Every Day an Easter Bonnet

A man once asked me if I thought anyone would see me as a serious scholar wearing such heavy eyeliner. I am sorry now that I did not defend myself to him. But I was a young scholar then, lacking confidence. He was an old scholar, lacking good manners. People called him a curmudgeon, but I called him words that were not euphemisms for what he was. Under my breath, of course. Today if he said such a thing to me, my retort might give him a little ‘ole heart attack. But back then I was polite to my own detriment. I ignored his comment and went on with my life. In eyeliner.

Fast forward about twenty-five years.

Recently, I ran across a photograph of Jane Addams I’d never seen before. In the photo she is young, her face smooth and unlined, and her extraordinary, expressive eyes are bright, and also as yet unlined. She is wearing a hat with a curved brim, atop of which is what looks like a slouchy dark velvet adorned with GIANT chrysanthemum-like flowers, six at least, perched slightly off center. I gaped at the magnificent chapeau atop her brilliant mind, and before I could stop myself, I said out loud, to Jane Addams on my computer screen: “Oh my god, woman, how did people take you seriously in that hat!”

I covered my mouth. My eyes scanned the room as if searching for anyone who might have heard me. Shame on me. Shame, because my mind had immediately conjured the memory, for first time in years, of that old, rude, sexist scholar who dissed me for wearing eyeliner. And now I was dissing Jane Addams for wearing a hat. I know Jane Addams is dead, so it wasn’t like I could actually offend her, or offend anyone for that matter, alone as I was in my home office. But I was so mad at myself for making fun of Addams’s hat out loud with such vehemence, that I answered my own question: “Well, Stace, how does anyone take you seriously in such heavy eyeliner?”

Maybe some people don’t take me seriously in heavy eyeliner, but I am old enough and confident enough in myself and my abilities that I do not care. I’ve written books and given lectures and appeared in history documentaries in eyeliner. I am not a flashy dresser, but I like eyeliner. So what? Jane Addams was a serious woman, a determined advocate for the underprivileged, an innovative reformer, and a brilliant thinker and writer. She lived in the era of spectacular hats, and after a quick search through pictures of her, it became as obvious as the painted lines around my eyeballs that Jane Addams loved a spectacular hat. I still think she might have crossed over the milliner’s line with the chrysanthemum one, but what if she did? So what?

In 1896, Jane Addams visited Leo Tolstoy at his country estate Yasnaya Polyana, south of Moscow. When she met him that day, she was wearing a dress with extraordinary sleeves, and Tolstoy chastised her for them. In 1911, she published an account of that meeting in McClure’s, writing:

“Tolstoy, standing by clad in peasant garb, listened gravely, but, glancing distrustfully at the sleeves of my traveling gown, which, unfortunately, at that season were monstrous in size, took hold of an edge and, pulling out one sleeve to an interminable breadth, said that there was enough stuff on one arm to make a frock for a little girl, and asked me directly if I did not find ‘such a dress a barrier to the people.’ I was too disconcerted to make a very clear explanation, although I tried to say that, monstrous as my sleeves were, they did not compare in size with those of the working-girls in Chicago, and that nothing would more effectively separate me from ‘the people’ than a cotton blouse following the simple lines of the human form; that even if I had wished to imitate him and ‘dress as a peasant,’ it would have been hard to choose which peasant among the thirty-six nationalities we had recently counted in the Hull-House neighborhood.”

I guess you might say Tolstoy was kind of like the old scholar who questioned my eyeliner. Way more accomplished, of course, but still, rather rude. And Jane Addams might have been stung by Tolstoy’s comments, like I was stung, and clearly she was thinking about them fifteen years later. Yet although she most always wore plain and simple frocks, she never shied away from a magnificent hat. She worked hard and dedicated her life to helping others, so I think it rather grand she afforded herself this luxury. Jane Addams kept her face determined and serious, and I suspect a pretty hat was her smile.

In honor of the season of Easter bonnets, here are some of my favorites. And do, please, place your cursor over each image to treat yourself to the full effect. (P.S. We used that last one as the inspiration for our Jane Addams Papers Project logo).

Jane Addams was not the only serious woman who appreciated a stylish hat. Check out these women changing the world while rockin’ a posh headdress.

Now that I’ve thought about Jane Addams’s hats and my eyeliner and written this fluffy blog post, I’ve changed my mind about the chrysanthemum hat. I actually think I rather like it, all naysayers be damned.

by Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor

Notes: The Selected Papers of Jane Addams, 3:510-11; A Visit to Tolstoy, January 1911, Jane Addams Digital Edition.

Reviews in Digital Humanities

Thanks to Núria Sara Miras Boronat for her review of the Jane Addams Papers Project, published in the most recent release of Reviews in Digital Humanities (Vol. 3, No. 2, Feb. 14, 2022).

We particularly appreciated the kudos, below:

JADE is one of the most important interventions that has occurred in the last decade for not only Addams’ work but also for pragmatist scholarship. It provides very valuable information about the intertextual and contextual references of her writings, which are not obvious to contemporary readers, especially if those readers are not from the U.S. or are not English native speakers. It also informs readers about the density of connections and affections of one of the greatest thinkers and activists of the progressive era. Finally, it has a strong value as a project for teaching digital humanities.

We are happy to address one issue that Núria pointed out, the relative difficulty in locating our blog posts. We are on it, and hope to have a easy way to find all posts up and running soon.

The Patron Saint of Gift Giving

In June 1907, Jane Addams sent her sister Alice Haldeman handmade bags for her birthday. Made by a Hull-House neighbor, likely a poor immigrant, the bags were a typical gift from Addams, who enjoyed sending handmade goods, particularly from the Hull-House Shops. Items like linens and wooden or metal household objects were typical choices for birthday, Christmas, and thank-you gifts Addams gave to friends, family members, and Hull-House patrons. Most of her recipients were likely grateful for these thoughtful gifts or, at least, they were gracious in the receipt of them. Haldeman, however, did not hide her feelings about much of anything, let alone gifts from baby sister. She did not appreciate the bags, and she told Addams so.

In response to Haldeman’s disappointment, Addams wrote: “I am sorry you didn’t like my poor little bags which were made by [an] old lady in the neighborhood who sells them. I have had one in my traveling bag which I have grown attached to. Of course it would be no use in a bureau drawer. However I will try again and send you a book…”

Oooo. Burn.

We cannot know what Haldeman might have written to raise the ire of her sister because her letters to Addams do not survive. However, this passive aggressive response reveals Addams’s frustration, whereas we get so little of her personality in most of her surviving letters, which are guarded, congenial, and professional. Addams’s letters to her sister from 1901 until Haldeman’s death in 1915 contain numerous instances of apologies for failed gifts, evidence that Addams’s failure in this regard caused difficulty between the sisters. To know she chafed at a sister who had the power to put her on the defensive helps us chip away a little at Addams’s constrained, disciplined, public persona.

Haldeman was picky about gifts. Addams was sensitive to Haldeman’s criticism of her gifts. They exchanged strong words. Feelings were bruised. And then the women went on being sisters and friends. Sounds human to me, and I can certainly relate on a personal level. What is interesting to me as a historian, however, is to think about Jane Addams as a sister, as an ordinary human being doing ordinary human-being things, like stressing out over gifts to her nit-picking elder sister. Addams was not just a famous social reformer, or activist, or best-selling author, or recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She was a woman, just like me, who was imperfect, who sometimes lost her cool, and who failed on occasion to please the people she loved most.

After the failed birthday bags in June 1907, Addams was determined to get it right at Christmas. That holiday she sent Haldeman a book and followed it up with a box of sparklers, closing her Christmas Eve letter: “I am always, dear Alice, your loving sister Jane.” In other words, sis, give me a break.

The book she sent was Mother by Russian writer Maxim Gorky. Addams deemed the novel “remarkable,” but it was one of Gorky’s least successful works and Addams sent Haldeman the copy she had read because the new one she ordered did not arrive in time to send. I can almost hear Haldeman grumbling that her sister sent her a crappy, used novel for Christmas. She had complained about books before, in fact, one time accusing Addams of sending her a book for Christmas that she deemed inappropriate for her young daughter. To that snub, Addams had replied: “I hadn’t thought of course of Marcet’s reading it. I might easily send you many books that would be too mature for her.”

