The Otherworldly Orbit of Jane Addams

I grew up in Illinois where the life and legacy of Jane Addams is widely known and appreciated. Illinois School children learn about Addams and Hull-House, and she is a perennial favorite topic of their book reports, term papers, and history fair essays and display boards. As a historian of Illinois history in the early years of my work, I came to know and appreciate Jane Addams at a deeper level, too, understanding better her contributions to social reform, her lobbying for protective legislation for workers, her modern arguments for woman suffrage, her importance as a philosopher, and her unwavering advocacy of world peace, even when it threatened to harm all she had built at Hull-House.

Yet the more I study the ways in which Jane Addams supported, nurtured, and inspired the women around her, and the ways in which she drew on the spirits, intellects, and achievements of those women, the more convinced I am that Jane Addams created and existed in an otherworldly orbit. An orbit where innovation and creativity and fearless determination flourished. An orbit which attracted women of myriad backgrounds and life work—educators, business women, artists, social scientists, doctors, writers, and lawyers, as well as social workers and reformers. An orbit which drew in some of the most talented and inspirational women of the era. An orbit that energized and empowered young women to find their talent and become inspirational leaders in their chosen fields and disciplines.

It was this otherworldly orbit of women that was Jane Addams’s super power.

Hull-House Dining Hall; Jane Addams head of table at the far left, surveying her orbit.

Hull-House was a social settlement offering important educational and cultural programming for immigrants and working-class people. It was a place dedicated to social, economic, and political change to benefit all people in a society reeling from the excesses and inequalities of American industry and politics. Hull-House was also a remarkable planet of women, full of purpose and promise. And Jane Addams was the gravity that held these women together, bolstering their courage and making them so much greater than the sum of the individuals who at some point in their lives called the settlement on Halsted Street their home. Jane Addams dedicated her life to making the 19th Ward, Chicago, her state of Illinois, the United States, and the world better places to live. That work and dedication set her apart. But I believe, this orbit of women that Jane Addams created at Hull-House was what made her truly extraordinary.

One of my greatest privileges of editing the papers of Jane Addams is daily introduction to the fascinating women in Jane Addams’s orbit. Although it is only a qualitative observation, I assert that few (if any) other institutions in American history so beautifully nourished more women to do so much good in the world than did Hull-House. I suspect this inspirational characteristic of Hull-House was in part due to Addams’s feminine, motherly or sisterly guidance of her juniors and her peers, as well as the more generous hearts of women in collaborate work. But I would also argue it was the brilliance of Jane Addams to understand that women of all backgrounds had something to offer to the narrative of reform and possessed voices worthy of projection. It was the brilliance of Jane Addams to create an atmosphere of open-minded curiosity and respectful discourse for women. It was the brilliance of Jane Addams to fill up that atmosphere with as many bright and shining female voices she could find and who could find their own way to her and to Hull-House, as well.

It would be hard to overstate the significance of the long list of extraordinary women connected with Hull-House and Jane Addams. Many of those women, like Florence Kelley, Julia Lathrop, and Dr. Alice Hamilton were well-known in their lifetimes and remembered by history today. One scholar likened some of those women to “stars” in a constellation around Jane Addams. I prefer to think of those female “stars” as existing in an otherworldly orbit with Jane Addams and with a breathtaking list of incredible women that history has largely forgotten. As a tribute to my joy in discovering the women in Jane Addams’s orbit and to amplify, like she did, the voices of the lessor known, I am going to offer a series of blog posts about some of the women you may not know who found their way to Hull-House and became a part of the wide influence of the settlement in the world far beyond Halsted Street.

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On Oct. 21, 1902, Jane Addams penned this letter:

My dear Miss Monroe
     The twenty [minutes] will be perfectly convenient for us and affairs have so adjusted themselves that the little room now vacant may be yours so long as you care to keep it. The word little however is used advisedly—perhaps it would be better for you to see it before you decide on your belongings.
                                                   Faithfully yours
                                                                                       Jane Addams

The letter was to Harriet Monroe, a 41-year-old poet from Chicago. Monroe, who became a Hull-House resident for a brief time, delivered a public lecture about Milton on Dec. 3, 1902, at the settlement. She became a Hull-House teacher, offering an advanced class on English poetry and establishing a reading club at the settlement. Monroe was born and raised in Chicago, where her father was a successful lawyer before the Chicago Fire, after which his financial situation deteriorated. From a young age, Monroe developed a love of literature by exploring her father’s library. Although her family was not Catholic, she was educated at the Georgetown Visitation Convent in Washington, DC.  In the 1880s, she lived in New York City, from where she wrote articles on the arts for the Chicago Tribune, before returning to her hometown in 1889.

