Fortune telling, in the forms of reading tea leaves, tarot cards, palms, and crystal ball gazing, have long been popular forms of entertainment. People were and are fascinated to see readings of celebrities, hoping to learn more about them.
Palm readers could become celebrities in their own right, like Nellie Simmons Meier (1864-1944) who built an international reputation as a palmist by insisting that it was a scientific practice rather than an occult hobby. Meier did not tell fortunes–she conducted “character readings”–but she gathered them for some of the most famous people in the early 20th century–Albert Einstein, Margaret Sanger, George Gershwin, Walt Disney, and Jane Addams. Meier organized over 100 palm prints and character readings into chapters in a book, called Lion’s Paws, that she published in 1937.
Addams’ palms were included in the chapter “Can The Leopard Change His Spots?,” along with Norman Thomas, Margaret Sanger, Susan B. Anthony, Ben B. Lindsey, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Jacob Riis. She prefaced the readings with a question:
If a reformer or a radical makes his living in the very work of reform, he is doubly suspect; if he makes no money, he is believed to be seeking notoriety, honor, distinction. Do the hands of reformers and radicals sustain this suspicion?
When Meier observed Addams’ palms she noted both the extraordinary similarities and important differences between her prints and those of Susan B. Anthony’s. Both women, she reported, demonstrated practical and executive ability, appreciation of the arts, and honesty, as well as strong wills and love for others. However, she saw important differences, primarily centering around the reasons that they did what they did.
Addams, Meier claimed, was motivated by the individuals she helped. For her it was not about fame or even about the “common good” as she claimed it was for Anthony. Rather, everything came down to her interactions with individuals, and the justice and mercy served, rather than a more nebulous greater good. It is certainly evident that Addams cared about those around her and wanted to help people–if she had not she probably would not have started Hull House or crusaded for the rights of workers and immigrants.
According to the palm reader, Addams was also a born conservative, cautious about everything. Something that, intriguingly enough, appears to be present in many of her letters, which paint a picture of Addams as a woman who is faultlessly polite and dignified- the very image of a conservative woman.
Is Meier’s character reading an accurate one? It certainly seems to be in line with the Jane Addams in the letters being transcribed. However, this is also information anyone could get just by reading her books and news articles about her. These present a picture of a woman who sounds exactly as Meier described. Of course, it is possible that Jane Addams’ kindness, generosity, and care for others was indeed written in her hand, but perhaps it is more important that it was written in her life.
On May 21, 1935, Jane Addams died, at the age of 74. Her funeral was held at Hull-House 81 years ago today.
Addams’ body was brought from the hospital and lay in state at Hull-House from 10am to 6pm on May 22nd and then from 9am to noon on May 23rd. A brief twenty-minute non-denominational funeral was held on May 23 at Hull-House. The papers reported that over 20,000 people pressed in to view and pay tribute to Addams at a rate of over one thousand an hour.
There was no demonstration. There was little conversation. The people stood about in little groups. They were waiting, and had been waiting for hours, just for a chance to pass rapidly through the hall inside and view for a second the peaceful face of their benefactor before she was taken to her girlhood home in Cedarville, Ill. to be buried in the tiny cemetery there. (Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 23, 1935)
Reporters talked to mourners, and noted the wide variety of people present. “Foreign-born men and women who claimed her as their best friend grieved beside millionaires and society matrons from the gold coast across town. Shiny limousines stood at the curb where several hundred Hull House “neighbors” waited, unable to find room in the court.” (DeKalb Daily Chronicle, Oct. 23, 1935).
There was no discrimination. A large wreath of orchids and lillies-of-the-valley sent by a wealthy man and his wife was no more prominently displayed than the blanket of bright red roses sent by one of the mothers’ clubs of Hull House.” (Chicago Daily Tribune, May 24, 1935.)
Among the prominent mourners were Anita McCormick Blaine, a long-time supporter of Hull-House, Robert Maynard Hutchins, the president of the University of Chicago, Harold Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, and Sophonisba Breckinridge, also from the University of Chicago. But there were many more people from the neighborhood, people who knew Addams by her deeds.