The Christmas gift debacle of 1909 is my favorite of Addams’s sister-gift failures. That year she sent a kimono, which seems a perfectly glorious gift to me and likely did to Addams, too. Picked out by a wealthy Chicago friend, Addams hoped it might please her finicky sister. Nope. Haldeman poo-pooed the kimono, and Addams, once again, was annoyed: “I am sorry you didn’t like the kimono, it was bought in Chinatown in San Francisco, selected by Mrs Robert Herrick when she was there, perhaps you are disillusioned about Xmas, last year you didn’t like the book I sent—after all it is only the message of remembrance which reaches thru, isn’t it? Please give the kimono to someone and forget it— next year I’ll try something quite different.”

I am not one who buys into the “Saint Jane” moniker for Jane Addams. She was too shrewd and too determined in her activism to live up to that gendered, ridiculous, otherworldly title. It is clear Alice did not think saint when she unwrapped a gift from Jane. But I do think Jane Addams was a wee bit saintly in dealing with her grumpy, perpetually dissatisfied sister. Nowhere is this clearer than in Addams’s persistent attempts to bestow on Haldeman the perfect gift. She kept trying to please her sister, even though her sister kept throwing the gifts back in her face.

Perhaps it was difficult for Haldeman to acknowledge a kindness or the favor of her younger, famous sister. Maybe she liked to play the cranky-butt. Or, most likely I believe, she took a little pleasure in stirring the emotional pot in the belly of the serious, stoic leader of Hull-House. I wonder if she actually liked all the gifts Addams selected for her, but she just couldn’t allow herself to give her sister the win. In the end, I suppose, Alice Haldeman was probably a difficult woman to please; and I love it that Jane Addams just kept on trying.

Regardless of what Haldeman thought about them, Jane Addams’s gifts were good and great and sometimes spectacular. They reflected her economic and aesthetic sensibilities, illustrated her social responsibility and intellectual curiosity, and related to her work at Hull-House, her interest in different cultures, and her respect for the immigrants who lived in Chicago. Jane Addams was a generous, inspired giver of gifts. In honor of her and in the spirit of the coming holiday season, I offer the following annotated list of gift ideas, straight out of the correspondence of the patron saint of gift giving.

Gifts Ideas from Jane Addams (JA)

Art (and for goodness sake, pay for the frame if it needs one)—JA to the wife of her nephew Stanley Linn and her one-year-old great-niece and namesake: “I hope you will like the pictures. We are all very fond of Norah Hamilton’s etching and I put in the Irish geese for Jane. Please have them all framed ‘on me,’ as it were, that is part of it.” Jane Addams to Myra Harriet Reynolds Linn, December 19, 1917

Blanket (Handmade, by YOU. If Jane Addams had time to knit, then so do you. Do you run a social settlement and take trains all over the country giving lectures about starving orphans in Europe? I didn’t think so. Start knitting; the Christmas clock is ticking, people).—JA to her niece and great-nephew: “The blanket I knitted for Henry, got awfully grimy in the process. I did it at H. H. where it is impossible to keep white wool clean. It goes to the little brother with my best love and a Merry Christmas.” Jane Addams to Anna Marcet Haldeman-Julius, December 10, 1919

Books—JA to her niece and great-niece Alice (her sister’s namesake): “I hope her very prosaic little present reached you safely, to [the] rest of you I am sending only books this year — very simple presents indeed! … I am sending things there early because of the crowded mails — don’t open them too soon.”  Jane Addams to Anna Marcet Haldeman-Julius, December 17, 1917

Books for Children (one book for siblings to share so as not to be excessive)—JA to fellow suffragist and friend: “I have sent the children one of the Van Loon books which my little nephew so dotes on. I hope they won’t mind having it together altho I am afraid it is not a favorite plan with children.” Jane Addams to Florence Gottschalk Taussig, December 31, 1921, Jane Addams Digital Edition (JADE).

Book of which you are the author—JA to the wife of a HH patron: “May I congratulate you on the new daughter and send you a copy of my new book with best wishes for a merry Christmas. You doubtless know much more about the spirit of youth these days than I can possibly tell you.” Jane Addams to Mary Everts Ewing, December 22, 1909

Car (or a Cow)—JA to her niece-in-law: “I do hope that the baby is better, if the doctor advises a cow you would better get one at once and I will send the Xmas money as soon as I return — of course we would not hesitate between a cow and a Ford if the baby is better fed by the former.” (Hey, I could use a new car this year, a Ford would be fine so long as it’s a hybrid, please). Jane Addams to Myra Harriet Reynolds Linn, November 30, 1916; Jane Addams to Myra Harriet Reynolds Linn, December 3, 1916

Holy Water Receptacle (only old ones from Paris)—JA to Alice Haldeman: “I am sending my Christmas package today to avoid the final rush. Knowing your fondness for worked metal, it is an old holy water receptacle I got in Paris last summer. It can of course be used for matches or anything you like.” Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, December 19, 1913.

Japanese Kimono (who cares what Alice thought, a kimono is a great gift idea; pick a colorful pattern you like, and if your recipient doesn’t like it, keep it for yourself and never buy that ungrateful person another gift.)—JA to Alice Haldeman: “I am sending you a short Japanese kimono which is nice to wear in bed or in your room. It goes with my best wishes for a Merry Christmas.” Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, December 19, 1908

Japanese Sparklers—JA to Alice Haldeman: “I sent you a box of Japanese ‘sparkers’ which seem to be a feature of Christmas this year. You light the end in a flame and all the rest happens merrily.” Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, December 24, 1907

Lamp—JA to her sister’s daughter: “The little Italian lamp is for Marcet. I wish very much that you would be here for Christmas but I hope that it will be a merry one, wherever it is. Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, December 6, 1903

Linens—JA to Alice Haldeman: “I am sending your Xmas present now because the mails are so full later. The bureau scarf is a [Romanian] one, ‘handmade’ from the neighborhood.” Alice probably hated it, but I’m sure JA’s niece-in-law was appreciate of her furniture linen: “The blue table covers were woven at Hull-House, one of the best bits of weaving which we have done.” Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, December 6, 1903; Jane Addams to Myra Harriet Reynolds Linn, December 11, 1919

Money (money is always good)—JA to a widowed friend: “May I send five dollars for Christmas to each child and ten for you. I wish it were ten times more, it would more adequately express my love and best wishes to the dearest family in the world.” Jane Addams to Mary Kenney O’Sullivan, December 18, 1911

Piano—JA to nephew Stanley Linn regarding gift for his wife: “I will send a little package for Jane later, but the real purpose of this letter is to ask you whether you think that between us we might get a piano for Myra’s Christmas. It might be a little solace to her to have music in the house. I could pay $150. down and the rest might come along on the [installment] plan. Could you have a good piano selected at Los Angeles and let me know the cost and terms of payment before buying. I should want to know what we were in for. It might be possible to get a good second hand one for two hundred dollars in which case I would try to do it all at once.” Following up two weeks later, JA wrote: “[Enclosed] please find a draft for the full amount of the piano. I am so glad you found one, and I hope that it is a good one.” Jane Addams to Stanley Ross Linn, December 4, 1919; Jane Addams to Stanley Ross Linn, December 17, 1919

Pin (a simple brooch of some sort)—JA to friend Lillian Wald: “May I send you this very work-a-day little pin from our shop with my most ardent wishes for the very best Christmas of all to you…” Jane Addams to Lillian D. Wald, December 21, 1911

Ad, Chicago Tribune (1917)

Rompers—JA to her grand-nieces and nephews in Kansas and California: “The rompers I had ordered from the Trade School were so big that I sent them all to Cal. and after Xmas they were going to try again.” Jane Addams to Anna Marcet Haldeman-Julius, December 17, 1917

Russian Things, Box of—JA to eight-year-old great niece: “I am sending you a box of some Russian things which I found the other day in the Russian shop, and I am sending a typewritten list so you may know how to divide them. Jane Addams to Jane Addams Linn, December 20, 1924, JADE.

