Assistant Editor for the Jane Addams Papers Project Job Listing

We are hiring! The Project seeks a full-time, grant-funded Assistant Editor to join our work on the Project’s digital edition and on the Selected Papers of Jane Addams. Please share this opportunity with potential candidates in your networks.

The successful candidate will work in-person at Ramapo College of New Jersey, in Mahwah, NJ. This position is not eligible for remote work. The assistant editor’s responsibilities will primarily support work on the Jane Addams Digital Edition. Under the supervision of the Project Director, the Assistant Editor verifies transcriptions and metadata, supervises and trains student employees, conducts research, and assists in all phases of implementing editorial practice at the project. The Assistant Editor also assists with grants and project promotion.

For more information about the position see the posting linked below or email Cathy Moran Hajo chajo@ramapo.edu.

Application information: https://www.schooljobs.com/careers/ramapo/jobs/4583980/assistant-editor-jane-addams-papers-project?pagetype=jobOpportunitiesJobs

Hull House and Benny Goodman

 

Benny Goodman featured in the Billboard 1943 Music Yearbook [Billboard, 1943]
Because of Hull-House’s strong association with social and political causes, it can be easy for many to overlook the settlement house’s invaluable contributions to the arts. In bustling early 20th century Chicago, Hull-House served as a prime location for artistic expression and development. The experimental art classes of Dorothy Loeb at the settlement allowed students to express themselves in free and abstract ways. Enella Benedict provided nearly fifty years of service for Hull-House’s Art School, which served as an educational beacon. The Hull-House Boys’ Band, as it turns out, would have a hand in producing some of Chicago’s greatest musicians, the great Benny Goodman chiefly among them.

While most know Benny Goodman for defining an entire era of American music and helping to popularize jazz for mass audiences, his story begins like that of many other Chicagoans born during Hull-House’s heyday. “The King of Swing” was just one of twelve children born to Jewish immigrant parents. The family was defined by severe poverty, living in a slum neighborhood not too far from Hull-House. Goodman would later say “Judging from the neighborhood where I lived, if it hadn’t been for the clarinet, I might just as easily have been a gangster.”

This escape through music was exactly what Goodman’s father sought to provide. He enrolled ten year old Benny and his brothers Harry and Freddy in the Kehelah Jacob Synagogue’s music lessons, but this quickly fell through. Luckily for the Goodmans, the Hull-House Boys’ Band, returning after a hiatus during WWI, had just reopened its doors. 

Hull-House Boys’ Band
[Hull-House Year Book, 1925]
Excitedly playing in his new uniform, Goodman developed his musical skills under the direction of James Sylvester, the Boys’ Band’s leader and educator. Despite the band’s repertoire being far from the sounds of jazz that would soon envelop Goodman, he received additional lessons from Franz Schoepp, a well-respected Chicago clarinet teacher. Goodman quickly reached the advanced classes of Hull-House’s music program, and was subsequently chosen by Sylvester to play in his 124th Regiment Field Artillery band. This  marked a pivotal point in Goodman’s musical journey, as it allowed him to play with professional musicians and make money in the process.

As his musical abilities exponentially improved, Goodman also relished in Hull-House’s other activities. He was an enthusiastic member of the settlement’s summer camp at the Joseph Tilton Bowen Country Club, gladly taking part in the two-week retreat every summer with his brothers. The woodlands of Waukegan, Illinois were in stark contrast to the dingy conditions of the Chicago ghetto which the boys were exposed to for most of the year.

Goodman went on to work with the likes of Bix Beiderbecke and Ben Pollack, as his music career reached even greater heights. The “King of Swing” never forgot his experiences at Hull-House, however, even returning to the settlement in 1940 to perform a free concert despite grueling sciatica pain in his leg.

Ultimately, it’s clear that Hull-House provided an invaluable service to Benny Goodman’s life, supplying him with music, education and socialization at a time when the difficult social and economic conditions of Chicago may have led him on a much different path. It’s crucially important to remember that Goodman was just one of countless individuals who benefited from the settlement’s services, and that organizations like Hull-House continue to have a hand in producing some of the world’s most distinguished artists and leaders.

Sources: Benny Goodman – The Official Website of the King of Swing. “Biography.” Estate of Benny Goodman. Accessed April 17, 2024; Firestone, Ross. “Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life and Times of Benny Goodman.Norton, 1993; Wilson, John S. “BENNY GOODMAN, KING OF SWING, IS DEAD.New York Times, June 14, 1986. p. 1; 

Reconsidering Jane Addams: A Portrait of Anti-Imperialism?

Jane Addams (1906) Oil on canvas, by George de Forest Brush. National Portrait Gallery.