In 1902, when she arrived at Hull-House, Monroe was not a well-known poet, not a household name, nor a novelist, as she had reported her occupation to the census taker in 1900. She struggled to make a literary name for herself,  although she had published a few poems and penned a special verse, “The Columbian Ode” to open the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Poor health and failure to attain critical acclaim for her literary work frustrated her, but she kept writing and developed a widening circle of literary friends, which would come to include Robert Louis Stevenson, Eugene Field, Richard Watson Gilder, and Vachel Lindsay. In the years after her time at Hull-House, Monroe supported herself as a journalist, writing more than 200 articles for the Chicago Tribune, mostly on the arts, and she published sporadic freelance pieces in popular publications like Atlantic Monthly and Century Magazine. It was a meager existence, but Monroe remained committed to writing, bemoaned modern American society’s general disinterest in poetry, and began to articulate the need for poetry in American cultural life.

As was typical with most Hull-House residents who came and went, Monroe maintained her connection to the settlement and to Jane Addams years after her departure. She was a frequent guest at the settlement, made donations and offered gifts, and in 1905 wrote “The Troll’s Holiday,” an operetta set to music by Hull-House music teacher Eleanor Smith and performed at the Hull-House Music School. Over the years, the letters between Addams and Monroe reflect a respectful, friendly relationship infused with admiration and staunch support for one another’s work. In 1908, Addams wrote Monroe about her poetry: “It seems to me very remarkable, to be able to express the subtler side of the background of life as you…” In 1910, Monroe praised Addams’s latest book, The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets: “It seems to me profoundly thought out and beautifully done; thought and done with fine intelligence and exquisite sympathy. Surely it will have a far-reaching affect.”

Women supporting women was the foundational characteristic of the orbit Jane Addams cultivated, and that super power of hers became the super power of other women, too. To be in Jane Addams’s orbit was to remain there, to want to stay close to the spirit of the woman, to feel the pull of the supportive energy of Hull-House, no matter the time or the distance. To have experienced Jane Addams’s orbit was to wish to create your own orbit of inclusion and support and purpose beyond the self.

I suspect Harriet Monroe either learned at Hull-House the lesson of going beyond yourself and connecting your talents to others, or while there she practiced the lesson which was already in her own heart. Because ultimately, Harriet Monroe’s greatest contribution was not her own poetry but rather her fierce support of the art form and the poetry of others. At the age of 52, Monroe conceived of the idea to create an American journal of poetry, to seek out great poets and good work, and promote that work in the pages of a popular magazine. In October 1912, Monroe published the first issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. When she launched the magazine, Monroe sent Jane Addams a complimentary subscription. Addams would not have it, however, writing in reply: “I am not in the least willing to have my name stand on an honorary list. Please let me send the enclosed and assure you that I have seldom subscribed to a magazine with more pleasure.”

Poetry was an immediate critical and popular success. For the remainder of her life, Monroe edited the magazine, raising American interest in poetry and launching the careers of many of America’s greatest poets, like Robert Frost and T. S. Eliot. Eighty-four years after Monroe’s death in 1936, Poetry magazine is still in publication, still a venue for new poets, still a vehicle for a great American art form. Hull-House and Jane Addams may or may not have directly inspired Monroe’s direction in life. I dare not give either the credit for Monroe’s brilliant vision and stunning contribution to modern American poetry. But in reading more and more stories of the lives of people who were in the orbit of the woman and the settlement, even for very short periods of time, one cannot dismiss the excellence of that orbit, either in what it may have inspired or the inspirational figures it drew into its remarkable sphere of influence.

