces: American Medical Women, Citizenship, and War Service in World War I,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 67 (Winter 1993): 680; “African Americans,” Encyclopedia of Chicago; Florence Kelley to Nicholas Kelley, June 29, 1902, transcribed in Kathryn Kish Sklar and Beverly Wilson Palmer, eds., The Selected Letters of Florence Kelley, 1869-1931 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 113; 1910 U.S. Federal Census; 1920 U.S. Federal Census; Maria Aspan, “Black Women Account for Less than 3% of U.S. Doctors,” Fortune, Aug. 9, 2020; “New Physicians for Illinois,” Chicago Tribune, Sep. 9, 1893, p. 4; “George Addison Rice,” Fall River (MA) Evening News, Mar. 10, 1894, p. 4; “New England News in Tabloid Form,” Newport (RI) Mercury, Sep. 24, 1921, p. 5; “Dr. Harriet Rice, 92, Native of Newport,” Newport (RI) Daily News, May 27, 1958, p. 2; Selected Papers of Jane Addams (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2019), 3:233n2, 3:241, 3:270n24, 3:454n6; 415n21; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, Jan. 15, 1895, in Selected Papers of Jane Addams, 3:411; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, Feb. 3, 1895, Jane Addams Papers Microfilm (JAPM) 2:1656-58; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, Feb. 24, 1895, JAPM, 2:1673; Harriet Rice to Jane Addams, Dec. 7, 1928, JAPM, 20:608; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, July 19, 1901; Harriet A. Rice to Anita McCormick Blaine, Aug. 31, 1904, both in Jane Addams Digital Edition.
On May 12, 1902, Jane Addams was aboard the California Limited, traveling on the Santa Fe Railroad line on her way home to Chicago. She had been in Los Angeles for a national convention of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The California Limited, inaugurated in 1892, was billed as the “finest train west of Chicago.” It featured Pullman sleeping cars, an observation deck, and dining cars, and it offered “the highest attainment in luxurious railway travel.”
Jane Addams was a seasoned traveler, had toured Europe twice, traveled to Paris for the World’s Fair in 1900, and had visited much of the United States. Yet she was often an impatient traveler, and long journeys tended to steal her energy. She accepted train travel as a regular occurrence in her busy life, but riding on trains and waiting on trains sometimes made her tired and cranky. She had been anxious about the long trip to the West Coast and, in fact, might have begged off if she had not promised Florence Kelley she would go. Kelley was a committee chairwoman for the Federation and headed up the panel on which Addams was presenting a paper. Addams went West not for herself, but at the behest of her friend. She wanted to support her old Hull-House colleague, but she had been “quite dreading California.”
To her surprise, however, the journey out to California turned out to be a delightful and welcomed reprieve. It was “very easy,” she wrote Mary Smith, “Mrs Wilmarth, Mrs Ward and I had a state room together and read aloud and united our souls to no end.” Mary Wilmarth and Lydia Coonley-Ward, both active members of the Chicago Women’s Club, were also attending the national convention.
Addams’s time in California was also something of a triumph for her public reputation. At the convention, which was a great success and drew enthusiastic attention, Addams delivered a well-received speech, “The Social Waste of Child Labor.” She also earned praise for the “intense” appeal she made on behalf of African-American women’s clubs, when the Federation, to placate the white southern women in attendance at the convention, effectively voted to bar black clubs from admission to the national organization. Addams also made public appearances and delivered speeches beyond the convention, spending two weeks as a media darling. A reporter who covered her speech at a Y.M.C.A. in Los Angeles, for example, marveled at her “extremely effective presence” and the frequent applause Addams’s speech there garnered. And an early historian of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs noted in her 1912 history that “no woman at the Los Angeles Biennial could have failed to be greatly impressed by the address of Jane Addams of Illinois.”
Still, Jane Addams of Illinois was underwhelmed by the convention. As she wrote Smith, “I met with all the delegates as wise as an owl as to looks, but it all seems terribly remote and save for the color question without any real issue.” Although she was a supporter of women’s clubs, she was not, in her bones, a club woman. As well, she was anxious to get back to work in Chicago, was longing for home, and itching to return to Hull-House, having spent much of the spring on the road.
At 6 p.m. Saturday, May 10, she boarded the California Limited at the Los Angeles train station to embark on the approximately fifty-seven hour journey to Chicago. A successful trip in the books, Addams settled in for the ride, tucked up with a good book and good company. A “very easy” journey home? Not so much.