Last July marked another passing of the Association for Documentary Editing’s yearly conference, this time taking place in Washington, D.C. Our nation’s capital has endless museums, attractions, and performances to explore, but there was only one woman I wanted to meet: Jane Addams, of course. The National Portrait Gallery houses the only known full-color image of Addams, painted by George de Forest Brush in 1906, the process of which was detailed in many letters that can be found within the digital edition. It took some work getting to her – the front desk claimed Addams’s portrait was not currently on display even though I had pulled up a location on the Gallery’s website. Not one to be told “no,” I scoured the nooks and crannies of the museum, looking for Jane nestled among peace activists, child or immigrant welfare reformers, or suffrage protesters. Instead, I found her with what I believed to be a sort of motley crew in a section titled “Republic or Empire?” that detailed America’s thoughts on Spain’s involvement in the destruction of the USS Maine. Her fellow portrait sitters included Samuel Clemens, W.E.B. Du Bois, Benjamin Tillman, Moorfield Storey, Queen Lili’uokalani, and Theophilus Gould Steward, gathered together under the roof of “anti-imperialism.” Since visiting the Gallery, I’ve been wondering: Does Jane Addams truly belong among these figures, or would she be better represented elsewhere?

Queen Lili‘uokalani (c. 1892) Oil on canvas, by William F. Cogswell. Hawai’i State Archives.

Imperialism was a weighted topic during the early Progressive Era. The Berlin Conference of 1884-85 was convened specifically to regulate European colonization and trade in Africa, and to which the United States sent three diplomats to represent the American colonial empire. In 1887, the US renewed the Hawaiian Reciprocity Treaty of 1875, further increasing American economic influence in Hawaii. This renewal set the stage for the overthrowing of Queen Lili’uokalani, the last reigning sovereign of the Hawaiian Kingdom, in 1893. In the 1890s, the “Scramble for Africa” continued, with Egypt overtaken by the British in 1882, and Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda subjugated in the 90’s and early 20th century. These global events culminate in the Gallery section’s primary focus, the 1898 sinking of the USS Maine, then stationed in Havana Harbor, Cuba to protect American interests during the Cuban War of Independence.

Admittedly, I am not an expert in Progressive Era imperialism, but I like to think I know Jane Addams quite well. During the events discussed above, Addams was dutifully creating and strengthening Hull-House, a settlement house in Chicago modeled after Toynbee Hall of London. While she would go on to become active in global circles like peace and disarmament, Addams began her reform work locally, ensuring that marginalized citizens of the Nineteenth Ward were given uplifting amenities and a space to gather and learn. By our records, in the 1890s Addams wrote speeches and articles primarily about Hull-House, working women, and labor strikes – issues that stopped at the state level. Her interest in international affairs wouldn’t manifest fully until the onset of the first World War. Yet, despite all of this, Addams joined the Anti-Imperialist League in 1899.

It was in this same year that Addams gave her first signs of anti-imperial sentiments, with an article for the Central Anti-Imperialist League titled “Democracy or Militarism.” In it, she shows contempt toward countries with “an increased standing army, the soldiers of which are non-producers and must be fed by the workers.” She goes on to scorn the idea of “protecting the weak” as the excuse of a ruler to invade and subjugate outside nations, and shows disapproval toward the recent Spanish-American War. Even so, the last three paragraphs relate the then current state of Spain to events going on in Chicago rather than referencing any national affairs. After this, Addams didn’t discuss imperialism, anti or pro, much, if at all. The next time it was brought up in any meaningful way was a letter from Erving Winslow, Secretary of the Anti-Imperialist League, dated August 12, 1912 in which he chided Addams for supporting Theodore Roosevelt, a known imperialist, in the 1912 Presidential election.

W. E. B. Du Bois (1907) Gelatin silver print, by James E. Purdy. National Portrait Gallery.

The men Addams was grouped with were, from all accounts, more entrenched in the anti-imperialist scene than Addams ever was. Samuel Clemens was shown to be in favor of imperialism until about 1900. From then until his death in 1910, Clemens spoke and wrote often about his thoughts on the Treaty of Paris and the burgeoning Philippine-American War, and he was vocally critical of foreign countries’ imperialism as well. Du Bois extensively advocated for anti-imperialism, especially in Africa where, he argued, the Scramble for Africa was the foundation for World War I. Tillman was a staunch anti-imperialist, though his sentiments stemmed from the belief that white American lives were being wasted in the pursuit of militaristically subduing Filipino natives after the Spanish-American War. Moorfield Story was the Anti-Imperialist League’s second and last president from 1905-1920, and believed in a connection between America’s imperialistic endeavors and the country’s persecution of minority races. Queen Lili’uokalani had the most direct impact of the Age of Imperialism, deposed in 1893 by a group of sugar and pineapple businessmen. If Lili’uokalani was the most directly impacted, Steward was the least involved. Theophilus Gould Steward was primarily a clergyman, author, and educator, serving as a chaplain in the 25th Infantry Regiment, a racially segregated regiment, from 1891-1907, including serving in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, and later in the Philippines. Steward wrote about the experience of the African American soldier, which did touch on their struggle for freedom and citizenship, but he did not directly compare their strife to Filipinos resisting American colonial rule.

Alice Hamilton (1947) Charcoal and chalk on paper, by Samuel Johnson Woolf. National Portrait Gallery.

If not here, then where would Jane Addams belong? The National Portrait Gallery holds over 20,000 pieces in their various collections – certainly some of those could fit better with Addams’s narrative. To represent women building Chicago, they own a portrait of Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve on a cabinet of a US President and a Hull-House volunteer, Alice Hamilton, a Chicago doctor and Hull-House volunteer, or Nettie Fowler McCormick, a Chicago philanthropist. In a wider perspective, outside her Chicago colleagues, there is Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, Martha Carey Thomas, second president of Bryn Mawr College, and Julius Rosenwald, co-owner of Sears, Roebuck, and Co. and philanthropist.