A Negro woman trailed by seven solemn children–four boys and three girls–waited hours to reach the casket and then dropped out, tears streaming from her eyes, as she entered the hall. “I’d rather remember her like the day she brought my Martha a doctor when she was dying,” she sobbed. (Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 23, 1935)
From Bellaire, Ohio, when she learned of Addams’s death, Eleanor Roosevelt commented, “I’m dreadfully sorry. America has lost a great source of inspiration.” Katharine Lenroot noted, “America has lost her greatest woman, her greatest social worker and the people of America have lost their most understanding and compassionate friend.” (New York Times, May 22, 1935).
What stood out in my research about “six remarkable Hull-House women”–Jane Addams, Julia Lathrop, Florence Kelley, Alice Hamilton, and Grace and Edith Abbott–was the crucial role they played in the reform of America’s industrial system. Equally striking was the Supreme Court’s resistance to regulating it.
When the first generation of college educated women discovered that established professions like the law, government, higher education and the church were reserved for men, they sought alternative occupations. As caregiving had long been a female responsibility, reformers responded to the plight of poor immigrant workers and their families by creating “social settlements,” a Consumer’s League, a federal Children’s Bureau, and the field of Social Work. In turn, their service-oriented programs opened up career opportunities for women, and provided a supporting network of female organizations that fought for social justice from the Progressive Era to the New Deal.
Before proceeding from Hull-House in Chicago onto the national scene, Lathrop devoted her efforts to the reform of state charities, Kelley to an anti-sweatshop campaign, Hamilton to industrial medicine, Grace Abbott to protecting immigrants, and her sister Edith to social research. As the settlement’s head resident, Addams united them in pursuing common goals, and in pressing for labor legislation. But such hard-won laws as prohibiting child labor, limiting a woman’s workday, and establishing a minimum wage, were all-too-often declared unconstitutional in Supreme Court decisions setting an individual’s “freedom of contract,” above a state’s right to “promote its citizens’ welfare.”
In 1914 with Europe plunged into World War I–and America’s entry in 1917–the progressive period drew to a close. Early on, women activists had mobilized a peace party in Washington, which met with its European counterparts in Holland in 1915 to protest the fighting. Jane Addams presided over the conference, and after the war was elected president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom that evolved from it. During her remaining years, she shared her time between settlement work and the cause of peace–for which she received a Nobel Prize in 1931.
Of Quaker descent on her father’s side and a pacifist during the war, she toured a devastated Germany following its surrender; and gave speeches back home to raise funds for Quaker relief of the defeated enemy. As much as any woman of her day, she was able to transcend national boundaries in the hope of alleviating human suffering.
I’ll be the first to admit it. Reading Jane Addams’ handwriting is difficult, and just when you think that you have gotten it down, you run across a letter that makes you question your profession.
Working on a digital edition with such challenging handwriting has been a bit different than working on a print edition. With print it is essential to get the transcription as perfect as you can because it is unlikely that there will ever be a revised printing of your edition; the best you can usually hope for is an embarrassing errata page that highlights every mistake that you have made (at least those that you have found!). With digital publication, we can seamlessly correct errors in transcription as soon as we discover them. And while this means there is less pressure on us to craft a perfect transcription, we do have to grapple with the question of how good our transcription should be in order to publish it.
First pass transcriptions generally have errors. Most of our draft transcriptions are done by students (amazing students!), who have made great strides in reading and transcribing Addams’ hand, but they are not perfect. Errors are made even when transcribing typed documents, which are sometimes long and have repetitive elements. In order to ensure that these errors are caught and corrected, we proofread each transcription at least once, in teams. What this means is that one editor reads from the document (reading punctuation and capitalization aloud as well) while the other follows along with the transcription. Whenever the two do not match, we stop and identify the discrepancy and correct it. It is not always the transcription–sometimes we read the document incorrectly. But this ensures that we have carefully proofread the original.
Problems arise when we cannot make out the words at the proofreading stage either. We mark the places where we are unsure of the meaning of the word with [square brackets], adding [question marks?] when the reading is a bit less certain that that, and we admit that the word or words are [illegible] when we just can’t make them out. No editor likes to see [illegible words] in her edition–each one stabs at us, taunting us with our own inadequacies–no matter how hard that word really is to read!
