Hearing Addams Speak

This is a guest post by Marilyn Fischer, Professor Emerita at the University of Dayton, who specializes in political philosophy and American pragmatism. She has edited Jane Addams’s writings on peace and is the author of Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing: Constructing Democracy and Social Ethics (2019). She is currently working on  two additional volumes that examine Jane Addams’s writings. She is a member of the Jane Addams Papers Advisory Board.

If you want to know how Addams wrote her books, ask her relatives. Her nephew, James Weber Linn, tells us Addams would begin with her speeches, and then revise, expand, or contract the material into a coherent whole.[1] Addams’s niece, Marcet Haldeman-Julius, reminisced, “I can still hear my mother’s infectious laugh as she watched Aunt Jane initiate me into her method of ‘pins-and-scissors’ writing.”[2] Addams would have loved word processing software. Copy and paste is so much simpler than scissors and pins.

Does it matter how Addams wrote her books? There are many ways to interpret a text. One can compare Addams’s ideas to those of John Dewey or Charlotte Perkins Gilman or even Dorothy Day. One can ask if Addams’s ideas are still relevant today to solving environmental problems, revitalizing democracy, ending discrimination against women, immigrants, the poor, or the disabled. These are all worthy uses of Addams’s ideas, and have been carried out without considering how Addams constructed her texts. Yet, knowing the characteristics of Addams’s speech-making can also shift readers’ interpretations of her written texts, and is thus worth examining.

Addams gave thousands of speeches in Chicago and on lecture tours throughout the country and abroad. Her public reputation rested in large part on her speeches.[3] Manuscripts of some of her speeches are in the digital archives and the Jane Addams Papers Microfilm edition. From early in her career, Addams’s speeches were widely covered in the national press and throughout the English-speaking world. This was a world on which the sun never set, as the British Empire was at its height. News coverage typically included lengthy excerpts of what she said. Sometimes Addams spoke for up to an hour; often she shared the platform with multiple speakers who were each allotted a mere ten minutes. Addams’s challenge was to engage the audience so they didn’t fall asleep or walk out, while saying something substantive enough to provoke new ways of thinking and imagining. Here I focus on three characteristics of Addams’s speech-making with which she engaged her audiences: orality, compression, and “circling round and spiraling out.” She carried these techniques into her written articles and books.

Orality: Consider how Addams’s initial audiences heard her and the spaces in which she spoke. These ranged from intimate gatherings of a few dozen, to packed auditoriums that seated thousands. At the time, before radio and television, commentators spoke of the power of public addresses as “a mystical form of electricity.”[4] The electricity began with the speaker, whose diction, movements, and tones amplified her words’ meanings. Its power went out to the audience who felt its voltage reverberate in others’ murmurs, cleared throats, cheers, or hoots.[5] Hearing is intimate, as another’s voice enters one’s own body.[6] As a result, speaker and audience think and feel and respond together, all at once.

The age of eloquence and oratory had not yet closed.[7] Public addresses educated, entertained, and built—or maybe fractured—communities, all at the same time. Addams’s audiences took part in many of these practices. They participated in religious revivals, attended politicians’ hours-long debates, and cheered or booed labor agitators. They were practiced at listening to and absorbing eloquent speech. Students memorized poetry and great speeches; their repertoire could include thousands of lines of poetry and orations.[8] Addams was ready for them. She had studied oratory and rhetoric in college, when, as historian Carolyn Eastman notes, “training in oratory was indistinguishable from training as an actor.”[9] In college, Addams was on the debate team and participated in oratory contests.[10] Because Addams constructed her books around her speeches, we can think of her books as “undelivered speeches,” best approached through the ear, as well as the eye.[11]

Addams’s audiences felt her power. Of her talk, “Philanthropy Won’t Do,” the reporter for the Indianapolis Journal wrote, “Miss Addams’s personality is an immediate bid for the interest of an audience; and the sympathy in her face, voice and manner would warm the cockles of the most unaltruistic heart.”[12] The Times of Oswego, New York reported that no one was bored by Addams’s hour-long talk on settlements, stating, “She is a fluent speaker, with a crisp, vigorous, incisiveness of style that makes her speech a delight; and her broad culture, warm humanitarianism and keen insight into social problems impart a most convincing air to her words.”[13] Addams used her presence on stage to create relations with her audiences that would engage their emotions and imaginations, as well as their intellects.[14]

Speech is more powerful when it is vivid and concrete. Addams used stories to accomplish this. Now she could cite statistics as well as any sociological data-collector, and she usually tucked several of them into her texts. But statistics send little electricity from speaker to audience. Addams clothed the data with faces and bodies in particular situations. Addams did not begin her speech, “Child Labor and Pauperism,” with a catalog of data, or even with scenes inside exploitive workplaces. She began by placing her listeners where they often were, on the streetcar at six p.m., as men, women, and children poured out of factories at end of shift. Addams remarked, “The boys and girls have a peculiar hue, a color so distinctive that any one meeting them on the street even on Sunday in their best clothes and mixed up with other children who go to school and play out of doors, can distinguish almost in an instant the children working in factories. There is also on their faces a something indescribable, a premature anxiety and sense of responsibility which we should declare pathetic if we were not used to it.”[15] Her audience members had likely seen these children often, without ever really seeing them. The story startled them into recognizing that evidence of child exploitation was all around them, written on the faces of children they saw.

Young children working in a bottle factory in Chicago– https://dp.la/primary-source-sets/theodore-dreiser-s-sister-carrie-and-the-urbanization-of-chicago/sources/1639

Addams aimed deeper than to increase her audiences’ sense of duty toward others. She aimed to change their fundamental moral and perceptual sensibilities, their ways of perceiving the world and themselves, and of their sense of relationship with others. These sensibilities are the soil out of which opinions and duties grow, or wither. Commenting on a speech by suffragist Anna Howard Shaw, Addams said, “It was a wonderful lesson in speech-making, not to desire to make an exposition of what you believed or did not believe, but absolutely to persuade your audience from one point of view, if you possibly could, to another point of view.”[16] For Addams to do this, she needed to enter each audience’s mode of perception, and use what they knew and valued and believed, so as to open them to others ways of knowing, valuing and believing. Appealing to their emotions, their sympathies, and imaginations was just as important as appealing to moral codes or their capacities for logical reasoning.

Cover of the January 1910 Ladies Home Journal issue in which “Why Woman Should Vote” appeared.

Knowing all this complicates the interpretive task for scholars today. We read Addams’s writings to find out what she thought. Her writings contain her thoughts, but not directly. A good example is the opening paragraph of her widely read essay on suffrage, “Why Women Should Vote.”[17] Addams begins by stating how people had long believed that a woman’s “paramount obligation” was to the home, and that was unlikely to change.[18] Recent scholars have used that statement to locate Addams in the maternalist, conservative wing of suffrage advocates.[19] However, good rhetor that she was, Addams began her talks by identifying common ground with her audience, and using that as a springboard to lead them to different ways of imagining the world. Addams wrote “Why Women Should Vote,” for the Ladies Home Journal, the most widely read magazine in the U.S. at the time. Its primary audience was middle and lower-middle class women, generally homemakers, and likely opposed to women’s suffrage, who saw women’s place as in the home, not in the dirty world of politics.[20] Addams didn’t lie; but she made her opening statement capacious enough that most everyone could find room for themselves inside it.[21] She then led her readers step by step into the lived realities of women like her immigrant neighbors who desperately needed the vote in order to provide their families with clean water, untainted food, and streets that were not fouled with garbage.

Compression: The second characteristic of Addams’s speech-making and writing, is compression. When speakers have only a short time to be substantive, what do they do? They leave out whatever they can, and rely on the audience to fill in the gaps. Because Addams and her audiences lived at the same time and place, they shared a great number of associations. The briefest mention could bring all that to mind. When Addams addressed an anti-imperialism protest rally in April 1899, she could simply say, “We suddenly find ourselves bound to an international situation.”[22] She did not need to tell the audience that the U.S. was deep in the muck of the Philippine-American War, or that the U.S. economy and their own economic well-being were deeply dependent on international trade, or that the navies of the European imperial powers were hungrily circling the Philippines, in case the U.S. should pack up and leave.[23] To Addams, these facts made the typical response of others in the American Anti-Imperialist League untenable, as they counseled the U.S. to just pull out.[24] Regardless of what the U.S. did with the Philippines, it would still be entangled in the international situation. And when Addams threw in the line, “Government is not something extraneous, consisting of men who wear gold lace,” her audience immediately knew she was mocking British and American imperialism.[25] At the time, the amount of gold lace on a military uniform marked the wearer’s rank. This was a sign of hierarchy and on order maintained by force, rather than through democratic egalitarianism. Addams’s image, now obscure, was a potent element in her protest against the U.S. becoming an imperial power.

“A is an Admiral. observe his gold lace. He is fond of good things, you can tell by his face.” (The Comic Military Alphabet: Army, Navy, National Guard, by DeWitt C. Falls, 1894 (Hathi Trust).

Compression gives space for the audience to think along with the speaker. Alexander Bain, author of Addams’s college rhetoric and composition text, praised brevity and devoted a whole chapter to how to achieve it.[26] He included the pointer that “things well-known [can be] recalled by brief allusion.”[27] Bain also stressed the power of indirect speech noting, “The device of suggesting, instead of openly expressing, . . . give[s] a starting-point to the thoughts.”[28] Compression engages listeners’ and readers’ imaginations to fill in what is omitted. They become active participants in the event, rather than passive receptors. In effective speech-making, “nailing it down” is a weakness, not a strength.