At the end of the day, Jane Addams’s portrait is no longer on display. Neither Clemens’s, Du Bois’s, Tillman’s, Storey’s, Lili’uokalani’s, or Steward’s portraits are currently available to view in person. I suppose that is the nature of a large collection of works with limited space to display them. Even so, this also means that Addams could be displayed along with any number of her peers at any point in time, perhaps to help tell an entirely different story about America’s elaborate history.

 

Victoria Sciancalepore

Assistant Editor

 

Other Sources: “Berlin West Africa Conference.” Encyclopædia Britannica, February 19, 2024. https://www.britannica.com/event/Berlin-West-Africa-Conference; Hixson, William B. Moorfield Storey and the Abolitionist Tradition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1972; Jane Addams. “Democracy or Militarism.” Liberty Tracts, no. 1 (1899): 35–39; “Joint Resolution to Provide for Annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the United States (1898).” National Archives and Records Administration, February 8, 2022. https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/joint-resolution-for-annexing-the-hawaiian-islands; Lewis, David Levering. W.E.B. Du Bois. New York: H. Holt, 1993; “Maine Blown Up at Havana.” New York Tribune. February 16, 1898; Steward, Theophilus Gould. The Colored Regulars. Philadelphia, PA: A.M.E. Book Concern, 1904; Tillman, Benjamin. “Policy Regarding the Philippine Islands.” Congressional Record 32, no. 2 (February 21, 1899): 1529–33; Twain, Mark. “To the Person Sitting in Darkness.” The North American Review 172, no. 531 (February 1901): 161–76.

The Persona of Jane Addams

In 1908 when Jane Addams was speaking at a dinner in Chicago, she expressed her frustration with women who ridicule suffragists:

There are women who will laugh at us for our interest in the ballot, and who will then give absorbed hours, in the privacy of their rooms, to great electrical massage machines, face-steaming engines, curious masks and huge flesh-reducing mechanisms. An elderly woman of this type, after an afternoon’s struggle with all sorts of beautifying devices, dyed her hair a bright gold. “Do you think it makes me look younger?” she asked me. “Yes,” said I. “About three weeks.” —  Jane Addams’s Retort, June 7, 1908, Jane Addams Digital Edition (JADE).

Jane Addams and other serious suffragists in fabulous hats, 1912. Image courtesy of Swarthmore College.

Jane Addams had a sense of humor, but she rarely made such public jibes as she did in telling this story, which was reported in newspapers across the country. It is understandable, however, that the frivolous, gold-haired woman mocking the suffrage movement would annoy her. Jane Addams was a serious woman who devoted her time to making the world a better place; she had no time to worry that her hair was turning gray and that lines were forming on her face. In fact, it was her assertion that as the social health of the nation was concerned “gray-haired women” needed to “become a part of it.”

By personality in 1908 Jane Addams wanted to appear to the world as a well-groomed, modest, serious woman in sensible shoes. Yet it is also true that Jane Addams likely curated a persona designed to make her a credible witness to the social ills she sought to remedy, to make the public feel at ease with her, and to convince people in power to be more open to her ideas. She struck a brilliant balance that allowed her to be approachable to her working-class Hull-House neighbors and to fit in among her middle-class peers and wealthy patrons. She dressed to blend in, not to stand out; she presented a gentle, serious, thoughtful demeanor in order to convey authority.

She was simply dressed. Her attire was a soft gray in deep harmony with the woman. Her hair was combed straight back from her high forehead, and made into a knot on the back of her head. Her eyes are large and soft, and continually there is a little light flickering in them, which seems to bid children welcome to her side. She radiates kindness and a big heart’s offerings would inspire any child to do better.Dedication of Bomberger Park, June 30, 1908 (The Dayton Herald), JADE.

What this large and visibly impressed crowd saw was a woman of medium height, with hair well streaked with gray, and dressed in a plain dark dress relieved only by a white lace collar. In a clear, well-modulated voice that carried to every corner of the room she started in, without preliminaries, to tell the story of the condition of the starving children of the European countries.Feed the World and Have a League of Nations, February 19, 1921 (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle), JADE.

Recently, I read a 1915 Washington Times interview with Jane Addams, which at first made me start and then made me consider this idea that Jane Addams wore a mask she designed for the successful female Progressive reformer she became. Florence Yoder, the young journalist conducting the interview, who was perhaps wearing her own mask as a woman in a newspaper world of men, described Addams this way:

Unlike any other person in the world whom we have ever seen, Miss Addams regulates her facial expressions by exactly the opposite method employed by the average person. When speaking of something in which she is very much interested, there is little or no animation, her face becomes a mask, she looks in one direction only, glancing occasionally full into the eyes of the listener. Her voice is pitched very low, almost a monotone, yet one never misses a word. Then when something trivial comes up, something of almost childish interest, her face brightens she relaxes into a smile, and the mask does not slip on again until the more serious subject is revived. It is almost as if she were trying to subjugate her own personality entirely, eliminate herself entirely from the discussion, and let only the ideas with which she wishes to impress her listener, register on the brain. — Interview with Florence E. Yoder, Jan. 8, 1915 (Washington Times), JADE.