For most editors, the decision of when to give up and publish a problem document’s transcription is a difficult one, and we review and revise our readings of the document over and over until we throw our hands up in frustration and let it go out with an [illegible]. When publishing a digital edition, this decision gets even harder. Is it more useful for our readers that we publish a transcription of 99% of a document quickly, or that we wait and wait to get that last 1%? We have made the decision to publish the 99% and to invite help, both from experts on our Advisory Board, Addams scholars, but also from the general public, to help tease out that 1%.
We’ve done this by creating a Help! tag for documents in the digital edition that have words that we cannot read. To get a look at them, follow this link, or select Browse Items, and then Browse by Tag. If you think you can read the [illegible words] that we couldn’t, drop us a line in the Comment box at the bottom of the document. If this is something you enjoy doing, reach out to us; we would be delighted to have you check our problem documents before they are published.
I’m delighted to announce that we have begun publishing Jane Addams documents on our website — http://digital.janeaddams.ramapo.edu! We are still in the early stages, and have lots of work yet to do, but the site is up and running.
The digital edition is built on the Omeka content management system, with plugins built by programmer Daniel Berthereau in order to optimize it for operating a digital edition. Some of the features already in place for documents are:
Metadata–the Jane Addams Digital Edition provides detailed metadata on each document in its collection, helping you locate materials by date, type, subject, language, and description.
Images–the digital edition includes document images from the microfilm (and some scans from original documents as well).
Transcriptions–all documents will be transcribed so that they are text-searchable.
We are also building identifications of the people and organizations, and some events and places named in the documents. These short identifications will provide readers with some context for the documents, and will provide links to our sources and to open-access resources to help them in their research.
Metadata–We are also building ways for readers to explore Jane Addams’ world by searching her correspondents and associates. You can search descriptions of people using tags to identify all social workers, all men or women, all politicians, or all family members, etc.
Images–When we can locate a rights-free image of the person, we will include it with a citation.
We have gathered information on the repositories that contain Jane Addams material, starting by entering over 700 archival collections that appear in the Jane Addams Microfilm Edition, and adding new collections as we locate materials. Once documents from these collections are added to the digital edition, they will be linked to the archival collection.
The tag cloud allows readers to find everything on a set of large-scale topics. It also provides a good overview of the kinds of materials that are in the collection.
We are also using a map to plot people, organizations, events, and documents, producing another way to explore the materials. A search page below the map enables you to limit the items–looking at where Addams’ correspondents lived in 1903, or where settlement houses were located, etc.
We began with the goal of publishing documents between 1901-1903 as our first installment. In order to publish a complete document, we need to:
Create and proofread the metadata
Create and proofread the transcription
Obtain permission to publish the image from the archive, library, or person that owns it.
Obtain copyright permission when needed.
We can only publish a document when all four steps have been completed. Fortunately, many of our document’s authors are in the public domain, which makes the process easier. We have received the cooperation of most of the archives and libraries that own the document, but obtaining permission is a cumbersome task. Proofreading our transcriptions of difficult-to-read documents has also been a slow process. This helps explain why not all of the documents between 1901-1903 are up yet. We are clearing them for publication as fast as we can, and will post them as soon as possible.
We have located over 1,000 individual people in our first six months of work, and while we have been creating entries as fast as we can, there are still many to go, and we haven’t proofread and checked all of them. As names go live, the links between documents and subjects will also go live.
This summer we will focus on getting more documents up, more identifications complete and developing the design of the site. Its an exciting time at the Jane Addams Papers Project.
Please let us know here, or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org what you think of the work done so far.
In the wake of Super Tuesday and with all the fuss about the presidential election, I was wondering: What would Jane Addams think about our latest crop of presidential candidates and the political system we have in general? Well, we can’t really know since she died in 1935, but thanks to her prolific writing we do know what she valued in the political system. As always, her focus was on the people, not the ones in power. She had little patience for politicians who put their own interests and beliefs above those of the people they served, especially on the city level. However, she was also extremely critical of elected officials who pander too much to their constituents and put them before humanity as a whole. In short, Addams wanted a politician who could achieve a balance between caring about the people they served and being able to look towards effecting change on a much grander scale.
Finding someone who fits this definition is not easy. After all, Tammany Hall may have been corrupt and self-interested, but also offered tangible help to their constituents. Was it any surprise then that they stayed in power so long? Addams argued that “the successful candidate…must be a good man according to the morality of his constituents” (Democracy and Social Ethics, 229). She was right then and her words ring true today as well. Today we see over and over again elected officials who focus exclusively on their most loyal groups, often to the exclusions and detriment of other groups, be they religious, racial, or socioeconomic. This is not a good way to run the most powerful country in the world. Placing the whims and needs of a few over those of the whole is selfish and makes any kind of progress for the good of the whole extremely difficult, but is also the simplest way to get elected.