Compression is a technique used by literary writers and especially by poets, the most aural of literary artists. Addams’s writings were considered poetic. A portrait of Addams in Collier’s National Weekly notes, “She writes hardly a paragraph but is shot through with poetry.”[29] Settlement resident, Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, wrote in her review of The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets for Political Science Quarterly, “Miss Addams’s recent book continues the note of realism suffused with imagination which characterizes all her utterances, whether oral or written. . . . [It] is her most lucid and poetical expression.”[30] If this be true, then Addams’s writings should be approached as works of art, as much as works of philosophical and sociological analysis.

Circling Round: The final characteristic of how Addams spoke and wrote I’ll call “circling round and spiraling out.” The image comes from William Hard, a journalist with the Chicago Tribune who heard Addams’s convocation address at the University of Chicago. He wrote to her, “I seemed to stand in the center of the subject and to revolve slowly round with a philosopher at my side.”[31] James Weber Linn, Addams’s nephew, commented that among the clashing opinions held by the many strong characters residing at Hull House, “only Jane Addams, perhaps, [could see] everything from everybody’s point of view.”[32]

Girl working at the Globe Cotton Mill in Augusta, GA. (National Child Labor Committee, Lewis Hine Photographs, Library of Congress)

Addams turned circling round into a style of speaking and writing. She could circle round multiple viewpoints in a brief paragraph, a chapter, or an entire book. Because Addams primarily addressed white, middle-class audiences, the demographic to which she herself belonged, she did not have the credibility, or “ethos,” as Aristotle called it, to denounce white, middle-class conventions as Ida B. Wells-Barnett or Frederick Douglass did, both of whom were born enslaved.[33] By circling round, though, Addams could spell out the hypocrisies of the people she was addressing. She demonstrates this in her speech, “Child Labor and Pauperism,” mentioned above. Addams uses this topic to charge her middle-class audiences with grotesque levels of moral irresponsibility. The cumulative weight of her circlings is far heavier and more densely layered than saying, “Those poor children. Let’s help them.”

Addams does this by identifying herself with the audience, “we” do this, “we” neglect that. On each circling round, she inserts personal stories and research data to demonstrate the following stack of conclusions: 1) Child labor robs the future of what belongs to it—the potential future strength and capacities of today’s children. 2) Today’s child laborers are tomorrow’s paupers—adults incapable of holding a job who must depend on agencies and local governments to support them. Addams reinforces her claim with the salvo, “No horse trainer would permit his colts to be so broken down.” 3) By allowing industries to underpay children and adults, you allow your industries to be “parasitic on the future of the community,” creating “the pauperization of society.” 4) Finally, child labor “pauperizes the consumer” (i.e., her audience members), by flipping the roles of giver and recipient of charity. For, as she states in the most personal of tone: “If I wear a garment . . . for which the maker has not been paid a living wage . . ., then I am in debt to the woman who made my cloak. I am a pauper and I permit myself to accept charity from the poorest people of the community.” All of this, Addams charges, “debauches our moral sentiment, it confuses our sense of values.”[34] By noting Addams’s circling round, one sees that Addams’s speeches say less about the ostensible topic of child labor and pauperism, than builds a case, step by step, for middle-class Americans’ utter failure to take responsibility for the kind of society they live in.

Young girls leaving a shoe factory in Chicago, 1910.

In some passages the compressing and the circling round happen so fast, today’s readers hardly see it. In The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, a book largely derived from speeches, Addams gives a vivid portrait of young adolescent girls giggling as they walk down the street, wearing “preposterous clothing.” One has on a “huge hat, with its wilderness of bedraggled feathers.”[35] Why, one might ask, is Addams bothering about adolescent fashion? Why is she being so stuffy and moralistic? First, the compression: Addams omits to say what her readers already knew, that concerned citizens immediately identified the huge hat as advertising the girl’s sexual availability, and the fact that she walked down the street unchaperoned was a sure sign she was looking for johns.[36] Instead of sharing the moralistic concerns of these citizens, Addams uses the hat as a device to lay a heavy charge against them.

Immediately before describing the girl with the hat, Addams mentions the “unrestrained jollities of restoration London” that broke out as soon as “the soldiers of Cromwell shut up the people’s pleasure palaces.”[37] She didn’t need to tell her readers that the mid-seventeenth century “jollities” were disastrous days of chaos and disorder that broke out just after Oliver Cromwell (literally) lost his head. Addams immediately followed her description of the hat with its bedraggled feathers, saying, “the variation from the established type is at the root of all change,” an allusion to Darwin’s theory of how new species are generated. She quickly adds, “It is only the artists who see these young creatures as they are—the artists who are themselves endowed with immortal youth.”[38]  This was a common trope, that artists have privileged access to reality’s underlying truth.

Addams, without being pedantic, uses the girl with the hat to celebrate adolescent sexual energy as a fount of renewal for a society grown weary. By circling round the hat, she uses the collective weight of history, biology, and artistry to chastise concerned citizens for wanting to suppress a vital source of life. By leaving her texts incomplete, Addams invites her readers to construct them with her. And they—the texts and the readers—are more powerful because of it.

Does all of this matter? To better interpret Addams should we start listening to audiofiles of Addams’s speeches and writings, uncompress her passages, and map her circlings round? I think it does matter, though more for some questions than others. To begin with, following these patterns reveals Addams’s character. She had a rapier wit, a delicious sense of irony, and at times was blazingly sarcastic. All of that is right there, on the page, though seldom seen.

Many people today are interested in Addams because they see her activism and her ideas as resources for bringing about social change. Addams was a first-rate public intellectual. Addams’s attention to selecting her vocal register, vocabulary, images, and examples so as to communicate most effectively with each specific audience she addressed is a worthy model to emulate.

Finally, attending to Addams’s use of orality, compression, and circling round leads to profound interpretations of Addams’s thought that are otherwise missed. Hearing Addams speak as well as studying what she wrote will enable us to enter into her thought and life more deeply.

—Marilyn Fischer

——————-

[1] Linn, Jane Addams, 116.

[2] Marcet Haldeman-Julius, Jane Addams as I Knew Her, 16.

[3] Louise W. Knight, “An Authoritative Voice,” 221; Linn, Jane Addams, 242.

[4] Eastman, “Conclusion: Placing Platform Culture,” 187.

[5] Eastman, “Conclusion: Placing Platform Culture,” 187.

[6] John Dewey made this point, writing, “The connections of the ear with vital and out-going thought and emotion are immensely closer and more varied than those of the eye. Vision is a spectator; hearing is a participator” (The Public and Its Problems, 371.)

[7] See Stob, William James and the Art of Popular Statement, Chapter 1.

[8] Eastman, “Conclusion: Placing Platform Culture,” 190-191.

[9] Eastman, “Conclusion: Placing Platform Culture,” 191.

[10] Knight, Citizen, 87, 95, 98.

[11] The notion of an “undelivered speech” comes from Arnold, “Oral Rhetoric, Rhetoric, and Literature,” 170.

[12] “Philanthropy Won’t Do.”

[13] “Settlement Work and Its Results.”

[14] In other words, Addams made use of ethos, pathos, and logos, as called for in classical rhetoric.

[15] Addams, “Child Labor and Pauperism,” 115.

[16] Addams, “Address on Anna Howard Shaw,” 7.

[17] A google search for “Why Women Should Vote” shows that it is still widely read today, as it is posted on many history websites and academic websites.

[18] Addams, “Why Women Should Vote,” 21.

[19] For scholars who regard Addams as a maternalist, and among the more conservative of the suffrage advocates, see Schultz, “Introduction,” xli; Mink, The Wages of Motherhood, 1-13. Nackenoff claims that Addams used maternalist rhetoric for strategic reasons (“New Politics for New Selves,” 131). Hamington regards “Why Women Should Vote” as “the most conservative of her appeals for women’s enfranchisement” (The Social Philosophy of Jane Addams, 69).

[20] Waller-Zuckerman, “‘Old Homes, in a City of Perpetual Change,’” 717.

[21] Addams was following the principle articulated by Bain, “As in argument, so in oratory generally, there must be some common ground to work upon” (English Composition and Rhetoric, 214). Addams’s introduction and line of argument in “Why Women Should Vote” is startlingly different from the ones she used in suffrage addresses to very different audiences. See “Women’s Clubs and Public Policies,” an address to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs; and “The Larger Aspects of the Woman’s Movement,” for the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

[22] Addams, “Democracy or Militarism,” 35-36.

[23] For a succinct summary of the Spanish-American War and the war in the Philippines, see Herring, The American Century and Beyond, 11-31; Trask, “Introduction”; see also Jacobson, Barbarian Virtues, 97, 221-234, 241-247.

[24] For a discussion of the Anti-Imperialist movement see Tompkins, Anti-Imperialism in the United States. For transcripts of the speeches given with Addams’s address, see The Chicago Liberty Meeting. Addams’s address, “Democracy or Militarism,” is on pp. 36-39. 

[25] Addams, “Democracy or Militarism,” 38.

[26] Bain, English Composition and Rhetoric, 66-73.

[27] Bain, English Composition and Rhetoric, 67.

[28] Bain, English Composition and Rhetoric, 62.

[29] “Portrait of a Woman,” 11.

[30] Simkhovitch, Review of The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, 555.

[31] William Hard to Jane Addams, January 15, 1905.

[32] Linn, Jane Addams, A Biography, 135.