Silver Box—JA to a regular Hull-House donor: “Some of the advanced boys in the shop have lately been venturing upon silver work and I am sending you a box they have made which has received some praise from one or two artists. It ought to be much bigger to contain all the gratitude and affection which I should like to put into it. But perhaps you will know what it ‘represents’ to use kindergarten lingo. With every possible good wish for the New Year.” Jane Addams to Anita McCormick Blaine, December 25, 1904

Typewriting Table (only go for this if you are giving it to someone who has hated every single gift you’ve ever given them for twenty years)—JA to Alice Haldeman: “I sent you a typewriting table today from Fields for Xmas. I almost sent a much prettier one which was not the right height but finally settled on the plainer one. If it isn’t right for the space please use it in the bank and we will look for another when you come, for your own room.” (Good grief, did Addams have to tell her sister there was a prettier one? ) Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, December 10, 1914

Happy Holidays. And good luck.

 by Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor

Notes: It is important to note that there is a disproportionate number of surviving Christmas letters that Addams wrote to her sister Alice and her nephew Stanley Linn and his family. The evidence makes it appear she favored them with her gift giving. While it is true she was fond of the Linns and provided them extra support because they struggled, the extant correspondence only provides a glimpse of Addams’s holiday generosity. Louise W. Knight, Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2005), 489n52, 519; Sherry R. Shepler and Anne F. Mattina, “Paying the Price for Pacifism: The Press’s Rhetorical Shift from ‘Saint Jane’ to ‘The Most Dangerous Woman in America,’” Feminist Formations 24 (Spring 2012): 154-71; “Noiseless Parlor Fireworks,” The Index, 17, Christmas ed. (Dec. 14, 1907): 55; “Rompers and Creepers Come,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 19, 1917, p. 12 (advertisement); Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, January 10, 1901; Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, June 13, 1907; Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, December 18, 1907; Jane Addams to Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, January 10, 1909;  Hull-House Year Book, January 1, 1916 (boys metalworking), all in JADE. Photo of Jane Addams, c. 1912, courtesy Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress.

Jane Addams and the Long 19th Amendment Project

I am very pleased to announce that the Jane Addams Digital Edition has shared content from our site with the Schlesinger Library’s Long 19th Amendment Project, an amazing digital portal that revolves around archival discovery, teaching innovation and collaborative scholarship on the history of gender and women’s rights.

This project, supported by the Schlesinger Library and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, seeks to build collaboration by including digitized materials from  well-known archives like the Papers of Susan B. Anthony and the Papers of Alice Paul at Schlesinger Library, but also includes materials from more than 40 contributing repositories.

When we were approached by the Long 19th Amendment team, we were excited to participate for two reasons. Jane Addams isn’t known primarily for her work for woman suffrage. She is often mentioned in lists, or gets a small part in the larger history, but in her day, Addams was a leading suffragist. She was a vice president of the National Woman Suffrage Association and used her considerable fame to promote the movement. She gave frequent speeches on woman suffrage, especially on its impact for working women, spoke on college campuses, and testified before Congress in 1912 to make her argument.

The other reason that we were eager to participate, is that the Long 19th Amendment Portal offered the opportunity to fulfill one of our long-term project aims regarding data and data sharing. We want to be able to export our Dublin Core-based data from our Omeka content management system so that it can be repurposed and shared with other scholars. This project demonstrated that with just a little effort on our part, we could share more than 500 documents.

Looking at the Jane Addams Digital Edition in terms of woman suffrage, we had several options.

  • To share documents that have been tagged with Woman Suffrage
  • To share biographies of people tagged with Woman Suffrage

Working with the Portal team, we decided to share documents written between 1901-1920 in the first contribution.As we proofread more texts, we will update the data shared to include additional years. Our biographical collection will be included as a linked collection that researchers can locate and consult directly.

This is just the first in what we hope will be other collaborations with scholars working on related collections. If you are interested in accessing data from the digital edition, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

 

 

Saint Jane and the Wicked Wicks –An Audio Musical

Exciting news! On Thursday, August 26 at 8 pm CST, Saint Jane and the Wicked Wicks, an audio musical  written and composed by Evanston playwright Kristin Lems, will open to the public at the  website www.SaintJanePlay.com. The two-hour musical play, which can be enjoyed in one  sitting or in four separate installments, is free, asking for a voluntary donation with a suggested  sliding scale. After the site goes live, listeners may attend the show any time on demand.

Saint Jane and the Wicked Wicks is set in Chicago in the decade of the 1893 World’s  Fair. It is about the friendship between Hull House founder Jane Addams and Nellie Wicks,  Kristin’s great grandmother, in the years 1890-1905, during the early years of Hull House.

Prize-winning Chicago dramatist Douglas Post is the director, with musical direction by  Diana Lawrence and mixing and editing by Dan Dietrich. Piano arrangements and performances were created by Tom Cortese of Champaign, Illinois.

The cast consists of well-known area actors and singers, including Kathy Cowan as Jane  Addams, Rebecca Keeshin as Nellie Wicks, Monica Szaflik as Ellen Gates Starr, Maddie Sachs  as Julia Lathrop, Patrick Byrnes as George Wicks and John Dewey, Frankie Leo Bennett as Gene  Wicks, John B. Leen as Jim Wicks and Sol Friedman, Kingsley Day as Richard Crane, and  Therese Harrold as Addie Wicks. The professional, non-equity cast was auditioned and selected  in December 2020 and recorded in the early months of 2021.

The “audio musical” is a new genre. The singer-actors rehearse their parts together on  zoom, but record and upload them individually to a single destination without being in a  recording studio. Then, the scenes and songs are reviewed, mixed, and edited by the director and  recording engineer. The final product is similar to an audiobook or radio play, but there are also  songs, in this case, 17 original songs including “The Hull House Rag,” “Straight to Hell in Chicago,” and other memorable numbers. The new genre enables artists to release entertaining  musical theatre work while keeping both performers and audience safe.

The musical will open on Women’s Equality Day, August 26, to celebrate the 101st anniversary of American women winning the right to vote. Jane Addams was active in the  suffrage movement 10 years after the time of the play, along with many activist women of Hull  House. Two key organizers, Ellen Gates Starr and Julia Lathrop, are characters with key roles in  the show.

Kristin Lems has won many accolades as a writer, composer, and performing artist, but  this is her first full-length musical. Lems was inspired by stories about the unusual friendship between the two women, told by her mother, musician Carol Lems-Dworkin (1924-2019), and  along with primary materials, including a handwritten diary by Nellie Wicks, two full length  unpublished novels written by Nellie’s eldest daughters, recorded oral histories, and an  autographed picture given to Nellie by Jane Addams shortly before Addams died. Lems also  researched Jane Addams, Hull House, and Chicago history with a 2017 sabbatical from her  employer, National Louis University, where she is a professor.

Many other outstanding talents helped design the trailer, iconic poster, website, video  product, and script, and many people deserve thanks and praise for moving this ambitious project forward to this day. For information about the cast, members of the pre-production, production,  or post-production team, or to contact Kristin Lems, please email saintjane2021@gmail.com.

Segregation At Hull-House: A Closer Look

In June, Addams biographer and Project Advisory Board member Lucy Knight got in touch with a query regarding a claim that Hull-House was a segregated space until the 1930s. The claim first made by Thomas Lee Philpott in his 1978 work: The Slum and the Ghetto: Housing Reform and Neighborhood Work in Chicago, 1880-1930.  It  was repeated by Khalil Gibran Muhammed’s Condemnation of Blackness (2010), and then repeated by me in a 2015 blog post reporting on Khalil Muhammed’s talk at Ramapo College. Lucy wanted to know more, because the claim had begun appearing all over the web. Since then she has gathered evidence that refutes the statement.