The thing Addams criticized most in elected officials was their machinations and manipulations. She despised how they used events- sad and happy- to convince people to vote for them. She also disliked when officials bribed people, especially when they did it subtly enough that their constituents didn’t realize what was happening. Addams strongly looks down on manipulating situations because “many a man…has formulated a lenient judgement of political corruption” (Dem & S.E., 239) She spoke primarily about more local officials, but arguably it can be applied to the national level as well, especially when one considers the role of backers and endorsements. The system is corrupt and works not for the good of the people, but for the good of those in charge. This arguably is one reason why there is so much opposition and difference in modern American politics. Neither of the parties in American politics put the people before the big funders and any attempts to make meaningful reform are blocked as quickly as possible to prevent upsetting the donors. Therefore, the system is continually chasing its own tail and cannot actually accomplish anything.
So what would this election mean to Addams? Truthfully, she most likely wouldn’t like any of the candidates. Her policies are more in line with Bernie Sanders than with Donald Trump, however, in her day she challenged all the elected officials and demanded that they improve and pay more attention to the needs of the people and I see no reason why she would change her opinion today. Addams was certainly a woman who knew her own mind and had no interest in keeping those opinions under wraps, at least not where the rights of the poor were concerned, and she wielded the influence she had to create change. That doesn’t strike me as the kind of woman who would sit this election out and just quietly support a candidate, but rather a woman who would use the influence she wielded to force all candidates to listen to her.
To get in the mood this Valentine’s Day, we here at the Jane Addams Papers Project are getting romantic inspiration from none other than the match-maker herself; Jane Addams.
Hear us out. In between the settlement work done at Hull House at the turn of the century, two residents entered into a courtship. One that was fostered by none other than Jane Addams.
New Jersey Native Mary Hill Dayton came to South Chicago to teach English classes. While teaching, Dayton met fellow Hull House resident Gerard Swope. An employee of GE, Swope was taking time off to teach classes on electronics and algebra.
The two teachers seem to hit it off because when Swope left Hull House in 1899, he and Dayton maintained a long distance relationship via correspondence.
The separation only seemed to strengthen their affections. In their writings they referred to their relationship as “IT.” Dayton wrote that “every time I turn on to Halsted St. my heart warms up about 50° – and I long for a time when we can be on it together.”
Perhaps Dayton worried about if “IT” was indiscrete because this is where Jane comes in. She assuaged Dayton’s fears that the whole house was gossiping about “IT”, confiding to Dayton that she had heard nothing about it.
Dayton thought that perhaps Addams was just being nice or just not in tune with the Hull House water cooler gossip, because Dayton was getting a healthy dose of teasing.
One night Dayton seemed to be slipped a note from fellow resident Julia Lathrop apologizing for teasing Dayton earlier in the day about her relationship with Swope. She closed her note, “hoping we are all best friends.”
By 1900, Dayton and Swope had become engaged. On Valentine’s day of that year, the couple asked Addams to break the news to their parents. And in 1901, Addams who officiated the wedding at Mackinac Island, Michigan.
Speaking at the wedding, Addams predicated, “Knowing as we do something of the character of these two people, somewhat of the temper of their attachment and to form of the expression we may confidently predict that and all life’s journey through to the end is will be illumined…”
Jane was correct about that. The Swopes would go on to live very happy lives. Gerard became the CEO of GE and both he and Mary remained active in social work throughout their lives.
Jane Addams made a huge impact in the time she lived with her charitable and political work. What is so wonderful about these documents is that they offer a glimpse into the personal impact Jane Addams had. If it had not been for Hull House Mary and Gerard Swope may have never met, and would not have led their lives following her charitable model.
One of the goals of the Jane Addams Papers Project at Ramapo College is to make our documents available and accessible to a wide audience. We have a dedicated cadre of student workers and volunteers here at the project who are transcribing and indexing the documents for web-based publication. While we have been interested in using crowd-sourcing as a tool to help complete first drafts of Addams’ letters, we had been thinking about it largely in terms of building an it as an option on our website. Last week, however, we started a collaboration with the staff and residents of Brandywine Senior Living in Mahwah.