[33] Bryan, Slote, and Angury, The Jane Addams Papers: A Comprehensive Guide, 95; Knight, “Looking In from the Outside.”

[34] Addams, “Child Labor and Pauperism.”

[35] Addams, The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, 8.

[36] The Chicago Vice Commission included several examples of girls engaging in sexual acts in order to buy hats costing many times their weekly salaries. See Vice Commission of Chicago, The Social Evil in Chicago, 78, 204, 210.

[37] Addams, The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, 7.

[38] Addams, The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, 8, 9.

References

References

Addams, Jane. “Address on Anna Howard Shaw,” Nov 13, 1919, typed manuscript, digital edition.

Addams, Jane. “Child Labor and Pauperism.” National Conference of Charities and Correction, Proceedings (1903): 114-21. Digital edition.

Addams, Jane. “Democracy or Militarism,” in The Chicago Liberty Meeting, 35-39. Chicago: Central Anti-Imperialist League, 1899.

Addams, Jane. “The Larger Aspects of the Woman’s Movement.” American Academy of Political and Social Science, Annals 56 (1914): 1-8. Digital edition.

Addams, Jane. The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets. New York: Macmillan, 1909.

Addams, Jane. “Why Women Should Vote.” Ladies Home Journal 27 (January 1910): 21-22. Digital edition.

Addams, Jane. “Women’s Clubs and Public Policies,” General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Biennial Convention Official Report (1914):  24-30. Digital edition.

Arnold, Carroll C. “Oral Rhetoric, Rhetoric, and Literature.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 40 (2007): 170-187.

Bain, Alexander. English Composition and Rhetoric, a Manual. American Edition, Revised. New York: D. Appleton, 1867.

Bryan, Mary Lynn McCree, Nancy Slote, and Maree De Angury, editors. The Jane Addams Papers: A Comprehensive Guide. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.

Chicago Liberty Meeting. Chicago: Central Anti-Imperialist League, 1899.

 

Dewey, John. The Public and Its Problems. 1927. In John Dewey: The Later Works: 1925-1953: vol. 2, edited by Jo Ann Boydston. 235-372. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988.

Eastman, Carolyn. “Conclusion: Placing Platform Culture in Nineteenth-Century American Life.” Thinking Together: Lecturing, Learning, and Difference in the Long Nineteenth Century, edited by Angela G. Ray and Paul Stob. 187-201. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University, 2018.

Haldeman-Julius, Marcet. Jane Addams as I Knew Her. Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1936.

Hamington, Maurice. The Social Philosophy of Jane Addams. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.

Hard, William to Jane Addams, January 15, 1905. Digital edition

Herring, George C. The American Century & Beyond: U.S. Foreign Relations, 1893-2014. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Jacobson, Matthew Frye. Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917. New York: Hill and Wang. 2000.

Knight, Louise W. “An Authoritative Voice: Jane Addams and the Oratorical Tradition.” Gender & History 10 (August 1998): 217–251.

Knight, Louise W. “Looking In from the Outside, or A Few Angles on Rhetoric and Change.” Rhetorics Change/Rhetoric’s Change, edited by Jenny Rice, Chelsea Graham, and Eric Detweiler. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press and Intermezzo, 2018. (an ePub; no pagination)

Knight, Louise W. Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Linn, James Weber. Jane Addams: a Biography. 1935. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

Mink, Gwendolyn. The Wages of Motherhood: Inequality in the Welfare State, 1917-1942. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Nackenoff, Carol. “New Politics for New Selves: Jane Addams’s Legacy for Democratic Citizenship in the Twenty-First Century.” in Jane Addams and the Practice of Democracy, edited by Marilyn Fischer, Carol Nackenoff, and Wendy Chmielewski, 119-142. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.

“Philanthropy Won’t Do.” Indianapolis Journal, July 5, 1900, p. 3.

“Portrait of a Woman,” Collier’s: The National Weekly 43 (April 10, 1909): 11.

Schultz, Rima Lunin. “Introduction.” In Women Building Chicago, 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary edited by Rima Lunin Schultz and Adele Hast. xix-lx. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

“Settlement Work and Its Results.” Times (Oswego, New York), March 28, 1905, Jane Addams Papers Microfilm, reel 55, frame 1306.

Simkhovitch, Mary Kingsbury. “Review of The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets. Political Science Quarterly 25 (Sept 1910): 555-556.

Stob, Paul. William James and the Art of Popular Statement. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013.

Tompkins, E. Berkeley. Anti-Imperialism in the United States: The Great Debate, 1890-1920. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. 1970.

Trask, David F. “Introduction.” The Encyclopedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars, edited by Spencer C. Tucker. xxix-xxxiii. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2009.

Vice Commission of Chicago. The Social Evil in Chicago: A Study of Existing Conditions with Recommendations by The Vice Commission of Chicago. Chicago: The Vice Commission of Chicago, Inc., 1911.

Waller-Zuckerman, Mary Ellen. “‘Old Homes, in a City of Perpetual Change’: Women’s Magazines, 1890-1916.” The Business History Review 63 (Winter, 1989): 715-756.

What B. R. Ambedkar Wrote to Jane Addams

This is a guest post by Scott R Stroud, an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of The Evolution of Pragmatism in India: Ambedkar, Dewey, and the Rhetoric of Reconstruction (2023), which has also been published by HarperCollins India as The Evolution of Pragmatism in India: An Intellectual Biography of B.R. Ambedkar (2023). This post was originally published on August 3 by the South Asian American Digital Archive and we thank them for permission to reprint here.

Portrait photographs of Jane Addams and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

The Indian politician and anti-caste activist Bhimrao Ambedkar (1891-1956) was heavily influenced by his experiences in the U.S. and England. He was partially shaped by his expansive education there, studying at institutions such as Columbia University, London School of Economics, and Gray’s Inn. Of this set of institutions, his time in New York perhaps had the most influence on him. It was at Columbia that he was exposed to a range of progressive thinkers, not the least of which was the American pragmatist, John Dewey. While there are many ways that Dewey’s pragmatism mattered for Ambedkar’s thought over the following decades, there is another figure in the pragmatist tradition that has an overlooked connection to Ambedkar: Jane Addams (1860-1935).

It is often thought that Ambedkar left New York in the summer of 1916 for London and that he did return to the U.S. until much later in his life—in 1952 when Columbia bestowed upon him an honorary degree. This is not accurate, however. On December 5, 1931, a few days after the conclusion of the second Round Table Conference, Ambedkar left London and sailed for New York. The exact purpose of this visit is hard to divine, but he ended up spending much of his time near Columbia University until he left for London on January 4, 1932.1

It was during this month in New York that Ambedkar penned a letter to Jane Addams on December 15, 1931.2 The letter is written on Ambedkar’s own stationary, and its return address reveals that Ambedkar was staying at the International House at 500 Riverside Drive near the Columbia campus he roamed as a student. This building was constructed in 1924 with the funding of John D. Rockefeller Jr. to create a diverse learning and living environment for the growing numbers of international students at Columbia. In all likelihood, Ambedkar was able to stay there for the duration of his short visit given his status as an international alumnus.

 

Image used with permission of Prakash Ambedkar and the Jane Addams Papers Project.

Why did Ambedkar write Addams in 1931? His ostensible purpose was to wish her “a full and speedy recovery from your distressful illness.” Perhaps Ambedkar was reminded of her importance to causes parallel to his own given that she had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1931. On the day of her receiving this award, she was also admitted to a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, to deal with her continuing ill health. She had been battling to regain her health ever since she suffered a heart attack in 1926. Both news of her health and her award made the papers around the globe, so Ambedkar surely heard of Addams through the media.

Ambedkar also knew of Addams from John Dewey’s classes at Columbia. In John Dewey’s 1915-1916 classes, Philosophy 131-132 “Moral and Political Philosophy,” Ambedkar and his fellow students (including the Chinese reformer, Hu Shih) heard their professor praise Addams’ 1902 book, Democracy and Social Ethics, in support of his claim that democracy implicated a wide range of community relationships beyond the political.3 Addams was an important part to the diverse tradition of American pragmatism, and she was set apart by the unique endeavor of running the settlement Hull House in Chicago. Settlement houses were part of a social movement that started around 1890 to alleviate poverty and suffering brought on by rapid industrialization. Social workers and activists would establish community centers in which they lived side-by-side with poor local residents and tried to improve the living conditions of the surrounding community. Addam’s Hull House is one of the most successful American instances of this movement. It was when Dewey was in Chicago that he became friends with Addams and familiar with Hull House. Addams was not simply working for the improvement of the condition of women, immigrants, the poor, and those who might suffer from the violence of war; she also wrote and thought about the philosophy that stands behind such activism.4 Addams’ thoughts on nonviolence and democracy influenced Dewey, as Dewey’s ever-growing body of work influenced Addams in turn.

When Dewey left Chicago for Columbia University in 1904, he remained friends with Addams and a supporter of the settlement movement. Addams continued with her work and expanded into international peace advocacy. Her decades-long efforts against international conflict, as unpopular as they were during the Great War, earned her the Nobel recognition in 1931.

Ambedkar’s letter, however, focuses on her illness and makes no overt mention of her award. It does seem implied however, since he tells Addams “Your life of devotion to the submerged of the world has been the inspiration and encouragement for us all even in darkest India.” Ambedkar seems aware of her settlement work to alleviate the burdens of the poor in Chicago at Hull House, as well as the care for those in other nations evinced by her peace-building work in America and Europe. Perhaps he also knew of her trip to India in 1923, a visit where Addams was largely exposed to the figures and movements fixating on Indian self-rule, and not on the battle against untouchability. Addams was a friend and correspondent of Gandhi’s, but the two were unable to meet on this trip because he was imprisoned at the time.