Until I read that description of her, it had not occurred to me that Jane Addams might have subdued her own personality for effect. I have long understood her as a shrewd debater, a calm mediator, and a respectful listener, all skills she practiced in order to obtain her reform objectives. I have studied her ability to form coalitions and build networks, which required humility as well as strength. But did Jane Addams regulate her demeanor and her appearance to strike an expected pose for the public?

Jane Addams, c. 1896. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

Yes, I suppose she did. I missed it before, for reasons (or gendered perceptions of my own) I may need to explore later. But now the truth of Jane Addams as a public persona seems clear. The more I have thought about the idea, the more I think I understand the woman behind the persona. It is always rewarding for a historian to pinpoint moments in the lives of their subjects that suggest a shifting perspective, particularly exciting when it reveals a blooming of wisdom. I think it is possible Jane Addams learned the power of appearance in July 1896 when she met Leo Tolstoy. Although the thirty-five-year-old Addams was already a serious woman with seven years of leading Hull-House and a social settlement movement in America to her credit, it was her fashionable 1890s frock that Tolstoy noticed. Addams remembered the meeting in a 1911 article:

Tolstoy, standing by clad in peasant garb, listened gravely, but, glancing distrustfully at the sleeves of my traveling gown, which, unfortunately, at that season were monstrous in size, took hold of an edge and, pulling out one sleeve to an interminable breadth, said that there was enough stuff on one arm to make a frock for a little girl, and asked me directly if I did not find “such a dress a barrier to the people.” — A Visit to Tolstoy, Jan. 1911, JADE.

Jane Addams probably did not return to Hull-House after her trip to Russia and immediately begin constructing a persona more in keeping with her humanitarian work than those voluptuous sleeves. However, Tolstoy’s comments penetrated her psyche. That she told the story fifteen years after the meeting might be enough evidence to prove it. She admired Tolstoy and continued throughout her life to be inspired by his plain-clothes and calloused-hands example of living. Jane Addams was moved at that moment in time of her meeting with an idol to be mindful of the image she portrayed.

Jane Addams, 1914. Image courtesy of the Jane Addams Collection, Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.

At the Jane Addams Papers, we are often frustrated by the quiet, guarded language Addams employed in her correspondence, which makes it hard to know her. Given the care she seems to have always taken with her language, it should not surprise me that by the time Jane Addams became a nationally known figure, a successful reformer and inspirational leader on the public stage, she would understand and make good use of a curated public persona. I had falsely assumed Jane Addams was naturally unassuming instead of shrewdly navigating public expectations about what a female reformer could be and should be and what a credible female reformer must look like. Today, the physical appearance and demeanor of public women is still fraught with gendered assumptions, therefore imagine the dilemma for educated, working women of Jane Addams’s generation. Given the success Jane Addams enjoyed as a reformer, particularly her ability to bridge gaps as wide as the difference between rural clubwomen and American presidents, of course she crafted a persona that paid the proverbial bills.

That there was a Jane Addams persona is not to say that Jane Addams the woman was not a genuine human being. Far from it. Jane Addams was, indeed, motivated by true empathy and real intentions to save the world. That she crafted a public persona simply means that Addams had a private self and a public self, and as a woman the divide between her two selves required special caretaking, especially as success in her line of work required the open hearts and wallets of others. In order to take her compassionate heart and radical ideas out into the world, she had to package that heart and those ideas for public consumption.

So how did the public view Jane Addams? Reformers and scholars and philosophers of her day respected her humanitarian experience, her intellect, and her ideas. Publishers clamored to sell her words and philosophy of reform. Politicians sought her support. Women’s and men’s organizations of all types across the country and around the globe wanted her to speak to their memberships. But how did people see her? What was it about the visage Jane Addams presented to the world that drew people in close enough to hear the important messages she wanted to convey?

After spending some time searching through the documents in the Jane Addams Digital Edition looking for descriptions of Jane Addams’s physical appearance, I was struck not only by the similarity of gendered language to describe her over the years but also by the ways in which those descriptions reflected what the observers themselves defined as appropriate for a woman like Jane Addams in the twentieth century’s first three decades.

Often the descriptions evaluated the womanliness of Jane Addams. As this Washington Herald noted:

These words were spoken in a singularly soft yet vibrantly earnest voice—the voice of a woman dressed in gray, with a face softened by the beauty of tenderness and hair becoming silvered by time. From the face glowed eyes magnetic and prophetic. — We Must Go Man Hunting, Apr. 26, 1908, JADE.

The Birmingham News in 1914 described Addams’s meeting with national suffrage leaders in Alabama as “very human and feminine,” and wrote of Addams:

Simply attired and her graying hair gathered into a loose coil at the back of her neck, this venerable woman was distinctly one of the plain people whom she champions, and the essence of American naturalness. Speech on Woman Suffrage, Mar. 9, 1914 (The Birmingham News), JADE.