I wrote that blog post a few weeks after launching the project at Ramapo and did not question the statement. I probably should have, but assumed that given the time and the place it was likely true. Today I want to give the question a little more light and attention.

There is no smoking gun document — one in which a policy of segregation was clearly established. Without that it can be extremely difficult to prove whether or not African-Americans were welcome at Hull-House or in its programs and sponsored clubs. A majority of the records of Hull-House have not survived, which makes it unlikely that we will ever be able to definitively confirm or debunk the statement.

There are a couple of layers to the question. First, was Hull-House itself a segregated space? To that question, the answer is clear. It was not.  Dr. Harriet Alleyne Rice (1866-1958), a Black physician and graduate of Wellesley College, started working at Hull House as early as  1893, working with the Hull-House branch of the Chicago Bureau of Charities and tending to the poor.

Addams invited Black speakers to Hull-House, including prominent figures such as W. E. B. Du Bois, who gave the speech “The Souls of Black Folk” at Hull-House on Lincoln’s birthday 1907 (Hull-House Year Book, 1906-1907). A year earlier, Atlanta newspaperman J. Max Barber spoke about the Atlanta race riot to a Hull House “audience mostly composed of negroes.” (Chicago Tribune, October 8, 190-6,. p. 3).  Addams invited  Ida B. Wells to visit and dine at Hull-House. And in 1912, Addams hosted a meeting of the interracial National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on the Hull-House grounds.

Hull-House hosted a reception for the delegates of the NAACP meeting in Chicago on April 30, 1912.

A more complicated question was whether Hull-House’s clubs and groups welcomed people of all races. Few if any spaces in Chicago were integrated during Jane Addams’s life.  By 1910, the vast majority of African-Americans lived in Chicago’s South Side in what was known as the “Black Belt.” They formed their own organizations to empower their communities, much as other ethnic and religious groups did. African-Americans who came to Chicago during the Great Migration found opportunity, but also oppression.

Hull-House was located in the Near West Side, a overcrowded community that featured a wide range of European immigrants. The area was filled with ever changing languages and customs as Irish, German, Czech, and French immigrants were replaced by Jews from Russia and Poland, Italians and Greeks. In 1895, Hull-House workers surveyed the area showing the cultural (if not racial) diversity. It was not until the 1930s and 1940s that African-Americans and Mexican became a more significant presence in Hull-House’s neighborhood.

Nationalities Map of Polk Street to 12th Street in the Near West Side (Hull House Maps and Papers, 1895).

As a neighborhood-based settlement, Hull-House represented its surroundings, which meant that in its early years, the majority of its clientele were white immigrants. Photographs of early activities show this clearly.

A group of toddlers outside Hull-House in the 1890s. At this point the neighborhood was predominately comprised of Southern and Eastern European immigrants. (Seven Settlement Houses — Database of Photos, University of Illinois at Chicago)

Many of clubs and associations that operated out of Hull House were developed around ethnic affiliations, which was a way to retain community and customs in a time of rapid change and Americanization. The range of clubs at Hull-House was vast, and the numbers of people in and out of the Hull-House grounds reached nine thousand per week between 1906 and 1916. The clubs and associations were organized and operated by their members, some, like the “Greek Olympic Athletic Club,” were made up of Greek immigrants interested in athletics; others like the Hull-House Electrical Club, was made up of men who worked in electrical occupations. There were Greek and Russian social clubs, a 19th Ward Socialist Club, and the Jane Club, which was a co-operative boarding club for young women that operated its own house with thirty bedrooms. There were also general Men and Women’s Clubs, Boys and Girls’ Clubs, and educational programs in art, practical employment skills, and English language classes.

I find it unlikely that many of these clubs or programs were multi-racial in the first decades of Hull-House’s existence. Among the photographs of Hull-House activities located in archives at the University of Illinois at Chicago, photos from before 1920 depict what appear to be white groups.

This photograph, dated only “ca. 1920s” by Wallace Kirkland, shows a group of neighborhood children preparing to leave for the Bowen Country Club. (Hull-House Photograph Collection,University of Illinois at Chicago)

There is some evidence of Black participation in clubs and groups at Hull-House before the 1930s.  In 1913, the Chicago Defender wrote an obituary of George Williams, “the only Negro boy connected with Hull House as a member. He was a member of the band and took part in all the active branches of the settlement. Miss Jane Addams praised him to the highest. The day of his funeral the full band was out and his casket was borne by three Italians and one Jewish boy.” (Chicago Defender, September 20, 1913.)

An African-American women’s club was formed at Hull-House in 1925, first called “The Colored Mothers’ Club,” and later the “Community Club.” They met on Monday evenings and held monthly interracial meetings which the Chicago Defender characterized as “not only harmonious and satisfactory, but very helpful.”

This photo from around 1927 depicts the Hull House Community Club, composed of African-American women. (Hull-House Photograph Collection, University of Illinois, Chicago).

The Defender continued:

In and around Hull House a large number of the foreign population moved into other neighborhoods, and their places have been taken up by our group. The residents of the famous social settlement are still living up to their ideals of helping the people in the neighborhood to adjust themselves, and our boys and girls are urged to join all of the classes, and with their elders are cordially invited to take part in all the activities of the place. (Chicago Defender, December 11, 1926, p. 5.)

But, does this one newspaper article tell the whole story? By 1937, the Defender characterized the Community Club as the medium through which Hull-House worked among the African-American community. The club was affiliated with the National Federation of Colored Women and its focus was on bettering conditions for African-Americans in their community. (Chicago Defender, September 25, 1937, p. 19.) Did Hull-House push African-American activity off to the side into one or two clubs? Did African-Americans feel welcome in the late 1930s when they walked into the settlement?

Dewey Jones, the Assistant Director of Hull-House in 1938 reported during a 1939 speech that one long-time member of the Community Club had complained that its members were not invited to take part in general community events. In 1941 a caption on a photograph depicting Black women at the Jane Addams Memorial Lilac Ball on May 24, 1941 noted that “Director Charlotte Carr insisted that African Americans be invited to the Ball.” The fact that Carr’s action was noted, makes it appear that it was not the norm.

The Jane Addams Memorial Lilac Ball was held May 24, 1941 at the Stevens Hotel in Chicago. (Hull-House Photograph Collection, University of Illinois, Chicago).

Florence  Scala (1918-2007), an Italian-American resident of the West Side  and a volunteer at Hull-House from 1934 to 1954, recalled that though the Near West Side had a great mix of ethnic groups, “there were no blacks, blacks were not active in the Hull-House programs when I was going there.” (Carolyn Eastwood, Near West Side Stories: Struggles for Community in Chicago’s Maxwell Street Neighborhood (2002), p. 139.)

By the 1930s and especially by the early 1940s, photographs of Hull-House activities show the changing composition of the neighborhood.  There were Mexican fiestas, and pottery classes, and photographs of integrated children’s activities at the Joseph T. Bowen Country Club.

A Mexican fiesta was held at  Hull-House on June 13, 1941 for the purpose of bettering relationships between Mexicans and American in s the Chicago area. (Chicago Tribune, June 8,. 1941, p. 41. Hull-House Association Photograph Collection, University of Illinois, Chicago).
Boys at the Bowen Country Club camp run by Hull-House, ca. 1946. (Hull-House Photograph Collection, University of Illinois, Chicago).
Photos like these, with no clear date, save the “1920s-1930s” offer evidence of Black families participating in Hull-House programming, but not enough detail.  (Hull-House Photograph Collection, University of Illinois, Chicago).

So we are left with conflicting recollections and reporting. Did Florence Skala have a very different experience at Hull-House than the children who attended the Bowen camp in the 1940s? Were the adult activities more racially divided, broken into clubs that kept to their own kind? Without additional documentation, it is hard to make a determination that includes all the voices we have.

We can close with a look at what African-American reporters said at the death of Jane Addams in 1935.  In an obituary written of Addams in 1935, Thyra Edwards of the Pittsburgh Courier focused on Addams and Hull-House with regard to race.