Addams did not seem to prioritize, or even know much about, the social evils of caste. Ambedkar seemed motivated in his letter to not only wish her improved health, but to introduce himself and his anti-caste cause. Indeed, he starts the letter referring to himself “as a representative of the sixty-millions of downtrodden untouchables in India.” Ambedkar seemed motivated to put the social issue of caste on Addams’ mind with his references to the size and state of the mass of humans oppressed by these long-rooted and oppressive matters of social custom. Caste limited and dehumanized most of those caught in the grips of its hierarchy, but this function was often missed by Americans like Addams.

What do we make of this letter? In archives in the U.S. and in India, I have found no evidence that Addams sent a reply to Ambedkar’s letter of December 15. Nor is there any record of future correspondence between these two thinkers. Addams, of course, was deluged with congratulatory letters and telegraphs after her receipt of the Nobel Prize; combined with her uncertain health and hospitalization, it’s no surprise that she did not write back to the Indian civil rights leader.

From this letter, however, we can see something of Ambedkar’s motivation. He not only introduced himself and his cause in the letter, he hoped for a personal audience with Addams. “I devoutedly [sic] hope,” he writes at the end of the letter, “that your recovery will come within the limits of my short stay in America to permit me to present my humble respects in person.” There’s no evidence that they ever met, and Addams’ health and residence elsewhere lead us to think she did not meet Ambedkar in New York. But we can guess that Ambedkar sought a meeting with Addams not only to congratulate her, but also to build bridges between her settlement and peace work and his struggle against untouchability and caste oppression. We know that Ambedkar would later (in the 1940s) try to build similar bridges to leaders in the civil rights movement such as W.E.B. Du Bois.

Perhaps Ambedkar wanted to convince Addams that eradicating untouchability was an overlooked part to the Gandhian quest for Indian self-rule or swaraj that she was so taken by.5 Or perhaps Ambedkar wanted to compare strategies on settlement houses and their use in the Indian context. After all, he had most likely long known about settlement houses—the settlement house figure, Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, was married to Ambedkar’s economics professor, Vladimir Simkhovitch. Mary Simkhovitch directed Greenwich House in New York and was friends with Addams. She and Vladimir lived at the Greenwich Village settlement during the week, and often brought Vladimir’s students to visit it. Ambedkar may have heard about her settlement activities or even visited it during his enrollment in one of his five courses from Vladimir at Columbia. In any case, we see Ambedkar initiate a series of hostels and educational organizations that similarly aimed to educate and support the lower classes (and castes) in India upon his return in the 1920s. Like Addams and Simkhovitch, as well as Dewey, Ambedkar saw the power in a holistic education that involved classes, books, as well as edifying social activities outside of formal education.

The pragmatists are a diverse lot. But one of the themes that drives Addams, Simkhovitch, and Dewey is vitally important: life was educative and intelligent action could further shape the course of experience to maximize its effects on our habits and communities. Ambedkar felt the power in this commitment, and he would often argue in his writings for a view of democracy as a way of life or a matter of our habits of associated living with our fellow humans. Addams’ ideas of social reform were a noteworthy attempt to refine harmful social habits and customs, and Ambedkar surely saw her as a fellow traveler. This overlooked letter to Addams highlights Ambedkar’s drive to internationalize his mission and to connect the battle of caste to the oppression of women, the poor, and to peace-making in general.

§§§

The author would like to thank Prakash Ambedkar, Kishor Walanju, Cathy Moran Hajo, and Marilyn Fischer for their assistance with this article.

Footnotes
1. These dates are derived from the account in K. N. Kadam, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Significance of His Movement (Bombay, Popular Prakashan, 1991) and Vijay Mankar, Life and the Greatest Humanitarian Revolutionary Movement of Dr B.R. Ambedkar: A Chronology (Nagpur, Blueworld Series, 2009). I have found no evidence of meetings between Ambedkar and his Columbia contacts (including Dewey) during this time.
2. This letter can be found in the Jane Addams Papers. It was brought to my attention by the Addams scholar, Marilyn Fischer, who knows this massive set of documents very well. No biographies note the existence of this letter.
3. For information on the courses with John Dewey and their content, see Scott R. Stroud, The Evolution of Pragmatism in India (University of Chicago Press & HarperCollins India, 2023).
4. For more on Addams as a philosopher, see Marilyn Fischer, Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing: Constructing “Democracy and Social Ethics” (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2019).
5. Addams would continue to advocate for Gandhi’s movement in her correspondence and writings after 1923, and Gandhi would write her about various matters. Gandhi reprinted some of her work in edited volumes. For more on the relationship between these two thinkers, see Elizabeth N. Agnew, “Jane Addams, Mohandas Gandhi, and the Promise of Soul Force,” Peace & Change, 45 (4), 2020, 481-512 and Tim Gilsenan, “Peacemakers & Friends: Jane Addams & Gandhi,” October 6, 2013.

Get a Clew: Changes in Word Spelling

I have always been a prolific reader, engrossed in anything from a geometry text book, fantasy novel, or whatever I could get my hands on. After absorbing so many words, I think it only natural that I eventually wondered where our words began, how they must have evolved, and when they could have changed. My yearning to explore this new fascination and my need to spend as little money possible on this endeavor culminated in the discovery of my long-time favorite podcast: The History of English Podcast (THEP), written, produced, and hosted by Kevin Stroud.

Stroud, a practicing attorney, began THEP in 2012 by discussing Indo-European, a language that would branch off and evolve into many European languages, including modern English, spoken before any alphabets were created to express its unique set of sounds and grammar. This was the perfect recreational listening for me; not only was I surrounded by words, but learning the complex history behind those words gave me a feeling of appreciation for the English language I had not previously known. The podcast successfully guided me away from my work day, filling me with knowledge about a topic so far removed from Jane Addams and 20th century Progressive politics that I could only be amused when Episode 12 pulled me right back to her papers.

Just a week prior to listening to Episode 12, I had come across Pleads for Suffrage, April 17, 1906, an article written by Addams in support of women’s suffrage. Near the end of this article, she states:

“So many of the stumbling blocks against which we fall are the opportunities to which we have not adjusted ourselves. We keep hold of a convention which no longer squares with our genuine insight into life and we are slow to follow a [clue] which might enable us to solace and improve the life about us because it shocks an obsolete ideal.”

In this paragraph, we the editors have bracketed the word “clue” to express an effort to regularize unusual spelling for the sake of readability and searchability in our digital edition; the word was originally spelled “clew.” At the time I read this article, I bracketed the unorthodox spelling without a second thought. Addams incorporated several unconventional spellings in her correspondence and other writings, such as “inclosed” instead of “enclosed”, or “altho” instead of “although”, and I believed this instance to be another drop in this bucket of the quirky, irregular 20th century spellings she employed.

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood for The History of English Podcast, Episode 12. This map shows the flow of renewed migration of Indo-European tribes in the region north of Greece in and around the Balkans.

Episode 12: Early Greek, Hittite and the Trojan War of THEP, originally released in August of 2013, set out to discuss the Minoan civilization living on the island of Crete, just south of modern day Greece, and their mythical king, Minos, for whom the society was named after. According to legend, Minos was in possession of a powerful half man, half bull creature called a Minotaur which he kept in a purposefully complicated cave, or labyrinth, as a prison. Eventually, a Greek prince, Theseus, offered to kill the beast. In order to avoid becoming lost in the maze of the labyrinth, he used a ball of thread, given to him by King Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, and tied one end to the cave’s door. After defeating the Minotaur in the center of the maze, Theseus used the thread to find his way back to its entrance, left Crete without Ariadne, and sailed back to his home in Athens. This thread used by Theseus to escape the labyrinth, or any ball of thread or yarn, was historically called a “clew.”

Ariadne Helping Theseus by Giving him a Ball of Thread. Johann Heinrich Tischbein, 1779. oil on canvas.

According to Stroud, this story became wildly popular in the Middle Ages, during the time Old English was spoken. Authors used the idea of a “clew” being employed to solve a maze or a puzzle so often, eventually the word could mean either a ball of thread or yarn, or a figurative hint or guide depending on the context. In modern English, beginning around the late 16th century, two separate spellings emerged for the seemingly unrelated definitions, with writers eventually substituting the Middle English ending of “ew” with the French associated ending of “ue” for the latter meaning. Today, the word “clue” has lost its figurative status, and fully refers to an actual hint to a solution of a problem.

Looking back at Addams’s usage of the word “clew” with this newfound knowledge, we can make some guesses as to her choice of spelling. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the spelling “clew” was being used to refer to a figurative hint or guide as late as 1855. There is a real possibility that Addams, born only five years later in 1860, may have picked up the word’s earlier usage and incorporated it into her lexicon. In either case, the meaning of the word leans heavily toward a hint or guide, no matter how figurative it may be, leading editors to choose “clue” over “clew.”

The battle editors face between fidelity and accuracy when transcribing a text is often fought on a delicate rope. We can only hope that the choices we make help bring Addams’s ideas to a larger audience, and give some kind of [clue] into the world of Progressive era activism.