Last night at the Santa Fe railway station, any one observing the passengers who arrived from the west, might have failed entirely to see a motherly looking woman of medium height, with iron gray hair, descending from a Pullman, but once one saw the woman one knew that there was an individual who has been and is, the center of many big things. That person is Miss Jane Addams of Hull House, Chicago.  Speech to the Shawnee County League of Women Voters, Jan. 13, 1922 (Topeka State Journal), JADE.

Jane Addams, 1926. Image courtesy of Swarthmore College.

Jane Addams is gray but she is not masculine nor is she old. Certainly she is not hard. She smiled when the strange thought was told her. “I don’t get enough physical exercise to be hard. No, I’m afraid I’m rather much too soft.” Interview with Jane Addams, Jan. 30, 1925 (New York Times Magazine), JADE.

Warmth, understanding, keen judgment, shine from her blue eyes; warmth, motherliness, sympathy, strength, mark the face of this American woman who has been a pioneer in social service work and in work for International Peace. The thing which amazes a stranger who meets her is that she, while so many human problems are brought to her, can be so calm, so very calm. — Interview with Jane Addams for the Public Ledger Sunday Magazine, Dec. 1933.

Descriptions of Addams often reduced her, even while praising her:

Miss Addams is not a lecturer, but she is a very interesting talker. While she seemed perfectly at home on the platform her hands were busy all the time toying with her watch and the chain by which it was suspended from her neck. When she spoke she was forceful and energetic but her voice was almost lost in the bigness of the Auditorium. Speech on Hull-House Work, Dec. 8, 1905 (Topeka Daily Capital, Dec. 9, 1905), JADE.

They offered convoluted or backhanded complements:

 A woman so completely wrapped in her work that her other side of life is forgotten, a trifle hardened by the nature of her work, which has brought her in contact with every kind of suffering, are the first impressions gained of Miss Addams, but as talk progresses the softness coming from a big heart creeps into her eyes, about her mouth and a charming elderly woman is revealed. — Interview with Baltimore Evening Sun, Apr. 21, 1922, JADE.

Or they shamelessly judged her physical appearance:

She is a most satisfying person, even in appearance. She has a wonderfully strong face, square as a man’s, and her hair, parted simply and combed back into a low knot, does not conceal a line of the finely modelled head. Her eyes, gray and set wide apart, meet one with an impassive directness even when her straight, firm lips are smiling. Her mouth belongs to a compassionate woman, her eyes to one who is not readily deceived. As for her chin, it is [chiseled] determination. — Interview with Jane Addams, Jan. 30, 1911; (Washington Evening World), JADE. 

She is a medium-sized, rather stout, but quick-moving woman. Her manner is brusque but kindly. The blue eyes which have looked upon so much of want and misery, wretchedness and desolation, are sweet in expression and win you to the woman as she talks in her quick, direct manner. Her hair, the style of wearing which she never has changed since she began to coil it up from girlhood’s braids, is parted, and drawn back loosely from a finely shaped forehead. She smiles easily with her eyes, but not with her mouth. Her mouth is grave and rather sad. Interview with Jane Addams, Sept. 24, 1913 (Pittsburgh Press), JADE.

It is no wonder Jane Addams shunned the camera, relied on a couple of profile pictures for promotional images, and worked so hard to remain in character. No wonder either that observers were so keen to define her and to understand the extraordinary success of this incomparable woman. The St. Louis reporter who wrote this description in 1910, when Addams was serving her historic presidency of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, leaned toward the poetic:

Miss Addams has a strong personality, that makes itself felt at once through her vital intellectuality and her warm, genial manner. She is of medium stature with bright, luminous penetrating eyes of a blue-gray shade, which are keen and searching. An intense love of mankind pervades Miss Addams’ every word and look. Her prominent cast of features are accentuated by the soft gray with which her hair is just beginning to be sprinkled, and there is a certain nobility and distinction about her carriage which would mark her a central figure in any assemblage, even though her name and fame had not preceded her. It is easy to be led by such a woman, and in the great work to which she has dedicated her life, there is a special field for the qualities with which she is so richly endowed, in the uplifting and betterment of her fellow-beings. — Interview at the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, May 22, 1910 (St. Louis Star & Times), JADE.

In 1928, Jane Addams wrote to an old friend: “I am sending you two pictures, one taken in Rockford in 1881 and one during the first years at Hull-House in 1891. You see I have always worn my hair the same way. A great lack of imagination.”

There was no lack of imagination about it.

Stacy Lynn
Associate Editor

Other Sources: Need a Woman Over Fifty Feel Old?, October 1914; Interview with Donna Risher, Jan. 12, 1920 (Des Moines Tribune); Jane Addams to Margaret Drier Robins, Mar. 6, 1928, all in JADE.

Jane Addams and the Roosevelts

Eleanor Roosevelt, Elinor Morgenthau, and Jane Addams in Westport, Connecticut [Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library, 1929]
Few families in the history of American politics have reached the acclaim and historical scrutiny bestowed upon the Roosevelts. From Theodore Roosevelt uttering the phrase “It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose” after an assassination attempt at a speech — which has now been immortalized into American legend next to the likes of Washington crossing the Delaware — to the high-stakes World War II meetings between Franklin Roosevelt (FDR), Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill, seemingly every detail from this prestigious family has been extensively documented and analyzed. 