Jane Addams had no ‘attitude’ toward the Negro. To her he was just one of the citizenship, one part of the whole. She recognized that the distinction of color exposed him more easily to attack and discrimination at the same time, adding a moral responsibility upon Americans to work against extraordinary exploitation because of color.

When Negroes moved into Hull House, there was no ‘consultant’ as to whether they should be accepted and in what proportions. Quite simply, new neighbors had come to Hull House and they found their way into whatever classes or groups they chose. (Pittsburgh Courier, June 1, 1935, p. 9.)

Another tribute to Addams was published in the Chicago Defender, where Eugene Kinckle Jones remarked:

Jane Addams made no special effort to lead the Negro to the Promised Land but by no act or thought did she eliminate this race from the classes or groups most in need.’ At Hull House, they had no set place but they were eliminated from no place. In her condemnation of crime, she condemned lynching. In her belief in the extension of suffrage to all, she included the Negro in her ‘all.’ (Chicago Defender, June 29, 1935, p. 3.)


Thanks to Louise Knight for her research into the question which she graciously provided.

“All Very Neatly Enacted”

On May 12, 1902, Jane Addams was aboard the California Limited, traveling on the Santa Fe Railroad line on her way home to Chicago. She had been in Los Angeles for a national convention of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The California Limited, inaugurated in 1892, was billed as the “finest train west of Chicago.” It featured Pullman sleeping cars, an observation deck, and dining cars, and it offered “the highest attainment in luxurious railway travel.”

Jane Addams was a seasoned traveler, had toured Europe twice, traveled to Paris for the World’s Fair in 1900, and had visited much of the United States. Yet she was often an impatient traveler, and long journeys tended to steal her energy. She accepted train travel as a regular occurrence in her busy life, but riding on trains and waiting on trains sometimes made her tired and cranky. She had been anxious about the long trip to the West Coast and, in fact, might have begged off if she had not promised Florence Kelley she would go. Kelley was a committee chairwoman for the Federation and headed up the panel on which Addams was presenting a paper. Addams went West not for herself, but at the behest of her friend. She wanted to support her old Hull-House colleague, but she had been “quite dreading California.”

To her surprise, however, the journey out to California turned out to be a delightful and welcomed reprieve. It was “very easy,” she wrote Mary Smith, “Mrs Wilmarth, Mrs Ward and I had a state room together and read aloud and united our souls to no end.” Mary Wilmarth and Lydia Coonley-Ward, both active members of the Chicago Women’s Club, were also attending the national convention.

Addams’s time in California was also something of a triumph for her public reputation. At the convention, which was a great success and drew enthusiastic attention, Addams delivered a well-received speech, “The Social Waste of Child Labor.” She also earned praise for the “intense” appeal she made on behalf of African-American women’s clubs, when the Federation, to placate the white southern women in attendance at the convention, effectively voted to bar black clubs from admission to the national organization. Addams also made public appearances and delivered speeches beyond the convention, spending two weeks as a media darling. A reporter who covered her speech at a Y.M.C.A. in Los Angeles, for example, marveled at her “extremely effective presence” and the frequent applause Addams’s speech there garnered. And an early historian of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs noted in her 1912 history that “no woman at the Los Angeles Biennial could have failed to be greatly impressed by the address of Jane Addams of Illinois.”

Still, Jane Addams of Illinois was underwhelmed by the convention. As she wrote Smith, “I met with all the delegates as wise as an owl as to looks, but it all seems terribly remote and save for the color question without any real issue.” Although she was a supporter of women’s clubs, she was not, in her bones, a club woman. As well, she was anxious to get back to work in Chicago, was longing for home, and itching to return to Hull-House, having spent much of the spring on the road.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, May 10, she boarded the California Limited at the Los Angeles train station to embark on the approximately fifty-seven hour journey to Chicago. A successful trip in the books, Addams settled in for the ride, tucked up with a good book and good company.  A “very easy” journey home? Not so much.

Just before 10 o’clock on the following Monday morning, her train was nearing Revere, MO, a few miles northwest of Keokuk, IA, and still nearly 300 miles southwest of Chicago. Addams was sitting in her section of the train with her nephew James Weber Linn, a University of Chicago professor, who was traveling with her. Suddenly, an axel on the dining car broke, the train ran into a switch and crashed into a box car sitting on a side track.  A corner of the dining car was torn off and six of the train’s cars derailed. Addams was “thrown with quite a degree of violence to the side of the coach.”

In the first decade of the twentieth century, train accidents were on the rise. Americans at this time were ninety times more like to die in a train wreck than they were to die in an airplane crash a century later. On the California Limited that day, one man was killed and many passengers were injured. A physician on board attended to Addams, who injured her arm and torso and suffered lacerations on her face from a shower of broken glass from the car’s shattered windows. In a public statement later that day, Addams told reporters: “The same jolt that injured me threw my nephew to his feet, saving him from serious hurts. I was thinking of something else at the time and didn’t have time to make any effort to save myself. The crash came without warning.”

Addams was pretty banged up in the accident, arriving home to Chicago later that night to a group of worried Hull-House residents, who collected her at the train station. She would take a few days to rest and recover, and would experience some lingering aches for the rest of the month. Yet she was sanguine when she wrote Mary Smith a week after the accident.

Dearest: I have had my R.R. wreck at last, the pain, the moment of panic, the thrill, the rescue, all very neatly enacted. The ten days thereafter, [although] containing some very miserable hours, have not on the whole been so bad & I find this morning — the first downstairs — filled with a content so deep that it reminds me of that of the early days of H. H. You have been a saint about writing, three of your letters during the first week and cheered me to the soul.”

Jane Addams was not one to dwell on her difficulties and always as quick to return to her work as possible. Following the train wreck, she cleared her calendar, striking one particularly busy day entirely off, but soon her schedule was full again. On May 26, she hosted friends for a Hull-House play, addressed the Merchants’ Club of Chicago on May 31, and was back on a train in July for a long trip to upstate New York.

Jane Addams was a woman who filled up nearly all her days with her reform activities and her writing. Women in perpetual motion, ever engaged in good work, have no time for a derailment. Not by trains, nor by anything else.

By Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor

Notes: Mark Aldrich, “Public Relations and Technology: The ‘Standard Railroad of the World’ and the Crisis in Railroad Safety, 1897-1917,” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, 74 (Winter 2007): 76-77; Michael Bezilla and Luther Gette, Branch Line Empires: The Pennsylvania and the New York Central Railroads (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017), 219-20; Rima Lunin Schultz and Adele Haste, eds., Women Building Chicago: A Biographical Dictionary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 183-85, 982-86; Steve Glischinski, Santa Fe Railway (Minneapolis: MBI Publishing, 2008), 35, 139; Mary I. Wood, The History of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (New York: General Federation of Women’s Clubs, 1912), 141-45; “To Chicago and New York; The California Limited—Daily,” Advertisement, The Los Angeles Times, Feb. 27, 1901, p. 1; “Colored Clubs Need Not Apply,” The Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1902, p. 44; “California Limited,” Advertisement, San Bernadino (CA) County Sun, May 11, 1902, p. 4; “Santa Fe Train Is wrecked Again,” Salt Lake (City) Telegram, May 12, 1902, p. 6; “Santa Fe Limited in Wreck,” The St. Louis Republic, May 13, 1902, p. 3; “Miss Addams Hurt in Wreck,” The Inter Ocean (Chicago), May 13, 1902, p. 1 (clipping); “Jane Addams Injured,” The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), May 14, 1902, p. 10; “Jane Addams Still Suffers,” The Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1902, p. 2; “The Federation’s Best Brilliancy,” The Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1902, p. 28 (drawing); “Colored Clubs Need Not Apply,” Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1902, p. 44; Jane Addams Diary, Mar. 15-May 8, May 24, July 4, 1902, Jane Addams Papers Microfilm, 29:796-810, 813, 822; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, April 8, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, April 16, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, May 3, 1902; Statement on Train Wreck, May 12, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, May 19, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, May 26, 1902; Delinquent Children, May 31, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, August 5, 1904, all in Jane Addams Digital Edition.