By Victoria Sciancalepore
Assistant Editor

Sources: About the Host, The History of English Podcast; Episode 12: Early Greek, Hittite and the Trojan War, The History of English Podcast; Jane Addams to Miss Leppo, December 28, 1907, Jane Addams Papers Project; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, May 19, 1902, Jane Addams Papers Project; Pleads for Suffrage, April 17, 1906, Jane Addams Papers Project

The Tense of Historical Editing (Or, The Death of Jane Addams)

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.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Rose Hull (the wife of Secretary of State Cordell Hull), and Jane Addams at the WILPF dinner, May 2, 1935, Washington, DC. [Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1935]
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, with Anna Wilmarth Ickes (daughter of old friend Mary Wilmarth and wife of Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes) on her right, and surrounded by journalists in Washington. [The Springfield (OH) Daily News, May 2, 1935]
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
Associate Editor

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, [74], 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.

Crowds gather at Hull-House for Jane Addams’s funeral, May 23, 1935

 

Jane Addams and Abraham Lincoln

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.”

Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and Jane Addams in 1914, both at the age of 54. Images courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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.

By Stacy Lynn
Associate Editor

Other Sources: Louise Knight, Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 357-58; Jean Bethke Elshtain, Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 52-56;  Allen F. Davis, American Heroine: The Life and Legend of Jane Addams (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 162-65 The Selected Papers of Jane Addams, 1:3-4; Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 8 vols. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:112, 7:18, 8:333; Lincoln Memorial University, Honorary Doctor of Laws, May 1920, Jane Addams Papers Microfilm, 45:863; Documents in Jane Addams Digital Edition: Respect for Law, Jan. 3, 1901; Newer Ideals of Peace, Feb. 19, 1904; Jane Addams to W. E. B. Du Bois, Jan. 26, 1907; Hull-House Year Book 1906-1907; Jane Addams to Joseph A. Bache, January 9, 1909; Address at Abraham Lincoln Center, Feb. 9, 1909; Call for a Lincoln Conference on the Negro Question, Feb. 13, 1909; Autobiographical Notes upon Twenty Years at Hull-House: A War Time Childhood, Apr. 1910; Has the Emancipation Act Been Nullified by National Indifference, Feb. 1, 1913; The Immigrant and Social Unrest, Apr. 19, 1920; Jane Addams to William Edward Dodd, May 12, 1920; Address at the Presentation Ceremony of the Monument to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, Feb. 15, 1921; Mary Rozet Smith to Esther Linn Hulbert, June 2-27, 1923; Heaven Wide Open, June 27, 1923. Image of the Lincoln statue in Lincoln Park, courtesy of Ron Schramm, Lincoln in Illinois (Springfield, IL: Abraham Lincoln Assoc., 2009), 3.

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.

 

 

Say, What?!!!

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.

Say, what?!!!

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.

Ooo, boy.

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.

“A Reasonable Request”

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.

Catharine Waugh McCulloch, c. 1907

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.

Illinois Equal Suffrage Association Flyer, c. April 1909

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.

Suffrage Train, leaving Chicago for Springfield, April 13, 1909

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:

Ella Stewart
  • “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

    Agnes Nestor, 1914
  • “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

    Julia Lathrop, Jane Addams, and Mary McDowell in Washington, D.C., lobbying for woman suffrage, 1913
  • “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

    Elizabeth Hawley Everett, c. 1909
  • “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.

Men watching women marching for suffrage in New York City, Oct. 23, 1915

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.

Powering the Jane Addams Papers!

We are delighted beyond words to announce that the Jane Addams Papers has received two major grants.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission awarded us $160,000 in support for 2022-2023. The NHPRC’s program in Publishing Historical Records in Collaborative Editions has been a stalwart supporter of the Project and has published many papers projects that document the lives of women.  Funds from this grant help support the salaries of editors working on the Jane Addams Digital Edition.

 


The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded us a three-year $300,000 grant (2022-2025). The NEH’s program in Scholarly Editing aids in the publication of the Selected Papers of Jane Addams as well as our work on the digital edition. The NEH’s support for historical editions has enriched the study of our nation’s heritage tremendously.


 

E. B. Waters portrait of Jane Addams (1902) Library of Congress

A Challenge: How You Can Help

Our new NEH Grant offers a way for you to help power the Addams Papers. The NEH will provide us with an additional $150,000 in matching funds if we can raise $150,000 from private sources. These much needed funds are needed to support the salaries of our student workers, research costs, and the editorial salaries that aren’t covered by the NEH and NHPRC.

We are currently short-staffed, with fewer student assistants than usual. Your support will ensure that we meet our goals for 2022-2023:

  • Entering over 1,000 new Addams documents with descriptive metadata in the Jane Addams Digital Edition.
  • Transcribing over 1,000 new Addams documents for the digital edition.
  • Proofreading student work to ensure quality before publication.
  • Submitting Volume 4 of the Selected Papers of Jane Addams to the University of Illinois Press.
  • Continuing research on Volume 5 of the Selected Papers of Jane Addams.
  • Working with high school teachers to develop AP resources.
  • Researching and writing biographies and descriptions of the people, organizations, events and publications mentioned in the Jane Addams Digital Edition.

So, if you can, please donate now. Your contributions will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the NEH and will power the students whose work makes all of this possible.

Thanks for your support!

 

 

 

A Tale of Many Cultures: Clara Landsberg’s Experiences at Hull House

This article in its entirety was published in Volume 46, No. 3 Summer 2022 edition of Chicago Jewish History, a quarterly publication of the Chicago Jewish Historical Society and is being reprinted with the permission of the Society.

A Tale of Many Cultures:  Clara Landsberg’s Experiences at Hull House with Eastern European Jewish Immigrants and White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Social Workers

by Cynthia Francis Gensheimer

Clara Landsberg, a Jewish-born teacher, social worker, and pacifist, lived at Hull House in the room directly adjacent to Jane Addams’s for roughly 20 years and made significant contributions to the Chicago settlement house. However, scholars have paid scant attention to her story until now, perhaps because she never sought prominence during her lifetime.[1] While researching her connection with Bryn Mawr College as part of a larger project on early Jewish women students at the Seven Sisters schools, I have discovered that shortly after graduating in 1897, Landsberg left Judaism to become Episcopalian. Afterward, she maintained ties with her influential Jewish parents but also became a member of the nation’s Protestant elite and of an international sisterhood of pacifists. Like many leading women intellectuals and social workers of her day, Landsberg lived with her lifelong partner—a woman—in a predominantly female world. This article will provide an overview of Landsberg’s biography, with a focus on her role at Hull House.

Clara was the daughter of a Jewish power couple: Rabbi Max Landsberg and Miriam (Isengarten) Landsberg, leading Jewish intellectuals and nationally known experts on charity administration, with 30 years of hands-on experience in helping the less fortunate in Rochester, New York.[2] Clara’s parents had close working relationships with luminaries Jewish and non-Jewish, including Chicago’s Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch, Hannah Greenebaum Solomon, and Jane Addams.[3] Closer to home, Susan B. Anthony attended the Landsberg congregation’s annual interfaith Thanksgiving services and, in 1892, recommended Miriam Landsberg for a statewide position—although that position was ultimately filled by Anthony herself.[4] The Landsbergs helped lead efforts for social good in Rochester with their closest friends: the Unitarian minister William Gannett and his wife, Mary T. L. Gannett. Clara Landsberg followed her parents’ example in many ways.

Clara can be taken as a case study in the difficulties that many Jewish women of her generation would have faced in attempting to achieve the Landsbergs’ highest ideals. Clara graduated from the most intellectually rigorous women’s college on the East Coast and, through her partner, Margaret Hamilton, became a member of one of the country’s most elite Protestant families. Yet even after graduating from college and becoming Episcopalian, she was denied a job at a girls’ preparatory school because she was still considered Jewish. This discrimination against Jews, even those who had left the faith, was leveled against a young woman of eminent qualifications and impeccable manners. It belied her own parents’ fervent wish that Judaism should be considered only a religion, not a race, and that Jews should find full acceptance in American society.

Born in Rochester in 1873, Clara—and her two younger sisters, Rose and Grace—attended Miss Cruttenden’s School for Girls, which offered a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, but also equipped its students for lives of simple refinement. Although their social world was predominantly Jewish, they had Christian friends as well. At Rose’s confirmation, Rabbi Landsberg enjoined the teenagers coming of age in his Reform congregation to take a rational approach to religion and to determine their beliefs for themselves without feeling bound by tradition.[5] As the Landsberg children would have known, Susan B. Anthony and Mary T. L. Gannett had done exactly that by becoming Unitarians after growing up as Quakers.