The idea came from a conversation I had with Jo Anne Zellers, Ramapo College’s Director of Constituent Relations, about the difficulty that readers had with Jane Addams’ handwriting. Addams’ letters are daunting when you first look at them, hastily written, and filled with proper nouns and turns of phrase that are difficult for college students and all but impossible for younger readers. Providing transcriptions is critical to our mission, as they enable readers to make sense of the letters and enable text searches. Jo Anne surmised that older people might have an easier time of reading Addams and her contemporaries, and that led naturally to the idea of seeing whether there was interest from the seniors.
We met with Brienne Fuellhart, the Escapades Producer at Brandywine, and she was enthusiastic about the idea. On Wednesday, Tori Sciancalepore (Assistant Editor at the project), Jo Anne and I traveled to Brandywine and did a presentation on Jane Addams’ life and then a short introduction to transcription and Jane Addams’ hand. While the residents at first found Addams writing difficult, within a few minutes they were calling out their guesses. The next morning Brienne reported that “residents were excited and impressed and I think we should be able to put together a good group to help with this project.”
Our plan going forward is to share a folder of handwritten documents, via a share drive. Brienne will display them in the large screen movie room at Brandywine and residents will come and tease out the meaning of the documents in a transcription group. Brienne or another helper will type up their transcriptions and upload them to the shared drive, where we can access them and add them to our digital archive. Tori and I will proofread the transcriptions and make any corrections needed before we post them on the public site. We will visit Brandywine frequently, giving them some new pointers and introducing the project to residents who did not attend the initial meeting.
Engaging the public in this way is exciting and we feel certain that it will become a model for working with other community groups–schools, clubs, or anyone interested in historical documents. If you know of a group that would like to participate, whether in our neck of the woods, or at a distance, please contact me and we can set things up.
What does the new editor of the Addams Papers get for Christmas? Addams trading cards, of course, thanks to my sister! And that sent us down the rabbit hole of the Web, investigating other Addams memorabilia. While nowhere as common as collectibles on the Founding Fathers, movie stars or athletes, these quirky mementos are evidence of efforts to popularize history, commemorate famous Americans, and separate history buffs from their hard earned cash. Enjoy the variety of Addams memorabilia below, and please let us know if you have or know of any other collectibles focused on Addams in the comments below.
If you thought that baseball cards were just for, well, baseball, then you haven’t delved deep enough into the word of collectible cards. In 2009 Topps issued a 150-card collection in its Heritage series, called the American Heroes Edition. Topps identified people who were “the most courageous, valiant, progressive and enlightened American women and men in our nation’s history,” and created a series of cards with designs drawn from the company’s historic baseball card designs.
The Jane Addams card (#78 in the series) is one of the Humanitarian series, which also includes well-known figures like Florence Kelley, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Clara Barton and Jimmy Carter. Other series include Heroes of Spaceflight, Authors and Journalists, Diplomatic Heroes and Civil Rights Heroes. It uses a photograph of Addams from 1914, colorized, and designed in the style of a Topps 1966 baseball card.
Addams also appears in a smaller set of seven “Peacemakers” mini-cards issued in 2013 by Allen & Ginter, a Topps subsidiary. The others appearing are Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and Jimmy Carter. The Peacemaker card uses an older vintage look, with the same photo, just colorized differently.
Historically significant women are not often made into commercial dolls, but there is a market for specialty dolls featuring historical figures. The Jane Addams-Hull-House Museum offers a nattily dressed Addams (currently out-of-stock) that we hope will grace our shelves one day! She carries a copy of Twenty Years at Hull-House and wears her Nobel Prize as a necklace.
Searching etsy.com brings up UneekDollDesigns‘ page which offers a series of historical and cultural icons made into handcrafted dolls. Jane Addams’s doll is posed holding a replica Twenty Years at Hull-House. Photographed with a historical photograph in the background, this Jane seems a bit dour. Others in this series include actress Bette Davis, the Marx Brothers, and Sojourner Truth.
In 1979 Dover published the Notable American Women Paper Dolls book, by Tom Tierney, with 16 “accurately rendered” historical women, with a change of clothes. Addams appears along with Margaret Sanger, Emily Dickinson, Clare Booth Luce, Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart. This book features short biographies of each woman and outfits that are based on historical photographs of the women.