Stacy Pratt McDermott, Associate Editor

Sources: Eleanor J. Stebner, The Women of Hull House: A Study in Spirituality, Vocation, and Friendship (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997); Rima Lunin Schultz and Adele Hast, eds., Women Building Chicago, 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 598-600; “Monroe, Harriet,” American National Biography; 1900 U.S. Federal Census; Hull-House Bulletin, 5 (Semi-Annual, 1902, no. 2), 3-10, passim, Jane Addams Papers, Microfilm Edition (JAPM), 53:1156-63, passim; Hull-House Bulletin, 7 (1905-1906), 18, JAPM, 53:1231; Jane Addams to Harriet Monroe, October 21, 1902; Jane Addams to Harriet Monroe, May 13, 1905; Jane Addams to Harriet Monroe, June 27, 1905; Jane Addams to Harriet Monroe, May 23, 1908; Harriet Monroe to Jane Addams, January 31, 1910; Jane Addams to Harriet Monroe, December 2. 1912; all in Jane Addams Digital Edition. Images courtesy of Poetry Magazine, the Poetry Foundation, and Richard J. Daley Library Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Chicago. Click this link to explore the correspondence between Jane Addams and Harriet Monroe.

Jane Addams’ Pragmatist Theories of Democracy and Education

This is a guest post, written by Parysa Mostajir, a Teaching Fellow in Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago. She is currently researching the role of experience in diverse human practices like science, art, and democracy, and setting up an academic blog, Woman is a Rational Animal, dedicated to diversifying syllabi in the history of ideas.

 

Jane Addams is deservedly well-known for her tireless activism, having spent her life engaged in efforts to improve her society: She served on the boards of national and international organizations like the International Association for Labor Legislation, she campaigned for the rights of women, children, and workers, and she offered educational, recreational, and organizational resources to the immigrant communities surrounding Hull House. Although she spent most of her time in the world of action rather than the world of ideas, fewer people (including philosophers) give Jane Addams due credit for her role in developing a philosophical movement called ‘pragmatism.’

John Dewey (Wikimedia Commons)

Jane Addams was admired by some of the most celebrated pragmatist philosophers of her time, including John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, and William James. The correspondence of these professors at the University of Chicago and Harvard University, show that they recognized Addams as an imposing intellect from whom they had much to learn. In a 1908 letter on the Jane Addams Paper Project Digital Edition, George Herbert Mead describes “how deep an impression” Addams’ speech on ‘War and Progress’ made on him and others in the audience. In a 1902 letter, William James describes Addams’ Democracy and Social Ethics as “one of the great books of our time” and claims he “learned a lot” from it. Dewey’s correspondence reveals years of extensive visits and engagements with Hull House, during which he exchanged ideas with Jane Addams, the latter of whom he described as “the most magnificent exhibition of intellectual & moral faith I ever saw” [1894.10.10 (00206): John Dewey to Alice Chipman Dewey]. He even attributed to Addams the first definite statement of the pragmatist thesis “that democracy means certain types of experience,—an interest in experience in its various forms and types” [Volume 1: Political Philosophy, Logic, Ethics p. 2379].

Jane Addams with Hull House children (ca. 1930)

So what is pragmatism, and how does Jane Addams’ work fit in? Pragmatism is a tradition of philosophy that began in the United States in the late 19th century and was characterized by several core beliefs to do with action and experience. Addams’ major contributions to the tradition of pragmatism were her theories of democracy and education, which contained substantial developments on these core principles of pragmatist philosophy. Pragmatists believed that knowledge and theories should be based on our practical experiences, and be constructed in such a way as to take our practical experiences into account. Most striking about Addams’ writings in philosophy is the extent to which she adhered to the pragmatist conviction that knowledge and theories should be consistent with practice. While other pragmatists were involved in practical applications of their theories, such as John Dewey’s founding of the Laboratory School in Chicago, none of them were quite so embedded in everyday society as Jane Addams was at Hull House. Addams’ theories were derived from her practical activities at Hull House, instead of becoming lost in philosophical speculation. It was appropriate and inevitable, she wrote, that her experiences at Hull House would affect her convictions (Twenty Years, p. 308).