Photographs: Jane Addams, c. 1900; All Aboard the California Limited, c. 1905; both photos courtesy of Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

The Jane Addams Memorial Tollway?

I live about three hours south of Chicago, and while I don’t pay close attention to the Chicago news I keep a peripheral eyeball on the city’s newspapers. A couple of weeks ago, I saw in the Chicago Tribune a mention of a non-fatal, semi-trailer rollover on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway. Heh? The Jane Addams Memorial Tollway? How on the Illinois prairie had I never heard about a tollway named for Jane Addams?

So, it turns out that the Northwest Tollway was renamed the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway in 2007, so I’m fourteen years late to this party. The Jane Addams Memorial Tollway is a section of Interstate 90, which is the longest interstate highway in the United States and is the busy, east-west highway that runs from Boston to Seattle, crossing through twelve northern states, from Massachusetts to Illinois to Washington. The Jane Addams part of the interstate covers seventy-six miles from O’Hare International Airport, northwest of downtown Chicago, to the Wisconsin state border. The Jane Addams Memorial Tollway goes right through Rockford, where Jane Addams attended college at Rockford Female Seminary, and it bends north heading toward Wisconsin about thirty miles southeast of her hometown of Cedarville.

Jane Addams spent forty-six years in Chicago, cleaning up the 19th Ward, assisting poor immigrants, advocating for child labor laws, demanding woman suffrage, and pleading for world peace. While leading a variety of reform movements, writing eleven books, and becoming a Progressive Era icon, Jane Addams also functioned as a matriarch of her extended Cedarville family. Over the years, she spent a lot of time in train cars traveling to and from Hull-House and her hometown, passing through Rockford each time. Perhaps that was a factor in the mind of the history genius or crackpot, depending on your point of view, who came up with the idea and deemed it an honor to name that path for the most famous Illinois woman who ever traveled it.

Is it an honor to have your name attached to a road? Some people think so, I guess. It sure is a popular memorial route (pun intended) here in Illinois. A stretch of Interstate 55 in southwestern Illinois is named for beloved U.S. Senator Paul Simon, and the signs announcing it as such include an image of a bowtie for which he was famous. A Mississippi River bridge connecting Illinois and Missouri at St. Louis is named for Cardinal baseball great Stan Musial (it’s called “The Stan Span” by locals—yes, yes, it is, oh my god). And REO Speedwagon Way, a couple of blocks in downtown Champaign, commemorates the University of Illinois beginnings of the popular 1980s band.

Hull-House and Rockford College held a 150th birthday celebration at the Belvidere Oasis on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway on Sep. 14, 2010. A reporter covering the tollway renaming found it “sensible that an Illinois Tollway is named for Jane Addams because women drive, too.” Okay, well, who am I to diss a highway oasis birthday party for Saint Jane or to argue with the argument that women drive? So let us assume that naming a road after an important person (or band) makes sense. What bothers me is that this road named for Jane Addams, a woman who dedicated her life to helping the less fortunate people around her, is a tollway. Paying drivers only, thank you very much. Today, if I get on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway at tollway plaza #6 at O’Hare and drive it all the way to Beloit at the Wisconsin state line, it will take me ninety minutes if I’m lucky and traffic isn’t horrible and it will set me back $7.90, albeit locals with an I-Pass will pay half that amount. To be honest, I am one of those crazy people who think basic infrastructure, like roads, should be provided for all citizens free of charge, and I suspect Jane Addams would agree with me on that point.

To make this Jane Addams tollway thing even more unseemly to me is the fact that this “honor” renaming of highway happened at the moment the Illinois Tollway authority was “flush with cash” from tollway collections and planning an expensive, long, disruptive construction project to widen and improve the road at a final staggering cost of $2.5 billion. The Illinois Tollway, which operates mostly independent of Illinois state government, was using the good name of Jane Addams for positive spin. In 1907, Addams protested the widening of Halsted Street in front of the Hull-House settlement, and I’m offering this fact as historical evidence that she was an “Anti” in the road-widening movement. My own read on this story is that the Illinois Tollway had extracted too much toll money from previous drivers, widened the road to get more “customers,” named it the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway to make us feel warm and fuzzy, and has been gouging drivers in the good woman’s name ever since.

Paul Simon, Stan Musial, and REO Speedwagon got free transportation memorials. Jane Addams got a tollway. Seriously? Is this a joke?

The signs for the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway feature a logo of sorts, with a dark profile of Jane Addams in front of a simple drawing of a white house (Hull-House, presumably), both contained in a circle. Around that circle are the words “Dedication” and “Advocacy” and “Service.” Those of you who have not had the “pleasure” of traversing the toll roads of Chicagoland will have to take my word for it that they have absolutely nothing to do with dedication or advocacy or service. Jane Addams Memorial Tollway makes me scratch my perplexed noggin, because nothing about traffic congestion, suburban sprawl, concrete spaghetti, or the ca-ching sound of coins being sucked into the change bins on toll plazas sings Jane Addams to me.

Oh, I know, I know. In this big, wide, crazy world, it matters not a bit. Jane Addams is remembered every day at Hull-House, which is not only a museum that contextualizes her life and her work, but is also a soulful, living and breathing organization still dedicated to social justice. Illinois school children learn about Addams and her work every year when they study Illinois History. And the Jane Addams Papers Project is making her documents freely available on the internet. Each of these efforts is a beautiful memorial to Jane Addams and her historical importance. It is really not important that Interstate 90 from Chicago to Wisconsin is named the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway. I am sure most people who drive upon it know it only as Interstate 90, anyway, and even those who might catch one of logoed signs indicating that it is the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway, likely pay it no notice whatsoever.

Yet, in an era when Americans are reconsidering what place historical memorials have in public spaces, how their meanings change over time, and the costs we pay for getting them so wrong, I wonder what good even the good ones can do us. Some might argue that a highway or a bridge beats a stone statue any single day of the week for its ability to honor what and who matters to a collective national, state, or local us. I wonder if whatever “us” is has, however, become too divided to agree on what makes a good or bad monument or memorial. In the end, I think I’ve decided that statues and roads don’t cement legacies into our shared consciousness, and I believe that good books and museums and accessibility to the historical records that document our past are the best, truest memorials of all. I’m content to let historians, museum professionals, and school teachers do the long-haul driving on this road.

As for Jane Addams, she is well known in Illinois, more appreciated here in her home state than she is anywhere else. She is a favorite Illinois daughter, and that is why the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway exists. As an Illinoisan and as an editor of the papers of Jane Addams, I sometimes get a little sensitive when I meet people who haven’t heard of Jane Addams and then leap to conclusions to recover themselves. But the next time I tell someone what I do for a living and they ask me if Jane Addams is related to the famous Boston Adams family, I will sigh, like I always do. I will offer them a short bio of the woman and her work, like I always do. And then I will roll my eyes in my imagination and say to myself: “Come on, people, even the Illinois Tollway has heard of Jane Addams and knows that she spelled her surname with two “d’s!”

Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor

Notes: Illinois Tollway, “Jane Addams Memorial Tollway,” flyer, 2016; Jane Dwyre Garton, “76 Years After Her Nobel Prize, A Tollway for Jane Addams,” Huffington Post, May 25, 1911; “Tollway Windfall Spawns Big Plans, Chicago Tribune, Sep. 8, 2007, p. 1; “Celebrating a Radical Social Worker,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 27, 2010, p. 3; “Tollway Contracts Close to $180M,” Chicago Tribune, June 30, 2013, p. 7; “Illinois Tollway Recognized for Its $2.5 Billion Jane Addams Tollway Project,” Toll Roads News, Mar. 15, 2017; “Illinois. (Construction video of part of the tollway); Jane Addams to the City of Chicago Board of Local Improvements, January 10, 1907, Jane Addams Digital Edition.

Hull-House of Possibilities

Children Practicing at the Hull-House Music School. (Photo courtesy: Jane Addams Memorial Collection, Special Collections, University Library, University of Illinois Chicago).