The historical legacy of the Roosevelts is largely associated with progressive change and reform. Theodore Roosevelt’s administration marked the turn of the century with reforms such as the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, a new national park system, and support for labor unions. FDR’s new deal, though the subject of heavy debate among historians, ushered in Social Security for elderly Americans, provided direct federal relief for a struggling American public, and attempted to ensure labor rights through the Wagner Act. Eleanor Roosevelt, aside from her work as First Lady, would go on to serve an important role in the United Nations and assist in the creation of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Theodore Roosevelt on the campaign trail, 1912. Roosevelt’s candidacy brought out strong feelings, both for and against him. (Library of Congress).

Jane Addams’ relationship with Theodore Roosevelt, or “The Colonel” as he humbly preferred to be addressed, is well understood. Although Addams’ direct participation in politics was sparse, she supported and campaigned for Roosevelt’s Progressive Party bid for president in 1912. Addams didn’t shy away from disagreeing with The Colonel, however, such as over the treatment of African American delegates at the Progressive Party Convention. Despite these disputes, Addams greatly admired Theodore Roosevelt, declaring he “embodied the best things in American citizenship” upon his death.

But what about those other Roosevelts? One would infer that Addams would follow a similar path with Theodore’s distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), but the puzzle pieces are less clear. With her health on the decline by the 1930’s, Addams no longer embarked on the large speaking tours of previous decades, which makes some of her opinions difficult to dissect. Despite this fact, she did still offer a healthy handful of writings and statements on the issues of the day, such as the Great Depression and the Roosevelt Administration’s response.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1912 (Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery).

For starters, Addams and FDR knew of each other, at the very least, for many years. Way back in 1912, State Senator FDR invited Addams to speak in Albany about her social work, though it’s unclear if she ever took him up on the offer. FDR would climb the political ranks in the New York State Senate and the United States Department of the Navy before setting his eyes on New York Governorship in 1928. This same year, Addams would endorse Herbert Hoover for President — one of her few presidential endorsements throughout her lifetime. This was largely a result of Hoover’s relief work in Europe a decade prior. It’s unclear who Addams supported in 1932, but one can assume that the Democratic platform of repealing prohibition put Roosevelt in weaker standing in Addams’ esteem. To nobody’s surprise, Addams disapproved of this action from FDR once he assumed office, stating in July 1933 that the eighteenth amendment’s repeal would be “nothing short of a calamity.” 

She did, however, write to President-elect Roosevelt in December of 1932 endorsing Frances Perkins for Secretary of Labor. FDR’s appointment of Perkins would make her the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet and eventually one of the longest serving presidential cabinet members in US history. 

Jane Addams, at her desk. Miss Addams established the social settlement, Hull House, in Chicago in 1889 and founded the American Civil Liberties Union. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Addams had positive things to say about the National Recovery Administration (NRA), one of the most noteworthy programs from FDR’s “New Deal.” She praised its efforts to end unemployment and ensure minimum wages, and spoke to the value of business practices being placed on a higher standard as a result of the NRA. Addams described the struggles of the average city workman during the Great Depression, and hailed “That the NRA has come to his rescue fills many of us with sincere gratitude.”

Despite this praise, Addams always maintained a critical eye. She asserted that the NRA “demands careful study” and that the issue of unemployment was complex, requiring greater effort than federal relief alone. While Addams generally supported government assistance, she was always quick to stress the additional importance of the work from community members, private citizens, and social workers. Addams described the importance of this supplementary social service in another writing from the same year, stating “The public relief work is concerned largely with food and clothing and, unhappily, not always with shelter. Our supplementary social services are, perhaps, more necessary simply because people’s lives have been saved by governmental funds and they are distressed about it.”

The New Deal also established the Social Security program, providing welfare and benefits to senior citizens as well as additional unemployment insurance. Addams wrote considerably in favor of old age security in the later years of her life and certainly would’ve had praise for the Social Security Act. Sadly, Addams died three months before the legislation was passed.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Addams and Eleanor Roosevelt had immense mutual respect for one another and offered the highest praise and flattery for each other. In January 1933, Addams introduced Eleanor before a speech at Orchestra Hall, Chicago, and sang endless praises for the incoming First Lady. Addams commended her work with the Women’s Trade Union League, the Foreign Policies Association of New York City, and the Woman’s City Club in New York. She also praised her work in education and her Hyde Park furniture and crafts shop, Val-Kill Industries. Addams aptly added in her remarks “I am sure that some of you listening to my even incomplete list of Mrs Roosevelt’s interests and activities must have been reminded of the abounding energy and unflagging concern for human affairs exhibited by another distinguished Roosevelt, and that you rejoice with me that such a spirit is once more to be domiciled within the White House.”

Eleanor Roosevelt would go on to have a pioneering and invaluable career in the White House and with the United Nations, breaking gender barriers and becoming one of the most influential women of her time. By helping to establish the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in many ways she continued and honored the work which Addams devoted so many years of her life to. 