Pragmatists believed not only that theories should be derived from practical experiences, but that they should be applied to practical experiences in attempts to improve, enrich, and make sense of our lives. Unlike many contemporary philosophers who engaged in highly abstract theories having no relationship to the everyday world, pragmatists believed that theories gained their value by serving as instruments for empowering us to successfully take action in the world—this is the practical aspect of ‘pragmatism,’ from which the tradition derives its name. As a pragmatist, Jane Addams therefore rejected the idea, popular among sociologists of her time, that settlements like Hull House were ‘laboratories’ from which to derive pure theory (Deegan 1988, pp. 34-5; Twenty Years, p. 308). She wrote that her energies were directed “not towards sociological investigation, but to constructive work” (Hull House Maps and Papers, pp. vii-viii). Her pragmatist goal was to use the knowledge she gained from her experiences at Hull House in the application of practical changes and improvements to society and the lives of the people she served, not to derive knowledge for its own sake or out of pure curiosity.

These core pragmatist convictions concerning knowledge, practice, and experience are evident in Addams’ theories of democracy and education. To begin with her theory of democracy, Addams did not believe that democracy was a matter of ticking a ballot box once every few years. In her celebrated book on Democracy and Social Ethics, she argued that democracy was not just “a sentiment” or “a creed,” but “a rule of living,” which needed to be integrated practically with people’s everyday lives (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 6). Many failures of contemporary democracy, she claimed, could be linked to the isolation of different sectors of society from each other, preventing familiarity with each other’s experiences. In order to resolve them and make our democracy more robust, we needed to ensure the connectedness of diverse types of people who shared the same society. For that reason, democracy could not be compartmentalized as a handful of remote political institutions, with the citizens’ democratic participation reduced to a single act of casting a vote. Democracy had to be an active practice for all citizens, embedded in their lived experience as a way of life. This would only be achieved by “mixing” the diverse members of society together and giving them “a wider acquaintance with and participation in the life about them” (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 5). Addams argued that it was through exposure to the different ways of life, struggles, and needs of the many people with whom we share our society that we can develop attitudes of sympathy, respect, and a democratic sense of moral obligation towards each other. For example, she mentioned the importance of newspaper and literature in giving people the chance “to know all kinds of life” (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 8). This kind of “diversified human experience and resultant sympathy” were, for Addams, “the foundation and guarantee of Democracy” (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 7).

Jane Addams described her views of the Pullman Strike in her 1912 article, A Modern Lear.”

As a true pragmatist, concerned with the connection between theory and action, Addams based her theory of democracy on what she encountered in her practical experiences, and applied her theory of democracy to suggest resolutions to the problems she encountered. For example, Addams was involved in mediating the 1894 Pullman Strike in Chicago, in which the workers of a large factory went on strike to demand better wages. What Jane Addams saw in this conflict was a failure of the democratic practice of connecting with the experiences of others. Pullman, the owner of the factory, had built a town for the use of his factory employees, with parks and recreational facilities, believing that he was acting generously. The factory workers, on the other hand, resented the extension of Pullman’s control into the private lives. When the workers went on strike, Pullman was confused by their anger, and he felt that the factory workers were being ungrateful for the resources he had given them. In her philosophical work, Democracy and Social Ethics, Addams wrote that the “good deeds” Pullman thought he was conducting were in fact incomplete, because they were not conducted democratically. By not “calling upon the workmen either for self-expression or self-government,” he ended up lacking any familiarity with the experiences and desires of the workers (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 143-4), and had operated undemocratically in making his decisions. “To attempt to attain a social morality,” Addams wrote, “without a basis of democratic experience results in the loss of the only possible corrective and guide” for actions—the daily experiences of other human beings (Democracy and Social Ethics, p. 176).

Addams’ theory of education was also deeply pragmatist in its commitment to connecting educational experiences to the practices and experiences of the individuals being educated. At that time, it was common for people to assume that manual laborers had no need of general education. When education was sometimes offered as part of universities’ charitable efforts—for example, University Extension Programs which sent professors to give general courses to the working class on topics like evolution, astronomy, psychology (Twenty Years, Chapter XVIII), or philanthropists who supported children in receiving clerical education—the idea was that such education either gave laborers a temporary mental escape from the mundanity of their work, or gave them the opportunity to leave their lives as factory workers and enter into more respected professions. Such educators did not consider education as having any possible genuine connection to the ordinary lives of factory workers.