On February 21, 1901, little Blanche Ebert performed big musical compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven and Stephen Heller on the piano at a concert at Hull-House. She was a student of the Hull-House Music School and one of four gifted pupils who performed that day. Blanche was nine years old, and her passion for music just blossoming, but her education at Hull-House, a settlement dedicated to expanding the definition of the possible for young people, must have given her early confidence, both as a pianist and as a girl.

Hull-House Music School offered “serious musical training to talented children,” admitting them based upon aptitude tests; and Blanche was no doubt gifted from the start. But as she hailed from a poor immigrant family in the 18th Ward, just north of Hull-House, Blanche was also at least a little bit lucky, too. Most poor children did not have access to the musical instruments, private lessons, and concerts, like those offered at the Hull-House Music School.

Blanche Ebert Seaver, 1916. (Photo courtesy David Stoddard Atwood Collection, California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, CA).

In a brochure circulated to raise funds for the Hull-House Music School in the late 1890s, Jane Addams said: “We realize afresh that it is the business of youth to reaffirm the beauty and joy in the world.” In order to succeed in that business, girls and boys deserved cultural nourishment, Addams believed. Much of the focus of the activities at Hull-House revolved around children, each one an effort to expose young people to a world beyond the tenements and dirty streets of urban Chicago, to organize activities to bring art and music and beauty to people in the settlement’s neighborhood. At Hull-House, children were deemed worthy of attention and nurturing in the arts, and activities like private piano lessons , gave them remarkable opportunities to redefine their futures.

Blanche Ella Theodora Ebert was born on Sep. 15, 1891, in Chicago, the tenth child of Norwegian immigrant parents. Her father supported his large family as a painter, and in 1901 Blanche was one of seven children still living at home. We cannot know how Blanche felt as she took the stage to perform the opening piece of music by Beethoven for the Hull-House concert in 1901, but we can imagine something of what the opportunity to play a piano and perform for an audience meant to an underprivileged kid on a cold Chicago day in the early twentieth century. And we do know that Blanche Ebert took full advantage of the opportunity, charting for herself an unlikely and brave career as a pianist and composer.

Until about 1906, Blanche was a piano student and assistant music teacher at Hull-House. Her natural talent and her education at Hull-House afforded her entry into the Chicago Musical College from which she graduated in 1911. In 1912, she felt bold and moved west to Los Angeles, where she became a music teacher at the Egan School of Music and Drama. She also performed as a pianist in a variety of venues in southern California and became a “noted” accompanist. By late 1914, she was teaching at Blanchard Music School in Los Angeles and playing piano for silent films shown at the Majestic Theatre.

One day while riding the streetcar downtown, Blanche met Frank R. Seaver, an attorney eight years her senior. The couple married in Chicago on Sep. 16, 1916. They lived in California for a while before moving to New York, where Frank was stationed during WWI. In New York during that time, Blanche became a successful musical arranger and composer, writing and selling dozens of songs, many to popular artists of the day like the Irish singer John McCormack. Her most famous songs were “Calling Me Back to You,” composed during the war, and “Just for Today.”

In the 1920s, the Seavers lived in Mexico City, and it was there where Blanche discovered a second passion, philanthropy. She established a society to help homeless Mexican children, and that was the start of seventy-years of generous living. The Seavers moved back to the United States in 1928, settling  permanently in Los Angeles. Frank Seaver made a fortune in the oil business, and Blanche became a well-known philanthropist.

Inspired and grateful for the education she received in Chicago, Blanche focused her giving on educational institutions. She and her husband donated money to the Harvard Boys School in L.A., the University of Southern California, Loyola Marymount University, Claremont McKenna College, Pomona College, Rockford College in Illinois, and Pepperdine University. After Frank’s death in 1964, Blanche continued her giving, helping Pepperdine establish its Malibu campus and dedicating the Frank R. Seaver College there in 1975.

Throughout her life, Blanche, who never had children, continued to share her love of music and was an active patron of the arts and a supporter of children’s charities. She supported the Los Angeles Music Center, the Los Angeles Symphony, the Los Angeles Pops Orchestra, and the famous Hollywood Bowl. She also founded the Los Angeles Orphanage Guild and served as a member of the Board of Directors of Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. In 1963, the Los Angeles Times named her “Woman of the Year;” and MacMurray College in Illinois and Pepperdine University awarded her honorary doctorate degrees in 1973 and 1980, respectively.

Blanche Ebert Seaver died on April 14, 1994, ninety-three years after playing Beethoven at Hull-House. Her story is a second-generation American story. Her hard-working immigrant parents could only have dreamed of such a robust life for their children. But Seaver’s story is also a story of what Hull-House could offer little girls and little boys with talents and courage and dreams. Jane Addams could not write such a story as Blanche’s for every child who took advantage of the programs at Hull-House. But every single day, through its programs and activities, the settlement exposed young people to the arts and made a difference in the lives of the children in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Blanche’s story is one shining musical example of how Hull-House was a house of possibilities.

Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor

Sources:  Los Angeles City Directory (1915), 757; Blanche Ebert and Frank R. Seaver Papers, Finding Aid, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA; 1900 U.S. Federal Census; 1910 U.S. Federal Census; Blanche Ebert Baptismal Record, U.S. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969; Ebert and Seaver Marriage Record, Cook County, Illinois, U.S., Marriage Index, 1871-1920; “Chicago at a Glance,” Chicago Tribune, June 17, 1900, p. 50; “Reception to Pianist,” Los Angeles Express, Oct. 19, 1912; “Egan Recital Will Be Given Tomorrow,” Los Angeles Express, Jan. 8, 1913, p. 7; “The Festival Choir,” Los Angeles Express, Mar. 21, 1913, p. 10; “Whittier Choral Society,” The Whittier (CA) News, Mar. 24, 1914, p. 3; “Coronation of Queen Thelma Chamber Music Featured,” The Daily Telegram (Long Beach, CA), June 6, 1914, p. 5; “Important Musical,” Hollywood (CA) Citizen, July 3, 1914, p. 5; “Lost and Found,” Los Angeles Express, Nov. 27, 1914, p. 17; “Brahms Quintet Will Give Concert,” Los Angeles Express, Feb. 25, 1915, p. 6; “Majestic,” The Los Angeles Times, Mar. 31, 1916, p. 16; “Seaver-Ebert Nuptials, Chicago Event,” The Bulletin (Pomona, CA), Sep. 17, 1916, p. 9; “Mac to Confer Five Honorary Degrees at Commencement,” The Jacksonville (IL) Journal Courier, May 20, 1973, p. 36; “Blanche E. Seaver, Major Donor to Colleges, Dies,” The Los Angeles Times, Apr. 13, 1994, p. 206; “Seaver, Blanche Ebert,” The Los Angeles Times, Apr. 17, 1994, p. 164; Hull-House Music School,” pamphlet, c. 1935, Jane Addams Papers, Microfilm Edition (JAPM), 36:78-81; Hull-House Bulletin, 4 (January 1-May 1, 1901), 4-5, JAPM, 53:1123-24; Hull-House Bulletin, 5 (Semi-Annual, 1902, no. 1), 5, JAPM, 53:1141; Hull-House Bulletin, 6 (Autumn, 1904, no. 2), 4, JAPM, 53:1193; Hull-House Bulletin, 7 (1906-1906, no. 1), 6, 53:1219; Selected Papers of Jane Addams, 3:421, 473n3; Jane Addams’ Own Story of Her Work: How the Work at Hull-House Has Grown (Third of Three Installments), May 1906; Hull-House Year Book 1906-1907; Hull-House 1889-1909, 1909, all in Jane Addams Digital Edition.

Hull-House in the Family and in the Stars

Henrietta Swope, the daughter of Gerard and Mary Hill Swope.

When I wrote last time on the “The Other Worldly Orbit of Jane Addams,” I knew I was going to follow it up by writing the story of a particular Hull-House resident, the daughter of Hull-House residents, who became an astronomer and very early in her career discovered 385 stars. This story of a woman named Henrietta Swope began at Hull-House, where her settlement worker parents met. It passed back through Hull-House with her own year of residency at the settlement after her graduation from Barnard College in 1925. And it is as illustrative of the extraordinary list of human beings who had a connection to Jane Addams and to Hull-House as the variable stars Swope studied are of the beauty of the universe.