In the final month of her life, Addams was the guest of honor at a Washington D.C. dinner. Here, Eleanor Roosevelt labelled Addams “the greatest living woman.” She also reflected on Addams’ life years later, stating “Miss Addams served humanity so well she should never be forgotten. Anyone who knew her, will remember the inspiration of her presence, but her spirit went far beyond the individuals who knew her. It affected the thinking and living of people all over the world.”

While Addams and the Roosevelts played small roles in each other’s lives and history, they collectively played large roles in the ever-ongoing duty of creating a better world through progressive change.

Sources: Smithsonian Magazine. “The Speech That Saved Teddy Roosevelt’s Life“. Smithsonian Magazine. Accessed January 16, 2024; PBS. “Teddy Roosevelt and Progressivism.” PBS. Accessed January 16, 2024; Addams, Jane, “Statement on the Death of Theodore Roosevelt, January 6, 1919,” Jane Addams Digital Edition, accessed January 16, 2024; Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library, “Papers As New York State Senator.” 1910-1913; Addams, Jane, “Statement Endorsing Herbert Hoover for President, October 1928,” Jane Addams Digital Edition, accessed January 16, 2024; Addams, Jane, “Statement on Prohibition, July 8, 1933,” Jane Addams Digital Edition, accessed January 16, 2024; Addams, Jane, “Statement Endorsing The Appointment of Frances Perkins as Secretary of Labor, December 8, 1932,” Jane Addams Digital Edition, accessed January 16, 2024; Addams, Jane, “Second Draft of Address on the National Recovery Administration, September 1933,” Jane Addams Digital Edition, accessed January 16, 2024; Addams, Jane, “Women’s Part in Revealing Human Needs, October 30, 1933,” Jane Addams Digital Edition, accessed January 16, 2024; Addams, Jane, “Remarks Introducing Eleanor Roosevelt at Orchestra Hall, Chicago, January 20, 1933,” Jane Addams Digital Edition, accessed January 16, 2024; United For Human Rights. “CHAMPIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ELEANOR ROOSEVELT (1884 –1962)” accessed January 16, 2024; Barber, Elizabeth. “Jane Addams, world’s ‘best-loved woman,’ honored with Google doodle.The Christian Science Monitor, September 6, 2013.

Jane Addams on Television

During her lifetime, Jane Addams was famous throughout the United States and around the world. Known for Hull-House and as the leader of the American social settlement movement, respected for her wide-ranging reform activities, and beloved for her commitment to economic, political, and social justice for all, Addams became a household name. Reformers, educators, politicians, and the public looked to her for inspiration and for answers to the social and economic problems of the Progressive Era.

However, although she won the Nobel Peace Prize, published eleven books and hundreds of articles, and led consequential movements to restrict child labor, gain suffrage for women, improve the lives of immigrants, and change America ideas about poverty and the role of government in the protection of society’s most vulnerable people, she is grossly underappreciated today. I have stopped counting the number of people who ask me who Jane Addams was when I tell them I edit her papers and study her life. Although I take these opportunities to tell them about her or share a great story about her work, it makes me sad that Jane Addams is not a household name today. It is depressing that Americans can name the Kardashian sisters but have never heard of Jane Addams.

In our time of increasing inequality, rising hostility toward immigrants, and rampant civil discord, we need Jane Addams. We need inspirational figures who live or have lived in the service of others, not to themselves. Every day as I edit her papers, I am struck by how applicable the work and words of Jane Addams are today. Her dedication to equality and peace and her philosophical understanding of the connection of democracy and humanitarianism are still relevant, as is her talent to see need and suggest solutions, to mediate vast distances between cultures and ideas, and to inspire people to join her efforts to make a city, a country, or the world a better place. Her world view and ideas and her commitment to democracy are still imperative. As Charlene Haddock Seigfried writes: “The need to make democracy a vital way of life was a constant theme for Addams and one that challenges us yet again.”

The words of Jane Addams are still relevant:

Like what she wrote in defense of Russian Jews in Chicago in a 1908 article in Charities and the Commons: “In fact the more excited and irrational public opinion is, the more recklessly newspapers state mere surmises as facts and upon these surmises arouse unsubstantiated prejudices against certain immigrants, the more necessary it is that some body of people should be ready to put forward the spiritual and intellectual conditions of the foreign colony which is thus being made the subject of inaccurate surmises and unjust suspicion.”

Like the question she asked in 1913 of white Americans about what they had done or failed to do in pursuance of equality for Black Americans: “How far are we responsible that their civil rights are often rendered futile, their political action curtailed or frustrated, their equality before the law denied in fact, business and industrial opportunities withheld from them and, above all, that for twenty-five years they have been exposed to the black horrors of lynching?”

And the alarmed observation she shared in a speech at an American Sociological Society meeting in Chicago in 1919: “… for there is no doubt that at the present moment one finds in the United States the same manifestation of the world-wide tendency towards national dogmatism, the exaltation of blind patriotism above intelligent citizenship, as that evinced elsewhere.”