In 1940 the United States Postal Service issues a series on Famous Americans that was comprised of 35 stamps, issued in groups: Artists, Authors, Composers, Educators, Inventors, Poets, and Scientists. Jane Addams was included in the Scientist category, along with John James Audubon, Dr. Crawford W. Long, Luther Burbank and Dr. Walter Reed. A mint condition 10-cent Addams stamp goes for about $3.50 today.
The Post Office also commemorated the 100th anniversary of Hull-House in 1979, with a printed post-card. The example on the right, a first-day issue, is postmarked from Chicago and has a drawing of Addams, her neighbors, and Hull-House.
Jewelry-maker Sarah Wood crafts necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, using historic photographs under the slogan “History is Handmade.” She has a gallery on Women’s History and Feminism that includes Jane Addams pieces like the one shown to the left. The designs are also available with images from a wide array of historical women, many lesser known, as well as a series of suffrage images.
Off the Beaten Path….
Famous women on sugar packets? Sure, why not! Red & White Sugar released a set of sugar packets with the likenesses of Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Pocahontas, Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger, Carrie Nation, Louisa May Alcott, Jane Addams, Annie Oakley, & Juliette Gordon Low. These emptied packets go for a mere $17 on eBay.
Those who are over 21 can drink a toast to Jane Addams and others founders of sociology using a set of shot glasses featuring Jane Addams, Harriet Martineau, W. E. B. DuBois, and Marianne Weber offered by CalacaCreations, available along with a series of other printed items on etsy.com.
Finally, there are the puns! You can get the slogan “Jane Addams Ran a Hull of a House” on nearly everything, from pacifiers and infant onesies, to iPhone cases, t-shirts, and coffee mugs. These are offered through zazzy.com.
For a look at how Jane Addams and the Hull-House residents celebrated the Christmas season, we have reproduced Amalie Hannig’s 1911 article “Christmas at Hull-House,” which was published in the Ladies Home Journal. Hannig was the co-founder and director at Hull-House’s Music School, which was opened in 1893.
Christmas at Hull-House
The activities at Hull-House cover a wide field at any time of the year. About nine thousand people come to us each week during the winter months. But when Christmas approaches Hull-House appears like a huge ant-hill where all the inhabitants are turning their efforts with great intensity into one channel–into making this particular Christmas better than any of its predecessors.
To begin with the small people: A Christmas play, performed by children for all the club children, is given in our theater and the same performance is presented three times before different audiences of at least two hundred and fifty wide-eyed and breathless children each time, and when the performance is again twice repeated for their parents there is no loss of interest. It is difficult to find a suitable children’s play that brings in good old Santa Claus and a Christmas tree. But usually this is done by using a fairy tale that is elastic enough to admit a Christmas touch at the end.
If anybody happens to see our large drawing-room on the day before Christmas he will be inclined to believe that he has accidentally dropped into a grocery store. His nostrils, too, will be greeted by all the characteristic odors. Rows of market-baskets fill the middle of the large space. In one corner of the rooms stand barrels filled with chickens, sacks of potatoes and onions, boxes of various groceries–as coffee, tea, sugar–boxes of apples, oranges and candy; another corner is stacked with small Christmas trees; and all these things send forth and mingle with their particular odors. On large tables and on all available chairs packages containing warm, comfortable wearing apparel, dress goods or shoes and an endless variety of toys are awaiting distribution. Soon many hands begin to sort and label, and by noon three hundred baskets are filled, varying according to the sizes of the families to whom they are addressed.
By the evening all baskets have disappeared; the little Christmas trees alone are still waiting. But at about nine o’clock a most delightful and mysterious activity begins. Each little tree, accompanied by candles, tinsel and all sorts of fascinating decorations, is brought forth and carried to some household in our neighborhood where an expectant, smiling mother is ready and waiting. The children are safely asleep; the small, and for the most part very poor, dwelling is clean and shiny and shows itself at its best; a table is ready to receive the tree and the presents. Quickly the tree is trimmed and the candles are put on the safe branches, and, after a friendly exchange of Christmas greetings, “Santa Claus” retires, leaving the rest to Mother. Back he goes to Hull-House to fetch another tree and place it in another home. Sometimes it happens that the last “Santa Claus” returns from his errand at about one or two o’clock in the morning. Twenty-eight trees were sent out last Christmas.