Just before 10 o’clock on the following Monday morning, her train was nearing Revere, MO, a few miles northwest of Keokuk, IA, and still nearly 300 miles southwest of Chicago. Addams was sitting in her section of the train with her nephew James Weber Linn, a University of Chicago professor, who was traveling with her. Suddenly, an axel on the dining car broke, the train ran into a switch and crashed into a box car sitting on a side track. A corner of the dining car was torn off and six of the train’s cars derailed. Addams was “thrown with quite a degree of violence to the side of the coach.”
In the first decade of the twentieth century, train accidents were on the rise. Americans at this time were ninety times more like to die in a train wreck than they were to die in an airplane crash a century later. On the California Limited that day, one man was killed and many passengers were injured. A physician on board attended to Addams, who injured her arm and torso and suffered lacerations on her face from a shower of broken glass from the car’s shattered windows. In a public statement later that day, Addams told reporters: “The same jolt that injured me threw my nephew to his feet, saving him from serious hurts. I was thinking of something else at the time and didn’t have time to make any effort to save myself. The crash came without warning.”
Addams was pretty banged up in the accident, arriving home to Chicago later that night to a group of worried Hull-House residents, who collected her at the train station. She would take a few days to rest and recover, and would experience some lingering aches for the rest of the month. Yet she was sanguine when she wrote Mary Smith a week after the accident.
Dearest: I have had my R.R. wreck at last, the pain, the moment of panic, the thrill, the rescue, all very neatly enacted. The ten days thereafter, [although] containing some very miserable hours, have not on the whole been so bad & I find this morning — the first downstairs — filled with a content so deep that it reminds me of that of the early days of H. H. You have been a saint about writing, three of your letters during the first week and cheered me to the soul.”
Jane Addams was not one to dwell on her difficulties and always as quick to return to her work as possible. Following the train wreck, she cleared her calendar, striking one particularly busy day entirely off, but soon her schedule was full again. On May 26, she hosted friends for a Hull-House play, addressed the Merchants’ Club of Chicago on May 31, and was back on a train in July for a long trip to upstate New York.
Jane Addams was a woman who filled up nearly all her days with her reform activities and her writing. Women in perpetual motion, ever engaged in good work, have no time for a derailment. Not by trains, nor by anything else.
By Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor
Notes: Mark Aldrich, “Public Relations and Technology: The ‘Standard Railroad of the World’ and the Crisis in Railroad Safety, 1897-1917,” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, 74 (Winter 2007): 76-77; Michael Bezilla and Luther Gette, Branch Line Empires: The Pennsylvania and the New York Central Railroads (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017), 219-20; Rima Lunin Schultz and Adele Haste, eds., Women Building Chicago: A Biographical Dictionary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 183-85, 982-86; Steve Glischinski, Santa Fe Railway (Minneapolis: MBI Publishing, 2008), 35, 139; Mary I. Wood, The History of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (New York: General Federation of Women’s Clubs, 1912), 141-45; “To Chicago and New York; The California Limited—Daily,” Advertisement, The Los Angeles Times, Feb. 27, 1901, p. 1; “Colored Clubs Need Not Apply,” The Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1902, p. 44; “California Limited,” Advertisement, San Bernadino (CA) County Sun, May 11, 1902, p. 4; “Santa Fe Train Is wrecked Again,” Salt Lake (City) Telegram, May 12, 1902, p. 6; “Santa Fe Limited in Wreck,” The St. Louis Republic, May 13, 1902, p. 3; “Miss Addams Hurt in Wreck,” The Inter Ocean (Chicago), May 13, 1902, p. 1 (clipping); “Jane Addams Injured,” The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), May 14, 1902, p. 10; “Jane Addams Still Suffers,” The Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1902, p. 2; “The Federation’s Best Brilliancy,” The Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1902 (drawing); “Colored Clubs Need Not Apply,” Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1902, p. 44; Jane Addams Diary, Mar. 15-May 8, May 24, July 4, 1902, Jane Addams Papers Microfilm, 29:796-810, 813, 822; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, April 8, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, April 16, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, May 3, 1902; Statement on Train Wreck, May 12, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, May 19, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, May 26, 1902; Delinquent Children, May 31, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, August 5, 1904, all in Jane Addams Digital Edition.
Photographs: Jane Addams, c. 1900; All Aboard the California Limited, c. 1905; both photos courtesy of Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.