At Bryn Mawr College, Clara met her future life partner: Margaret Hamilton, daughter of an upper-class WASP family in Fort Wayne, Indiana.[6] Clara also became acquainted with Margaret’s sisters: Alice Hamilton, who would later establish the field of industrial medicine, and Edith Hamilton, who would famously popularize classical Greek and Roman mythology.[7] Bryn Mawr, founded by Quakers, advertised itself as “pervaded by a simple and practical Christianity” and required daily chapel attendance.[8] Clara, the only Jew of the nearly 50 students in her graduating class, lived on campus and studied classical and modern languages, with a concentration in Latin and Greek.[9] After their 1897 graduation, Clara and Margaret studied abroad at the Sorbonne and the University of Munich.[10]

Around 1900, Clara Landsberg moved to Hull House, where she would room with Alice Hamilton for the next two decades.[11] By the time Clara arrived, three-quarters of Hull House’s clientele consisted of Jews from Chicago’s Near West Side and other neighborhoods.[12] These Jews—mostly immigrants from Eastern Europe—came to learn English, attend lectures and concerts, and participate in drama, music, and debate clubs.[13] Despite their apprehensions with respect to Christian proselytizing, they predominated among the 9,000 people who visited Hull House each week.[14] Clara Landsberg earned her living by teaching German and history at a local girls’ school; in her free time, she taught—and later supervised—the evening classes at Hull House.[15]

Jane Addams mentored Clara, who was initially in the unique position of being the only resident who had been born and raised Jewish. Jane Addams called her the “dean of our educational department”—in other words, supervisor of one of the settlement’s core activities.[16] In 1908, a paragraph in the Bryn Mawr Alumnæ Quarterly—likely written by Clara herself—reported that she was living at Hull House to familiarize herself with the problems of immigrants living in “crowded” quarters. Rather than describing her students as Catholic or Jewish, Clara identified them by their various nationalities: “Italian, Greek, Russian, Roumanian, Polish, Armenian, and German.”[17] She explained that they wanted to learn English not only to get good jobs, but also to “study subjects more or less remote from their daily work for much the same reasons that induce people of more fortunate neighborhoods to study Browning, Shakespeare, Ibsen, or Bernard Shaw.”[18] During her early years at Hull House, Clara introduced her students—primarily Eastern European Jews—to some of the classic works of English literature.[19] According to Jane Addams, Clara possessed “an unusual power” as a knowledgeable teacher with an unassuming, quiet presence.[20] In addition, Landsberg had “many friends among the poor people of the neighborhood who are devotedly attached to her.”[21] Two of those friends were Hilda Satt and Morris Levinson.

Hilda Satt’s life was transformed through her long association with the settlement and its residents. Hilda, who had first visited Hull House as a young teenager in 1895, later became a member of one of Clara Landsberg’s reading groups. Certain her mother would disapprove, Hilda had initially declined an Irish friend’s invitation to attend that year’s Hull House Christmas party. In her posthumously published autobiography, Hilda recalled her fear that she would be killed if she attended, because in Poland it had been dangerous for Jewish children to play outside on Christmas. She later wrote, “There were children and parents … from Russia, Poland, Italy, Germany, Ireland, England, and many other lands, but no one seemed to care where they had come from, or what religion they professed … I became a staunch American at this party.”[22]

In one of the first reading groups Clara conducted at Hull House, she ignited a love of English literature in Hilda, who spoke Yiddish at home and had left school after fifth grade to work days sewing shirt cuffs. In addition to the books Clara assigned, Hilda was soon reading “every book I could borrow.”[23] Only a few years earlier, Hilda’s English vocabulary had been so limited that she did not yet know the word “mushroom.” During a meal at Hull House, she had been served a mushroom omelet, of which she would later recall, “I was tortured with the question of whether the mushrooms were kosher.”[24] Soon, however, Hilda counted authors like Dickens and Louisa May Alcott among her friends. Months after meeting Hilda, Clara presented her with a Christmas gift of a copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. Hilda would later recall this as her fondest memory of “Miss Landsberg, … a fragile, ethereal, gentle woman … [who] opened new vistas in reading for me.”[25] With Clara Landsberg’s help, Hilda Satt became an exemplar of the path to Americanization and upward mobility that the settlement aimed to encourage.[26]

Another of Clara’s students, Morris Levinson, was, like many immigrants, eager to learn English and become an American citizen in the cultural as well as the political sense of the word. With Clara Landsberg as his mentor, he aspired to learn much more than basic skills of vocabulary, grammar, and usage.[27] Landsberg saved two letters that he wrote to her in 1905, while she was home in Rochester convalescing after a serious illness. In broken English, Morris expressed his concern that “Miss Landsberg” was “too sweet, and delicate, to be confind to bed of illness [sic],” reassured her that Ellen Gates Starr had taken him on as a pupil, and told her that he was studying a book she had given him to read: The Boys of 76, a collection of first-hand accounts of soldiers in the American Revolution:

I bolive I should have to know the history of this Country … I have resolved to read it over agan, so that I will remember everything better … Miss Landsberg, I bolive this history will make me a throught citesin.[28]

Morris also confided in Clara. He planned not to live solely seeking fun, “as a great many of people do,” but rather to “try to egicat [him]self as much as poseble” in order to “see the mining of this beautiful world and of the real uman life.”[29] Clara was not only a teacher but a role model for Morris Levinson: someone he admired and to whom he felt a deep sense of gratitude.

Although Hilda, Morris, and Clara had all been raised in Jewish homes, their similarities ended there. Clara’s highly educated, German-born parents spoke fluent English and shunned Yiddish. Like other Reform rabbis, Rabbi Landsberg jettisoned “superstitious forms and antiquated dogmas,” eliminating rituals he considered outmoded, such as Bar Mitzvah.[30] He endorsed the principles adopted by the Reform movement in its Pittsburgh Platform of 1885, but, like Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch of Chicago’s Sinai Congregation, he saw them as only the beginning rather than the end. In 1893, Rabbi Landsberg spoke in Chicago at the World Parliament of Religions, endorsing an expanded role for Jewish women in congregational life.[31]

Clara’s approach to Judaism was virtually the antithesis of that of many of the Jewish immigrants at Hull House. Her father decried Orthodoxy as well as Jewish nationalism. The Jewish immigrants—familiar and comfortable only with Orthodox Judaism—rejected Reform Judaism. Even those atheists, anarchists, and socialists who spurned all religion felt a connection to Yiddishkeit and Jewish peoplehood, concepts rejected by the Landsbergs and most Reform Jews. Did these immigrant Jews nonetheless recognize Clara Landsberg as ethnically Jewish, or did they see her as one of many Protestant residents of Hull House? Might they have accepted her precisely because they had no idea she was Jewish?

Addams and her cohort respected religious differences and tried hard to make Hull House welcoming to all.[32] Yet Jane Addams was motivated by her Protestant faith—especially by the literature and culture of social Christianity, which she described as a “renaissance of the early Christian humanitarianism … with a bent to express in social service and in terms of action the spirit of Christ.”[33] Addams has been criticized for failing to grasp that for many Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Judaism was far more than a religion. On the other hand, features of Hull House that Orthodox Jews would have found off-putting—the Chi-Rho cross Addams always wore, the Christian artwork on display, the lack of kosher food—would not have offended the most liberal Reform Jews such as Clara Landsberg or her mother, Miriam Landsberg.[34]

Miriam Landsberg, Hannah G. Solomon, and other German Jews mirrored mainstream America’s adulation of Addams. One of these Jewish admirers, Sara Hart, called Addams “the single, most influential citizen of my generation.”[35] Miriam Landsberg visited Hull House frequently and helped spearhead efforts among affluent Jews to establish a settlement in Rochester. In 1905, after spending several weeks at Hull House, she wrote: “I do not wonder that any one who has ever lived at Hull House cannot bear to go back to ordinary life.” She described the 21 residents (including her daughter Clara) as a “family” composed of “people of the finest minds” and life at Hull House as “simple, practical, … ideal.”[36]

Settlement work was popular among graduates of Bryn Mawr and similar colleges. Even so, it was not Clara’s first career choice. She and Margaret had wanted to teach at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, but two of the school’s most influential trustees, Mary Garrett and M. Carey Thomas (then president of Bryn Mawr College), refused to hire her because she was Jewish.[37] In 1899, Edith Hamilton (then headmistress of the Bryn Mawr School) wrote to M. Carey Thomas to apprise her of Clara’s conversion:

My sister has just written me that Miss Landsberg is about to become a member of the Episcopal church, and I have wondered whether this would make a difference in your and Miss Thomas’ opinion that we could not offer her a position because she is a Jewess.[38]

Clara Landsberg’s conversion made “not the least difference,” either to Mary Garrett or to M. Carey Thomas, as Garrett explained in her response to Edith Hamilton:

Our objection is one of policy and very few Jews employed in schools or colleges are Jews by religion; it never had occurred to us that Miss Landsberg was really an orthodox Jew. We are wholly unwilling to connect with the school in any capacity a Jew by race, and in view of our feeling of the financial unwisdom of such a step we think that Jews ought to be ruled out of court for the future in consideration of possible appointments.[39]

Yet Clara persisted. In 1900, M. Carey Thomas wrote to Mary Garrett saying, “The Jews enrage me. Is nothing in the world settled? Have Miss Landsberg & the Jews to come up perpetually. It is awfully bad policy.”[40]

Clara remained at Hull House until 1920, when a Quaker organization sponsored her to travel to Vienna to perform postwar humanitarian relief work. Two letters of recommendation finally qualified her as a WASP and (therefore) fit to represent the U.S. abroad. Jane Addams provided a ringing endorsement, and Mary T. L. Gannett was careful to specify: “As a matter of information, Miss Landsberg, during her college course joined the Episcopal Church – and as far as I know is still a loyal member of that Communion.”[41]

When Addams and her partner, Mary Rozet Smith, learned that Clara Landsberg had been accepted to the Quaker program, they both wrote letters of congratulation and farewell. Addams wrote, “I can’t bear to think of H.H. [Hull-House] next winter without either Alice [Hamilton] or yourself.”[42] Mary Rozet Smith wrote: “… no words will express … [our] sense of desolation … when we think of the year without you. … J.A. and I have decided that it is like losing a mother and a child at once. … With Alice in Boston and you in Vienna what will Hull-House be! It is too depressing to face.”[43]