Some of us remember how on one Christmas Eve a tree and some presents were taken to an Irish mother who supported her six children and three of her dead sister’s children by scrubbing day and night. Even on this evening she was not expected back in her three-roomed home until half-past twelve. When “Santa Claus” appeared at this late hour, loaded down with gifts for ten, he found six children sleeping peacefully in one bed–three at the foot and three at the top–in one room, and three others were in another room. Nine stockings were hanging up; and who would be surprised to learn that some of them showed holes so big that an orange was dropped in first so that other articles might not fall through? “Santa Claus” had to move on tiptoe, hardly daring to breathe, while he made his arrangements in the same room with the sleeping children.
Out Italian friends gladly receive the American “Santa Claus.” Their homes are made to look festive and bright. The freshly scoured floor, still damp, is covered with newspapers, a little altar adorns the wall, the lamp of devotion is lighted, and when the little tree, gaily trimmed, stands on the floor before the altar the Virgin and Child seem to crown it with their blessed presence.
One feast at Hull-House fills hosts and guests alike with deep satisfaction. The Friendly Club, consisting of whole families of our people, come to a Christmas dinner, a real turkey dinner where everything is “grand” and “delicious.” Here are parents and their children dining with a joy that might make the chief cook of a King envious. Such a precious fowl as a turkey is an event to all of the diners. Last year about two hundred and sixty guests were placed in our spacious coffee-house, and when thirty-five late comers found all seats occupied the children politely gave up their legitimate places to the older people and stood between the chairs.
An effort is made, however, to observe Christmas in such a way that is shall not consist solely of presents and dinners and parties, but that the spiritual side shall also be accentuated. Handel’s “Messiah,” rendered every year through the courtesy of a chorus from Evanston, has been a source of great pleasure to our neighbors, to those of the Christian faith and to many of our Jewish friends. Perhaps the most spontaneous celebration of the birth of Jesus finds expression in our own Christmas concert, which has been given for eighteen years on the Sunday before Christmas. On this page is printed a recent program.
This concert consists of folk songs, carols and canons through which the people of many lands have for generations striven to express their joy and devotion, and is rendered by young people of the many nationalities represented in the Hull-House neighborhood. Possibly it is the spirit of Christmas, possibly it is the influence of music which holds together the souls of these people, but certain it is that, although most of the songs are of a religious character, Russian and Polish Jewish children participate with the consent of their parents.
An eminent author who has made a study of immigrants, especially of the Jews, said after he had listened to one of those concerts: “It is wonderful to see people, who in Russia would have died rather than speak the name of Christ, here singing these dongs, and their families in the audience enjoying this music.” Nobody who knows the principles of Hull-House will accuse us of trying to influence the religious convictions of our friends; but the fact that all these people are united in the true spirit of Christmas may perhaps be a genuine expression of “Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men.”
This Christmas Carol was composed by one of the older pupils in the Music School, and, given for the first time at one of these concerts, was sung by a group of his younger brothers and sisters.
After the concert the children, with their families, take supper together in a spacious room lighted only by the tapers of a large Christmas tree. This “Music-School Tree” is always the same and unlike any of the others which flourish at Hull-House. It is a large fir tree which reaches from floor to ceiling and is fastened to a secure stand. To the top is tied a star made of silver tinsel wound around a frame of strong wire. Many “icicles” of glass are attached to conspicuous branches, and a large number of candle-holders are made of unpainted tin. Then we carefully spread soft fluffy asbestos or a new German non-combustible cotton over all the thicker and finer branches to make them look as if they were snow-covered. Twelve packages of plain silver-tinsel thread are also put on, starting at the top so that the tinsel covers the tree like a silver veil. The threads are laid on the branches almost singly and must not be in the least tangled. White candles are placed in the holders and holly is laid on the floor around the tree. After the candles have been lighted–beginning at the top–all lights in the room are turned out. There it stands in wonderful, mysterious, silent beauty, like the Spirit of Christmas, glittering softly in green, white and silver.
This perhaps is the climax of our Christmas celebration, although the holiday week is full of all sorts of jollifications, ending with the “Old Settlers” party on New Year’s Day.