Hull House class on immigration, held at the Coffee House, 1920s (Wallace Kirkland, Jane Addams Memorial Collection, University of Illinois at Chicago)

Addams, unsurprisingly, rejected these assumptions. Her pragmatist theory of education was based on extensive practical experience providing educational resources to the working-class neighborhood surrounding Hull House. In Democracy and Social Ethics, she insisted that factory workers could, and should, be provided with education on topics like history and economics which directly connected to their everyday practical experiences. Because of the division of labor, industrial workers spent most of their waking life operating machinery and manufacturing products to which they had no connection. They had no opportunities to understand the history of the invention and development of the machines they operated; they did not know the uses to which the products were put; and they did not understand the sales and distribution aspects of the businesses they worked for. Addams argued that this contributed to the poor quality of life of industrial laborers, and that education in how they fit into the workings of society would help to improve and enrich their daily experiences of manual labor. If educators, the state, and business owners were to take the value of their employees seriously, they needed to provide them with opportunities to connect their own experiences with the wider social, economic, and historical processes of which their manual labor was an important part. Such education would allow workers to make sense of the significance, purpose, and utility of their work, and would positively alter their sense of self, and their estimation of their own worth. In this way, education could be used not as an escape (either as temporary mental relief from monotony, or as an opportunity to move into a different line of work), but as a way of connecting to the ordinary lives of factory workers in such a way as to improve, enrich, and make sense of their everyday practical experience.

Jane Addams, ca. 1910

Amidst her extensive social, political, and community work, Addams found time to write several books threaded with innovative philosophical ideas and play a key role in establishing the new, pragmatist philosophical tradition in the United States—a tradition which was characterized by its beliefs in the importance of connecting knowledge with action, enriching individual experience, and solving social problems. Because Addams had so much experience taking action in the world, her philosophical writings are, more than any other pragmatist, threaded with connections to social, political, and economic problems, and filled with practical suggestions for how to ameliorate those problems. She remains one of the greatest examples of how our philosophical ideas can impact the practical approach we take to politics, economics, and culture, and how politics, economics, and culture can influence the development of ideas. In a time like ours, when universities are highly specialized and losing touch with the needs of wider society, we can look to Addams as a model public philosopher, who put her theories into action and let her real-life experiences guide her theories.

References:

Addams, Jane. Democracy and Social Ethics. New York, London: The Macmillan Company, 1907.

Addams, Jane. Twenty Years At Hull-house: With Autobiographical Notes. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1911.

Deegan, Mary Jo. Jane Addams and the Men of the Chicago School, 1892-1918. New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1988.

Dewey, John. Lectures, Volume 1: Political Philosophy, Logic, Ethics. Ed. Koch, Donald F., and The Center for Dewey Studies, 2016.

Each for Equal: International Women’s Day 2020

Each for Equal

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EachforEqual; an equal world is an enabled world. There are many women we could discuss today: Jane Addams, of course, for her work in the immigrant communities of Chicago, among many other areas she championed in the name of equality. Carrie Chapman Catt, who heavily campaigned for women’s suffrage rights. Lillian D. Wald, who taught women valuable skills out of the Henry Street Settlement. And Emily Greene Balch, a staunch supporter of peace as a central leader in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. But there is, I believe, a group of women whom we often forget to include when discussing Addams, especially her work for peace — the women who aided Addams outside the United States.

It is easy to forget that many of Addams’s contemporaries were

Vereeniging voor Vrouwenkiesrecht (Society for Women’s Suffrage) Officers, 1914. Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs, third from left.

located outside the United States. Dr. Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs, a Dutch physician and suffrage activist, had multiple achievements to her name, including her life-long struggle for women’s equality. Jacobs was the first woman to attend a Dutch university, inspired by her father, physician Abraham Jacobs. Jacobs became a pharmacy assistant, continuing on to University of Groningen. In 1879, Jacobs set up a practice in Amsterdam, offering free appointments to poor residents, struggling to maintain large families. In a controversial move, in 1882 Jacobs offered birth control advice at her clinic, the first clinic ever to do so in the world. She paved the way for Dutch women to seek an education outside finishing school, and control the size of their families, lowering the infant mortality rate and improving women’s health in the process.