Did Max and Miriam Landsberg know that their daughter was no longer Jewish? In the 1899 letter announcing Clara Landsberg’s conversion, Edith Hamilton had written, “Under the circumstances her family would prefer her not to be at home.”[44] Yet there is no proof that Clara’s parents did learn of her conversion. To all appearances, she maintained a positive relationship with her mother and father throughout their lives. In his final instructions to his children, Max Landsberg wrote, “[M]y life has been one of uniform happiness. The only serious trouble in my whole life has been the loss of my dear wife, your good mother.”[45]

As tolerant as Miriam was toward other beliefs, however, it is likely she would have cared deeply that Clara had left Judaism. At a national conference, as chair of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Committee on Religion, she worried that many German Jews were “given over entirely to materialism and indifference to all Jewish affairs.” She warned Jewish mothers that children raised without religion could “fall prey to … pious sharks … eager for souls.”[46] A few years later, she implored mothers to transmit a love of Judaism to their children “to preserve to our posterity that Judaism which gave Religion to the world.”[47] Despite Miriam’s fears, it is doubtful her daughter would have fallen prey to “pious sharks.” Rather, through exposure to Christianity at school and through her closest friends and role models, Clara rejected the most modern version of Judaism, one carefully crafted by her own parents, in favor of the Episcopal Church, which her father had criticized for what he saw as its strict adherence to ritual and creed.[48]

Part Two of this article will discuss Clara Landsberg’s becoming godmother to Jane Addams’ grandniece, Clara’s travels with Addams, and Clara’s own work as a pacifist, which was deeply informed by her connection with Addams. It will also document her retaining ties to her birth family, even as she joined the Hamilton family as well. And it will describe Landsberg’s trip to Germany with Alice Hamilton just after Hitler had come to power. In a letter to herself documenting the onset of the Holocaust, Landsberg would write, “I am a Jewess.”

Our thanks to Cynthia Francis Gensheimer and the Chicago Jewish History for allowing us to share this article with you.


[1] Even one of Clara Landsberg’s fellow residents, Francis Hackett, seemingly forgot her surname: “Miss Clara, of Bryn Mawr vintage, valiant, tense, souffrante, at once impatient and remorseful, indefatigable and worn-out.” Francis Hackett, “Hull-House: A Souvenir,” 100 Years at Hull-House, eds. Mary Lynn McCree Bryan and Allen F. Davis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969), 69.

[2] Max Landsberg, born in Berlin in 1845, was a rabbi’s son and a protégé of Abraham Geiger. American Jewish Year Book 1903–1904, 72; http://www.ajcarchives.org/AJC_DATA/Files/1903_1904_3_SpecialArticles.pdf. When Miriam Landsberg, who was born in Hanover in 1847, died, the American Israelite called her death a “loss to American Jewry.” American Israelite, April 25, 1912. Peter Eisenstadt, Affirming the Covenant: A History of Temple B’rith Kodesh, Rochester, New York, 1848–1998 (Rochester: Temple B’rith Kodesh, 1999), ch. 2 and 3; Stuart E. Rosenberg, The Jewish Community in Rochester, 1843–1925 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1954). At a 1910 meeting of the National Conference of Jewish Charities, during Miriam Landsberg’s term as vice-president, Jane Addams gave the opening address, and Rabbi Landsberg served as delegate representing the Jewish Orphan Asylum of Western New York, which he had co-founded and led for decades. Sixth Biennial Session of the National Conference of Jewish Charities in the United States Held in the City of St. Louis, May 17th to 19th, 1910 (Baltimore: Kohn & Pollock, 1910). American Israelite, February 5, 1914, 3. Rabbi Landsberg was elected president of the New York State Conference on Charities and Correction in 1910, when Miriam Landsberg was the outgoing vice-president. “Conference of Charities Holds Three Busy Sessions,” Democrat and Chronicle, November 17, 1910, 17.

[3] As chair of the Committee on Religion of the National Council of Jewish Women, Miriam Landsberg worked closely with Hannah G. Solomon, the organization’s founder. Susan B. Anthony wrote to Miriam Landsberg giving instructions for a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C. and letting her know that Hannah G. Solomon and Sadie American had already arrived. Susan B. Anthony to Miriam Landsberg, February 12, 1899, University of Rochester Archives. After Hannah G. Solomon’s daughter, Helen, visited the Landsbergs in 1902, Rabbi Landsberg wrote to Hannah telling her what a “great treat” it had been to have her visit: “Helen reminds me so much of you, although she looks more like the best husband on earth.” He signed the letter, “With love for your husband and all the sisters within your reach.” Max Landsberg to Hannah G. Solomon, April 2, 1902. Helen Solomon Wellesley Correspondence, Hannah G. Solomon Family Collection, MC 749, American Jewish Archives. For the working relationship among Rabbi Hirsch, Hannah G. Solomon, and Jane Addams, see Rina Lunin Schultz, “Striving for Fellowship: Sinai’s Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch and Hull-House’s Jane Addams, A Not-So-Odd Couple,” unpublished manuscript, February 24, 2015.

[4] Ida Husted Harper, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (Indianapolis: Bowen-Merrill, 1898), 2:730. In 1891, Susan B. Anthony, Rabbi Landsberg, and Rev. William C. Gannett spoke at the annual Thanksgiving service. “The Benefits of Unrest,” Democrat and Chronicle, November 27, 1891, 6.

[5] “Rochester, N.Y.,” American Israelite, June 20, 1889, 2.

[6] For background on Bryn Mawr College, see Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women’s Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984) and Horowitz, The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994).

[7] For a significant biographical work on the nature of Clara Landsberg’s relationship with Margaret Hamilton, as well as Edith’s connection to Bryn Mawr College and the Bryn Mawr School, see Judith P. Hallett, “Edith Hamilton,” The Classical World  90, nos. 2/3, Six Women Classicists (November 1996–February 1997): 107–147.

[8] Bryn Mawr College Program 1892 (Philadelphia: Sherman & Co., 1892), 77.

[9] Clara Landsberg’s student transcript, Bryn Mawr College Archives. Religious affiliations researched by the author.

[10] Clara Landsberg’s alumna record, Bryn Mawr College Archives. Sandra L. Singer, Adventures Abroad: North American Women at German-speaking Universities, 1868–1915 (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2003), 75, 212.

[11] Presumably by the time that Clara Landsberg moved to Hull-House, she had become a member of the Episcopal church, but evidence surrounding the conversion is scanty, and that surrounding the exact dates of Clara Landsberg’s tenure at Hull-House is contradictory. For Alice Hamilton’s experience at Hull-House, see Alice Hamilton, Exploring the Dangerous Trades (Fairfax, Virginia: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 1995), ch. 4 and 5; Barbara Sicherman, Alice Hamilton: A Life in Letters (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1984), 3–4, 5, 115–136, 139–141, 144–152, 182, 244. Both Hamilton’s and Sicherman’s books are valuable resources that contain references to Clara Landsberg throughout.

[12] Hannah G. Solomon, introducing Jane Addams as a speaker at a national convention of the National Council of Jewish Women. “General Council of Hebrew Women Meets,” The Washington Times, December 3, 1902, 2.

[13] Philip Davis, “Educational Influences,” in The Russian Jew in the United States, ed. Charles S. Bernheimer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The John C. Winston Co., 1905), 217.

[14] Hull-House was not the only center serving immigrant Jews in its neighborhood. German Jews in Chicago organized their own institutions, and in fact Jane Addams mediated between the German and eastern European Jews when the Jewish-run Maxwell Street settlement was established a few blocks from Hull-House. The first organizational meeting, held at Hull-House in 1892, nearly disbanded due to the terrible arguing between the immigrants and the German Jews who convened the meeting. In an essay titled “A Resented Philanthropy,” one of the immigrants at the meeting later credited Addams with reestablishing civility. He said, “The ‘culture’ which was to emanate from the settlement and permeate all corners of the Ghetto was conspicuously absent from the heated discussion of the ‘enlightened’ benefactors.” In 1907, 150 people visited Hull-House weekly to lecture, teach, or supervise clubs. For Hull-House’s purpose, the names of its residents, and its weekly attendance, see Hull-House Year Book 1907, 5–6 (Archive.org, https://archive.org/details/hullhouseyearboo1906hull/page/38/mode/2up?q=jewish).

[15] Clara’s work evolved over time. She worked full-time at Hull-House for one year, but, finding that too difficult, she eventually taught at the University School for Girls (Miss Haire’s). Alice Hamilton to Agnes Hamilton, [mid-June? 1902], in Sicherman, Alice Hamilton, 142–143. Clara Landsberg’s alumna record, Bryn Mawr College.

[16] Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House (New York: Macmillan, 1912), 437 (A Celebration of Women Writers, ed. Mary Mark Ockerbloom, https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/addams/hullhouse/hullhouse.html).

[17] Italians came to predominate during Clara’s second decade. In 1902, the Chicago Tribune reported on a “Hebrew invasion” in the “crowded west side district”: “As soon as a Jewish family gets a foothold in a tenement other occupants vacate.” “Races Shift Like Sand,” Chicago Tribune, September 26, 1902, 13.

[18] Bryn Mawr Alumnæ Quarterly Vol. 1–2 1907–1909 (Bryn Mawr, PA: Bryn Mawr Alumnæ Association, 1907–1909) (https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/214021114.pdf).

[19] Francis Hackett wrote in his memoir: “Russian Jews and Jewesses came in great numbers to the classes at Hull House, and had special leanings toward literature” (72). Some English classes were composed entirely of Jews. Philip Davis, “Intellectual Influences,” in The Russian Jew in the United States, ed. Charles S. Bernheimer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The John C. Winston Co., 1905), 217.