I do not meet historians of American history who are ignorant of her wide-ranging reform work. Illinois school children learn about Jane Addams when they study the state’s history; and Jane Addams is a popular subject for history students who participate in National History Day. The Jane Addams Papers Project is making her correspondence and writings freely available (Jane Addams Digital Edition) and has created Jane Addams lesson plans for high school teachers as well as AP history and National History Day resources (Jane Addams Exhibits). All of Jane Addams’s books are in print and/or available online. There is also a growing number of books about her life and her work, written from myriad perspectives, most notably Erik Schneiderhan’s The Size of Others’ Burdens: Barack Obama, Jane Addams, and the Politics of Helping Others (2015); Neil Lanctot’s The Approaching Storm: Roosevelt, Wilson, Addams and Their Clash over America’s Future (2021); and The Oxford Handbook of Jane Addams (2023).

There is no excuse to be ignorant of Jane Addams.

Especially now.

Because Jane Addams is now on television.

In October, WTTW, a PBS member television station in Chicago, premiered a Chicago Stories episode on Jane Addams. Jane Addams: Together We Rise examines the importance of Jane Addams in Chicago and of Hull-House as a laboratory for reform. It also chronicles the significance of Jane Addams as the leader of an incomparable group of women who became leaders in their own rights of a variety of Progressive Era organizations and activities to improve the lives of children, women, immigrants, and the working poor. When the producer Rachel Ruiz contacted the Jane Addams Papers Project about the documentary, we were thrilled and happy to assist. Our Project is based in New Jersey, but I live in Illinois and work remotely. It made sense for me to be the editor on camera for the film, although I was, at first, apprehensive.

Jane Addams was shy about having her picture taken, and I am shy about appearing on camera.

As an editor of historical documents, I spend much of my professional life in solitude, reading letters and speeches, straining over handwriting, solving the mysteries of vague references, and contextualizing the words of my subjects. I do not teach and have little interaction with students. And, since Jane Addams is under appreciated, there are few opportunities for me to interact with the general public. During the twenty years I edited Abraham Lincoln’s papers, I gave numerous public presentations every year, hosted a long parade of visiting scholars, attended untold Lincoln events, and appeared in several Lincoln documentaries. It was often a bit much, especially in February for Lincoln’s birthday. I cannot lie. I prefer the quiet and the anonymity of my life as an editor of the Jane Addams papers.

But because I cannot lie, I also have to admit it was pretty cool to have a film crew in my Jane-Addams-era bungalow and spend the day talking about Jane Addams. The novelty of the experience for me (and my two little dogs, one of whom made it into the film!) calmed my nerves about being under the blazing (unflattering) lights in front of a camera. Although it was terrifying a year later to preview the documentary the day before it aired, I am so proud and honored to have been part of it.

Jane Addams allowed photos of herself to be taken and dispersed for the good of her causes; and so, I was happy to participate in a documentary about her life for the good of our cause at the Jane Addams Papers Project: to make her work and her words accessible to a society that needs her now more than ever. Jane Addams’s life was consequential, her work was historically significant, and she still matters. Her extraordinary example of compassion, tolerance, civility, and the belief in the promise of democracy to lift up all people, is still relevant nearly eighty years after her death. We need American heroes right now, and few are more perfect for our troubled times than Jane Addams.

Therefore, dear readers who already know the worth of Jane Addams, go forth and spread the Jane Addams word. Watch the documentary, read her books, and tell your friends, family members, teachers, students, and community leaders to do the same.

Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor

 

 

 

Books by Jane Addams (with links to first and early editions of them online)

Democracy and Social Ethics (New York: Macmillan, 1902); reprinted with introduction by Charlene Haddock Seigfried. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

Newer Ideals of Peace (New York: Macmillan, 1907); reprinted with introduction by Berenice A. Carroll and Clinton F. Fink. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007.

The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (New York: Macmillan, 1909); reprinted with introduction by Allen F. Davis. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001.

Twenty Years at Hull-House with Autobiographical Notes (New York: Macmillan, 1910); reprinted with original illustrations by Norah Hamilton and introduction and notes by James Hurt. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990.

A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil (New York: Macmillan, 1912); reprinted with introduction by Katherine Joslin.  Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

The Long Road of Woman’s Memory (New York: Macmillan, 1916); reprinted with introduction by Charlene Haddock Seigfried. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

Peace and Bread in Time of War (New York: Macmillan), 1922); reprint with introduction by Katherine Joslin. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House. (New York: Macmillan, 1930).

The Excellent Becomes the Permanent (New York: Macmillan, 1932).

My Friend, Julia Lathrop (New York: Macmillan, 1935); reprinted with introduction by Anne Firor Scott. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Forty Years at Hull-House; being “Twenty Years at Hull-House” and “The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House. (New York: Macmillan, 1935).

Sources: Charlene Haddock Seigfried, “Foreword,” in Patricia M. Sheilds, Maurice Hamington, and Joseph Soeters, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Jane Addams (New York: Oxford University Press, 2023), xvi; Neil Lanctot, “Jane Addams and the Great War,” Jane Addams Papers Blog, Dec. 21, 2021; from the Jane Addams Digital Edition: Jane Addams, “Chicago Settlements and Social Unrest,” Charities and the Commons, 20 (May 2, 1908): 155-66; Jane Addams, “Has the Emancipation Act Been Nullified by National Indifference,” The Survey, 29 (Feb. 1, 1913): 565-66; Jane Addams, “Americanization,” Dec. 29, 1919.

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