Chrystal Macmillan was a British pioneer, one of the first woman to graduate from the University Edinburgh in 1896 then finishing her studies in Berlin and Edinburgh. MacMillan fought for women’s rights at Edinburgh University. When World War I began, Macmillan threw her energies into providing food for Belgian refugees. Her staunch pacifist views made her a leader in

the English movement against war, and brought her into the international drive to end war. Macmillan was one of only three British women who attended the 1915 International Congress of Women and throughout the war worked for peace and a negotiated settlement. In March of 1919, Macmillan attempted to lessen the surrender terms to be implemented for Germany in the Treaty of Versailles, but no changes were made. Chrystal Macmillan dedicated her life to the equality and fair treatment of women and oppressed peoples, regardless of their country of origin.

International Congress of Women, 1915. Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science

Rosika Schwimmer, a Jewish-Hungarian activist, was a powerhouse in the peace movement; her unswerving belief in peace and women’s equality were seen by some as abrasive and they found her difficult to work with. Before becoming a peace activist, Schwimmer worked as a governess, and bookkeeper, a correspondence clerk, and finally became president of the Nőtisztviselők Országos Egyesülete (National Association of Women Office Workers), in 1901. After an international mentorship with American suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, Schwimmer returned to Hungary, founding the Hungarian Feministák Egyesülete (Feminist Association). Their goals included equality for women in education, employment, and healthcare. Schwimmer was a driving force in the efforts to stop World War I. She convinced Henry Ford to mount a peace mission in 1915, and attended meetings to the Women’s Peace Party and the International Congress of Women in 1915. Schwimmer fought against anti-Semitism and sexism during the early twentieth century to secure better living conditions for Hungarian women and beyond.

With so much history right here in the United States, it’s easy to push international affairs out of our minds, preferring to learn about our own country’s struggles. But, as Jane Addams and her contemporaries have shown, the fight for equality for women encompasses is an international fight and women need to keep working until equality has been secured for all. As Addams wrote: “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.” This International Women’s Day, we remember the women working abroad for the equality of women worldwide.

Further Reading:

International Women’s Day 2020 #EachforEqual

Women in Medicine: An Encyclopedia, Laura Lynn Windsor

Women at the Hague: The International Congress of Women and its Results; Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch, Alice Hamilton

Rosika Schwimmer, SNAC

 

Fame, Love, and Murder: The Story of Actress Mary Miles Minter

by Sara Catherine Lichon.

Mary Miles Minter, silent film star and suspect in her lover’s 1922 murder.

Sometimes the stories and scandals of celebrities come up when researching for the JAPP. Oftentimes, the famous are only mentioned briefly in one of Addams’ letters, and their scandals become known when we research their lives to write their biographies. Continue reading “Fame, Love, and Murder: The Story of Actress Mary Miles Minter”

Jane Addams, Ida B. Wells, and Racial Injustice in America

Jane Addams made the acquaintance of renown African-American journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells in the summer of 1899. The circumstance of these two extraordinary women in Chicago engaged in different but overlapping endeavors to make the world a better place is one of those remarkable and inspirational historical coincidences that reinforces my fascination with the past. Continue reading “Jane Addams, Ida B. Wells, and Racial Injustice in America”

The Tragic Case of Baby Bollinger

Photo of Anna Bollinger and Henry Haiselden, Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1917.

A little over 100 years ago, the case of an infant allowed to die in a Chicago hospital captured the nation’s attention. Born on November 12, 1915, “Baby Bollinger” died five days later on November 17, after physician Harry Haiselden refused to operate to save his life. Haiselden made his decision because the child was born with deformities and he believed the the boy was was mentally and morally defective. He convinced the child’s mother, who said “the doctor told me it would be, perhaps, an imbecile, a criminal. Left to itself it has no chance to live. I consented to let nature take its course.” (Boston Globe, Nov. 17, 1915, p. 1.)  Haiselden’s controversial decision led to a heated debate in newspapers across the country. Continue reading “The Tragic Case of Baby Bollinger”

Facing Death Twice: Lawyer Francis J. Heney

This is the last in Sara Catherine Lichon’s series of blog posts about interesting characters that she came across while working as a co-operative education student for the Project this semester. Her work involves identifying and describing the over 5,000 unique individuals mentioned in Addams’ correspondence.