Henrietta Swope began dreaming about the stars when she was ten years old, and I cannot help but think that at least a little part of the reason she was able to reach those stars was because she had Hull-House in her family.

But more about the stars later. Let’s start Henrietta’s story at the very beginning.

On Tuesday, August 20, 1901, at noon, in a clearing in the woods on Mackinac Island in northern Michigan, Jane Addams delivered a wedding speech. It was an unusual venue for the settlement leader to give a speech. But it was an unusual wedding. It was the union of Hull-House residents Mary Hill and Gerard Swope, two young members of the extended Hull-House family. A large contingent of the small wedding party were Hull-House residents, including the bride and groom’s best friends George Hooker and Maud Gernon.

Addressing the couple and the wedding party near picturesque Sugar Loaf Rock, Addams said, in part:

“Knowing as we do something of the character of these two people, somewhat of the temper of their attachment and the form of the expression we may confidently predict that and all life’s journey through to the end is will be illuminated by [that] Love which carries a burden which is no burden, the Love which attempts what is above its strength, pleads no excuse of impossibility for it believes all things are possible to itself.”

It’s a coincidence and not at all prophetic, but I love that Addams used the word “illuminated” and wow, indeed, “all things are possible.”

Mary Hill and Gerard Swope were two extraordinary young people who found their way to Hull-House and who would be forever shaped by the experience. Mary was the thirty-year-old the daughter of a former Harvard president and an 1896 graduate of Bryn Mawr College. She moved to Chicago to study at the University of Chicago under renown educator John Dewey. In 1898, she became a resident at Hull-House, where she taught textile classes and basket weaving, directed the Hull-House Shakespeare Club, and for a time managed the Hull-House Labor Museum. The twenty-eight-year-old Gerard Swope, a native of St. Louis, arrived in Chicago with a degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He worked at the Western Electric Company in Chicago, and he taught English, electronics, and algebra classes at Hull-House and lived at the settlement for a short time in 1897. Mary and Gerard met at the settlement and fell in love.

Gerard Swope George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

Gerard moved to St. Louis in 1899 to become a branch manager there for Western Electric, and Mary remained at Hull-House. The couple maintained a long-distance relationship until their wedding, after which Mary joined her new husband in St. Louis, where she did social welfare work and the couple started their family. Their first child Henrietta was born in St. Louis on October 26, 1902. Three sons—Isaac, David, and Gerard Jr.—followed,  and a fourth son John was born in New Jersey where Gerard Sr. moved the family as his career path led him to the East Coast. In 1919, Gerard became president of General Electric’s new subsidiary International G.E., and the family moved to Manhattan. Gerard was involved with various reform organizations and he worked for quality working conditions which set him apart in the 1920s from many of his contemporary leaders of large corporations. Mary became a member of the board of directors of the Henry Street Settlement, operated by Lillian Wald, the good friend of Jane Addams, and she volunteered at Greenwich House and served as vice-chair of the New York branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Over the years, Mary and Gerard Swope kept in touch with Jane Addams, visited Hull-House, and made donations to the settlement. Gerard became a millionaire and in 1922 became the president of General Electric. The Swopes sent their bright daughter Henrietta off to Barnard College, where she earned her degree in mathematics; and then they sent her off to Chicago. Or perhaps Henrietta herself felt the pull of social work and felt the family connection to Hull-House. Although little is known about Henrietta’s time in that city, she lived at the settlement and worked in a program for the elderly while studying in the School of Social Service Administration (formerly the School of Civics and Philanthropy) at the University of Chicago with two significant members of Jane Addams’s orbit, Sophonisba Breckinridge and Edith Abbott.

But Henrietta Swope was still dreaming of the stars.

So she left Chicago to take a job at Harvard to work for the astronomy professor Dr. Harlow Shapley at the Harvard Observatory. While she looked for variable stars and became Shapley’s first assistant, she earned a Master’s degree in astronomy from Radcliffe College in 1928. The following year, she became famous when she identified 385 new stars, which helped scientists identify the “hub” of the Milky Way. At the time, Swope was touted as “one of the youngest women ever to have made a comparable mark in scientific research.” During her long, successful career as an astronomer, she studied Cepheid variable stars in dwarf galaxies and M 31, the Andromeda Galaxy. However, her most significant contribution was developing a new method for measuring the universe, using the brightness of stars, which became known as the “celestial yardstick.” I don’t understand any of this, but it sounds amazing. Henrietta Swope was an accomplished and well-respected scientist.

In 1936, Henrietta Swope was a member of the joint-expedition of the Harvard Observatory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study the solar eclipse in Soviet Central Asia. During World War II, she worked in the M.I.T. Radiation Laboratory and then served as a mathematician in the Hydrographic Office of the United States Department of the Navy. Swope returned to Barnard College in 1947 to teach astronomy until 1952, when she moved to California to work at the Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories. After her retirement in 1968, she continued to work at the observatories. Swope was a member of the American Astronomical Society; she won the American Astronomical Society Annie Jump Cannon Prize in 1968 for her research on photometry and variable stars; and she received an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Henrietta Swope dreamed of the stars, she reached the stars, and then she made certain many generations to come could see the stars. In 1969, when she was in active retirement, Swope donated $650,000 worth of securities to the Carnegie Institution of Washington for the development of the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and the installation of a 40-inch telescope in the mountains. The Swope Telescope began operation in 1971. Henrietta Swope died in 1980, but the observatory she helped established is still helping people look at the stars.

Now, how’s that for a life story from the otherworldly orbit of Jane Addams?

By Stacy Lynn,
Associate Editor

Sources: “Swope, Gerard,” American National Biography; Mary Hill Swope Papers, Finding Aid, Special Collections, University of Illinois Chicago; Papers of Henrietta Hill Swope, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University; Oral History of Henrietta Swope, August 1977, Transcript, Niels Bohr Library and Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD; Carnegie Institution of Washington, Year Book 67, 1967-1868, 73-74; “Hull House Teacher is Wed,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 21, 1901, p. 3; “Romantic Wedding,” The Daily Herald (Port Huron, MI), Aug. 21, 1901, p. 5; “Wealthy Girl Aids in Finding Universe’s Hub,” The Capital Times (Madison, WI), June 11, 1929, p. 6 (image 1); “Girl Aids in Discovering Hub of Universe,” The Rock Island (IL) Argus, June 13, 1929, p. 12; “Henrietta Swope Wins Distinction,” The North Addams (MA) Transcript, June 24, 1929, p. 8; “Girl in Her Twenties Gets Credit in Major Scientific Discovery,” The Dispatch (Moline, IL), July 26, 1929, p. 31; “Girl Eclipses Stay-at-Homes,” Journal Gazette (Mattoon, IL), July 6, 1936, p. 6 (image 2); “Henrietta H. Swope, Is Dead; Helped to Measure Variable Stars,” The New York Times, Nov. 28, 1980, p. 28; “Studies Gauged Depths of Space,” The Los Angeles Times, Dec. 1, 1980, p. 23; Hull-House Bulletin, 3 (Oct. 1898), 7, Jane Addams Papers Microfilm Edition (JAPM), 53:1051; Hull-House Bulletin, 3 (Nov. 1898), 4, JAPM, 53:1058; Hull-House Bulletin, 4 (Autumn 1900), 3, 4, JAPM, 53:1106-1107; Selected Papers of Jane Addams, 3:618n5; Jane Addams to Florence Kelley, August 1, 1901; Address at the wedding of Gerard Swope and Mary Dayton Hill, August 21, 1901; Jane Addams to Esther Linn Hulbert, July 16, 1901; Gerard Swope to Jane Addams, January 7, 1905; Mary Hill Swope to Jane Addams, December, 1910; Gerard Swope to Jane Addams and Mary Rozet Smith, January 19, 1923, all in  Jane Addams Digital Edition.