[20] Jane Addams to Anita McCormick Blaine, June 29, 1901, Anita McCormick Blaine Correspondence and Papers, 1828–1958, Wisconsin Historical Society (Jane Addams Papers Project, https://digital.janeaddams.ramapo.edu/items/show/1015).

[21] Jane Addams, American Friends’ Service Committee (AFSC) letter of recommendation for Clara Landsberg, May 1, 1920. AFSC Archives.

[22] Hilda Satt Polacheck, I Came a Stranger: The Story of a Hull-House Girl (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 51–52, 66.

[23] Polacheck, I Came a Stranger, 66.

[24] Polacheck, I Came a Stranger, 66.

[25] Polacheck, I Came a Stranger, 66–67.

[26] In 1905, Hilda Satt took over supervision of the evening classes in Clara’s absence. In 1906–07, she taught beginners’ English at Hull-House. Jane Addams to Clara Landsberg, July 4, 1905, Clara Landsberg Papers, University of Illinois at Chicago Library (Jane Addams Papers Project, https://digital.janeaddams.ramapo.edu/items/show/840); Hull-House Year Book 1906–1907, 8.

[27] Addams noted the frequency with which young Jewish men who had patronized Hull-House also graduated from high school with help from their parents and then managed on their own to go on to college. Twenty Years at Hull-House, 346.

[28] Morris Levinson to Clara Landsberg, May 26, 1905, Additional Papers of the Hamilton Family, 1850–1994, box 13, 83-M175-94-M77, Schlesinger Library. Levinson’s letters are quoted as written, without corrections as to spelling, grammar, or usage.

[29] Morris Levinson to Clara Landsberg, n/d, Additional Papers of the Hamilton Family, 1850–1994, box 13, 83-M175-94-M77, Schlesinger Library.

[30] “Dr. Landsberg’s Closing Lecture,” Jewish Tidings, March 30, 1888, 19.

[31] Max Landsberg, “The Position of Woman Among the Jews,” World Parliament of Religions, Chicago, Illinois, 1893 (GoogleBooks, https://books.google.com/books?id=q2U-AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA241&dq=%22max+landsberg%22+%22The+Position+of+Woman+among+the+Jews%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi-3aifgMLPAhUk_4MKHRbLCOIQ6AEIIDAA#v=onepage&q=%22max%20landsberg%22%20%22The%20Position%20of%20Woman%20among%20the%20Jews%22&f=false). When virtually no other rabbi in America would perform an interfaith marriage, both Hirsch and Landsberg did so. Rosenberg, The Jewish Community in Rochester, 93–94. Tobias Brinkmann, Sundays at Sinai (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 136.

[32] In Twenty Years at Hull-House, Addams explained that over time, she and the other residents abandoned Protestant evening prayer, and their demographic composition at least in part reflected the make-up of the neighborhood, including Catholics and Jews, “dissenters and a few agnostics.” Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House, 448–449. Rivka Shpak Lissak has claimed that although many traditional Jews avoided Hull-House, it “had a closer relationship with the marginal Jewish elements, the assimilationists and the radicals.” Lissak, Pluralism and Progressives: Hull House and the New Immigrants, 1890–1919 (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 80.

[33] Rima Lunin Schultz wrote: “For Addams, who affixed a Chi-Rho Cross to her bodice, her work at Hull-House was religious; yet by establishing her settlement as an independent association without ties to any religious organization, university, or other agency, and by not requiring religious worship or religious education, she set out to spread a Christian humanism that she envisioned as cosmopolitan and democratic, inclusive and tolerant. Did this mean that she resolved to exclude religious ideas from Hull-House? I would argue that this has been an area of misunderstanding about Addams’s intentions.” Rina Lunin Schultz, “Jane Addams, Apotheosis of Social Christianity,” Church History 84, no. 1 (March 2015): 207.

[34] Many eastern European Jewish immigrants were strongly attached to Jewish culture and Zionism, even as they lost their connection to Jewish worship. Jane Addams wanted children of immigrants to respect their parents, yet she also saw that many old customs and religious traditions made no sense to the younger generation and in some cases held them back. Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House, 247–248; Rivka Shpak Lissak, Pluralism and Progressives, 80–94. In contrast, on a family trip to Germany when Clara was ten years old, the Landsbergs had appreciated the aesthetic value of medieval Christian architecture such as the Hildesheim cathedral. Clara Landsberg, “Leaves from my Diary,” 1887, 1–4, Additional Papers of the Hamilton Family, 1850–1994, 83-M175-94-M77, box 13, folder 81, Schlesinger Library.

[35] Sara Hart wrote of Jane Addams, “It was my pleasure to know her intimately for more than thirty years.” Sara L. Hart, The Pleasure is Mine: An Autobiography (Chicago, Illinois: Valentine-Newman, 1947), 82. Hannah G. Solomon considered Jane Addams a leader of “all humanity” and  “the greatest woman of our century.” Jane Addams inspired Jewish women at the NCJW’s third biennial in 1902, which Solomon attended as president and Miriam Landsberg as vice-president (Hannah G. Solomon, “Council Welfare Work Forty Years Ago and Today,” 4, n/d, Hannah G. Solomon Collection, Library of Congress, box 11, folder 5).

[36] “Sings Praises of Hull House,” Democrat and Chronicle, March 17, 1905, 10.

[37] To understand Mary Elizabeth Garrett and the early history of Bryn Mawr School, see Kathleen Waters Sander, Mary Elizabeth Garrett: Society and Philanthropy in the Gilded Age (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2008).

[38] Edith Hamilton to Mary Garrett, April 18, 1899, Bryn Mawr College Archives, Papers of M. Carey Thomas, reel 214.

[39] I am indebted to Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, who cites this letter and gives a good overview of M. Carey Thomas’s antisemitism in M. Carey Thomas, 230–32, 267, 486. Mary Garrett to Edith Hamilton, April 24, 1899, Bryn Mawr College Archives, Papers of M. Carey Thomas, reel 214.

[40] M. Carey Thomas to Mary Garrett, September 26, 1900, Bryn Mawr College Archives, Papers of M. Carey Thomas, reel 23, nos. 37–39.

[41] Mary T. L. Gannett, letter of recommendation, May 4, 1920, Clara Landsberg’s personnel file, AFSC Archives.

[42] Jane Addams to Clara Landsberg, August 7, 1920, Hamilton Family Collection, 84-M210, box 1, folder 7, Schlesinger Library. Alice Hamilton had just been appointed the first woman professor at Harvard’s School of Medicine.

[43] Mary Rozet Smith to Clara Landsberg, August 7, 1920, Hamilton Family Collection, 84-M210, box 1, folder 7, Schlesinger Library.

[44] Edith Hamilton to Mary Garrett, April 18, 1899.

[45] Max Landsberg to his children, January 16, 1918, Max Landsberg SC 6602, American Jewish Archives.

[46] “The Council’s Report on ‘Religion,’ ” The Reform Advocate, March 24, 1900, 167 (The National Library of Israel, https://www.nli.org.il/en/newspapers/?a=d&d=refadv19000324-01.1.11&e=——-en-20–1–img-txIN%7ctxTI-%22miriam+landsberg%22————-1).

[47] Miriam Landsberg, “Report of Committee on Religion,” The Reform Advocate, January 3, 1903, 452 (The National Library of Israel, https://www.nli.org.il/en/newspapers/refadv/1903/01/03/01/article/29/?srpos=12&e=——190-en-20–1–img-txIN%7ctxTI-landsberg+committee+on+religion————-1).

[48] Max Landsberg criticized Episcopalians for requiring members to “believe in the forty-nine articles of faith” and Presbyterians for the Westminster catechism. “What is Judaism?” Democrat and Chronicle, November 22, 1899, 11. The Hamilton sisters, whose family Clara Landsberg joined, had been reared in the Presbyterian congregation founded by their grandfather, but, as children, they preferred the small Episcopal church on Mackinac Island, where they spent their summers. For a thorough discussion of the Hamilton sisters’ religious upbringing, see The Education of Alice Hamilton, eds. Matthew C. Ringenberg, William C. Ringenberg, and Joseph D. Brain (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2019), esp. 13–14, 23–24. For a discussion of religion among the residents of Hull-House, see Eleanor J. Stebner, The Women of Hull House: A Study in Spirituality, Vocation, and Friendship (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997).

 

 

Jane Addams on Guns

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.”

Chicago Tribune, Dec. 2, 1903, p. 14.

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.

By Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor

Sourceswww.gunviolencearchive.org; John W. Leonard, ed., The Book of Chicagoans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Chicago (Chicago: A. N. Marquis & Co, 1905), 247; “Soldiers Hold up Clerk in Hotel,” The Inter Ocean (Chicago), Dec. 22, 1903, p. 2; and Respect for Law, January 3, 1901; Statement on Carrying Concealed Weapons, December 21, 1903; Address at Memorial for Teachers Who Perished in the Iroquois Theatre Fire, January 16, 1904 (excerpt); Statement on Rifle Practice in Public Schools, 1907-1908; The Bad Boy of the Street, October 1909; Problem of Crime Unsolved, Let Us Start at It Anew, May 13, 1927; Draft of Statement Endorsing Herbert Hoover, October 23, 1928; What is Security? Conference on the Cause and Cure of War, 1931; all in Jane Addams Digital Edition.