Francis J. Heney, a lawyer and politician whose life was threatened twice during his career.

Life in law can often be exciting, especially when cases take a dramatic turn. For Francis Joseph Heney, a lawyer and politician from California, drama and excitement was part of the job — and sometimes his job even became a matter of life and death. Heney was known for many cases throughout his career, but he was most famous for killing an opposing plaintiff and for being shot in the head by a juror.

As a member of the National Committee of the Progressive Party, Heney’s name appeared numerous times in letters to and from Jane Addams that discussed the National Committee. Heney was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1912 and ran for U.S. Senator from California as a Progressive in 1914. Outside of politics, he was a lawyer in both Arizona and California, and owned a cattle business in Arizona with his brother. From 1893 to 1895 he was Attorney General of the Arizona Territory, and he also served as the U.S. District Attorney for the District of Oregon. Heney was a well-known lawyer, having worked as a prosecutor on famous cases such as the Oregon Land Fraud scandal, where U.S. government land grants were being obtained illegally by public officials, and the San Francisco gaft trials, where members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors were prosecuted for corruption.

Dr. John C. Handy and Mary Ann Page Handy

In 1889, Heney defended Mary Ann Page Handy, the abused wife of Dr. John Christopher Handy, in a divorce case. Handy was known for being violent and aggressive, having abused his wife throughout their marriage, threatening to kill her when she wanted to file for divorce, and causing her to become addicted to morphine. In July 1889, Handy filed for divorce himself and sent their children to live with his mother. Handy threatened to kill anyone who dared to defend Mary, scaring away most attorneys. Originally, C. W. Wright was to defend Mary, and he asked Heney to assist him. After Heney agreed, Wright withdrew from the case, and Heney decided to do the same. After some reconsideration, though, Heney decided to defend Mary, despite the anger of Handy.

Throughout the case, Handy threatened Heney numerous times, even trying to run him over with his buggy. Ultimately, Handy won the case and received custody of the children, which Heney was quick to appeal, and a new case soon started – and the threats continued. On September 24, 1891, Handy attacked Heney outside his office, grabbing his neck and pinning him to a wall. It’s here where there are different accounts of what happened next; some newspapers say Heney broke free, ran, and drew a revolver, which Handy tried to grab. During the struggle, Heney shot Handy in the abdomen. Other papers say Heney shot Handy while running from him. After the encounter, Handy was taken to Dr. George Goodfellow for an operation but died during the procedure. Heney surrendered to the police but was bailed out by three of his friends. In a hearing two days later, the court ruled Heney acted in self-defense and he wasn’t charged.

The San Francisco Call, Nov. 15, 1908

This was not the end of Heney’s exciting cases. During the San Francisco graft prosecution, Heney pointed out that one juror, Morris Haas, was ineligible to be a juror because he was an ex-convict. Heney also believed that Haas was planted by political boss Abe Ruef, who was being prosecuted by Heney at that time. Angered and resentful, Haas came into the courtroom a few weeks later while the trial was in recess and shot Heney in the head. Haas was then arrested, but found dead in his cell shortly after, leading some to believe he had been killed by one of Ruef’s gangsters. Others thought he committed suicide. Heney was expected to die, but he survived the attack. The newspapers of the time reveal how loved Heney was by the public; The San Francisco Call had an entire page dedicated to the story, describing how three thousand people gathered at Oakland’s town hall in support of Heney and how President Theodore Roosevelt sent Heney’s wife a telegram of sympathy.

Heney continued to be involved in law and politics after these incidents, and lived a fulfilling life. In 1906, he married Rebecca Wentworth McMullin. She died in 1911. Heney married to Edna I. Van Winckle in 1915, who managed his U.S. Senate campaign. Heney  died in 1937.

Heney’s work with the Progressive Party and in law have gone down in history, especially the stories of his near-death encounters. And he is yet another fascinating person who has appeared in Jane Addams’ papers!

 

Sources:

Dexter Marshall. “Thrilling Chapters in Lives of Public Men.” The Washington Herald. April 19, 1908, p. 36.

“Hand to Hand.” Tombstone Epitaph. September 27, 1891.

C. Martin. “Territorial Divorce – as Turbulent as the Times.” Arizona Daily Star. November 12, 1972, p. 57.

Oliver Tatom, “Francis J. Heney (1859-1937),” The Oregon Encyclopedia.

“Roosevelt Wires Tribute to Heney: Messages of Sorrow from Friends Abroad: Leading Citizens of Country Praise Prosecutor.” The San Francisco Call. November 15, 1908, p. 23.

“When Francis J. Heney Shot His Man, Too.” The Des Moines Register. December 6, 1908, p. 10.

“Francis J. Heney,” Wikipedia.

Poet and Con-Artist: The Story of Scharmel Iris

Scharmel Iris (Lyrics of a Lad (1914)

Sara Catherine Lichon is writing a series of blog posts about interesting characters that she comes across while working as a co-operative education student for the Project this semester. Her work involves identifying and describing the over 5,000 unique individuals mentioned in Addams’ correspondence.

As a student, I’ve heard many a time that academic honesty is of the utmost importance, and that plagiarism can end one’s academic career. But back in the early 1900s, plagiarism was responsible for the rise of poet Scharmel Iris’s career, who made a living by fooling others.

Iris was born in 1889 with the name Frederico Scaramella in Castelcivita, Italy. When he was three years old, his mother married a man who helped them immigrate to the United States where they settled in Chicago. Iris changed his name and in 1905, when he was sixteen years old, his first poem was published in a Chicago Catholic newspaper. Soon his career skyrocketed as he was published in Harriet Monroe’s Poetry magazine, received positive reviews from Chicago newspapers, and published his own collections of poems. He received most of his funding and notoriety with the help of other famous poets and artists, such as T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Salvatore Dali, and Picasso, who wrote praise-filled letters to Iris’s patrons.

There was one major problem with Iris’s success, though…it was based entirely on lies. Rather than being a great poet, Iris was simply a con-artist. Letters and praise from Eliot, Yeats, and Picasso were forged by Iris himself, and Iris even wrote about himself to publishers and patrons under the pseudonym Vincent Holme. Forgery and plagiarism, rather than talent, provided the base for Iris’s career and fame.

Jane Addams’ letter to Harriet Monroe, Jan. 20, 1913. Addams stated that Iris had “no right” to claim she advised him to reach out to different poets.

Jane Addams herself was a victim of Iris’s scams. Iris spent part of his life as a Hull-House resident, and when he published Lyrics of a Lad in 1914, he supposedly received praise from art critic John Ruskin and poets Algernon Charles Swinburne and Edmund Gosse. In January 1913, Addams wrote a letter to Harriet Monroe describing how Iris claimed she had told him to reach out to Gosse and even Yeats. Addams stated, “Poor Scharmel Iris really has no right to say that I advised him to write to Miss Guiney, or to Edmund Gosse, or to Mr. Yeats.” Words had been put in Addams’ mouth by Iris, and she was only one of many.

Iris’s scams even extended to his living situation. He lived at Lewis College, a Catholic school near Joliet, despite not working or teaching there. He stayed there until he was asked to leave in 1966, and he spent the remainder of his life at St. Patrick Retirement Hotel. He died in 1967.

A poem by Scharmel Iris, published in Poetry in December 1914.

Regardless of Iris’s talent as a poet, it’s hard to deny that he had a talent for fooling others. Iris’s entire life and career was built on plagiarism, yet he lived the life he had always dreamed of — that of a successful, well-known poet . . . even if it was actually a lie.

 

 


Sources:
Announcement of Lyrics of a Lad by Scharmel Iris, 1914.
Inventory of the Scharmel Iris Papers, 1911-1964, The Newberry Library.
Jane Addams to Harriet Monroe, January 20, 1913.
Nina C. Ayoub, “Forging Fame: The Strange Career of Scharmel Iris,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 17, 2007.