Guest Post: Jane Addams and the Great War

By Neil Lanctot

The onset of a brutal global war in the summer of 1914 shocked Jane Addams and other American pacifists who were certain their cause was gaining widespread acceptance.  “Nobody who was not a mature person…can realize now how remote, how unbelievable, a European war then seemed,” her friend Alice Hamilton later wrote. “Believing as we did then in the slow but sure progress of the human race, we looked forward to nothing worse than sporadic outbursts in such unknown regions as the Balkans or South America, never in the highly civilized countries of the Europe which we knew so well.”

For Addams, a war of this scope (“an insane outburst,” she called it) meant “a changed world,” a world where the rising tide of militarism would undermine the cherished progressive social reforms she had tirelessly advocated over the prior two decades.   “It will be years before these things are taken up again,” she told a reporter, “The whole social fabric is tortured and twisted.”

Almost immediately, Addams concluded that the war was likely to be a watershed event in human history and America would have an enormous role to play.   But military involvement, she believed, was not the answer.  America’s job, as she saw it, was to find a way to bring the belligerent nations to the peace table, alone or with the assistance of other neutral powers.  “The United States,” she observed, “with all neutral nations, should throw every bit of its power into the scale for peace.”

Her activities to achieve this goal in the months ahead were both remarkable and extensive: leadership of an unprecedented female-run organization – the Woman’s Peace Party; a fascinating journey through Europe in 1915 meeting with the heads of state of Germany, France, England, and other belligerent powers; and involvement with the “Peace Ship” scheme of the eccentric mogul Henry Ford.  But she would pay a price for her pacifism as the war raged on.   The onetime most beloved woman in the nation, the so-called “American saint,” would find herself viciously criticized for daring to question American foreign policy and the need for a military buildup at home.   Letters and editorials denounced her as an “ancient spinster,” a “crack-brain old creature who ought to be restrained in some institution,” and a “foolish, garrulous woman” who was “badly overrated.”

Theodore Roosevelt, her old friend and colleague in the Progressive or Bull Moose Party, also soured on Addams.  To TR, the nation’s rather modest defenses needed to be drastically strengthened if the United States wished to be a global force for good.   Any peace efforts at present, he believed, were terribly misguided if not dangerous. As for Miss Addams and her female supporters who had journeyed abroad in 1915 to participate in an international women’s peace congress, they were a “disgrace to the women of America.”

Roosevelt’s hated enemy, President Woodrow Wilson, appeared more sympathetic.   Wilson’s determination to avoid war with Germany despite repeated provocations (most notably the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915) cheered Addams immensely in the early years of the conflict.  He was also willing to keep in regular contact with her, so much so that Addams and other pacifists truly believed they had a real friend in the White House.   Privately, Wilson was not especially receptive to her constant urging that America should act now to bring about peace.  Still, as a skilled politician, he was careful not to show his hand.  His advisor and close friend Colonel Edward House well understood the importance of Addams.  “Her following,” he admitted in his diary, “is large and influential.”

By the fall of 1916, Wilson was finally ready to act.  Germany, he knew, was eager to resume unrestricted submarine warfare, even if it meant embroiling the United States in the war.   Wilson’s peace move that December, though it accomplished nothing, delighted Addams, as did his “Peace Without Victory” speech to the Senate a few weeks later.   But his attitude soon changed once the Germans decided they could wait no longer.  Hoping to win the war in 1917, they planned to unleash their submarines to their full potential as of February 1.

To many Americans, the new submarine policy and subsequent diplomatic split with Germany suggested that war was now inevitable.  Addams believed otherwise.  After all, Wilson had repeatedly told the pacifists he did not want war.  “Thank God Woodrow Wilson is President,” one enthused.  When Addams and her peace colleagues went to see Wilson in late February, she still thought he could be reached.  But the President was uninterested in any of their proposals to avoid war and seemed convinced that his own participation in the peace process was absolutely essential.  “I found my mind challenging his whole theory of leadership,” Addams later wrote. “Was it a result of my bitter disappointment that I hotly and no doubt unfairly asked myself whether any man had the right to rate his moral leadership so high that he could consider the sacrifice of the lives of thousands of his young countrymen a necessity?”

A disillusioned Addams watched Wilson take the country into war a few weeks later.  She rejected the popular belief that the war was a necessary evil to achieve a better world or prevent future wars.  Nor could she understand why Wilson refused to seriously consider alternatives such as the conference of neutrals or “continuous mediation” proposals she had championed.  It was, in her nephew James Weber Linn’s words, “the only defeat that she could not forget.” “It seemed to me quite obvious,” Addams later wrote, “that the processes of war would destroy more democratic institutions than he could ever rebuild however much he might declare the purpose of war to be the extension of democracy.”

During the years of American involvement, she found herself increasingly outside of the mainstream, now worked into a war-fueled patriotic frenzy.  Not surprisingly, most Americans were now openly hostile to anything “that woman” had to say, especially what they interpreted as “pro-German twaddle.”  The vitriol dissipated somewhat after she began making speeches for the Food Administration, a new agency which emphasized production and conservation of food for the war effort.  Still, the American public remained suspicious of her pacifist activities throughout the war and the decade that followed.   Addams, some still believed, was the “most dangerous woman in the country.”

By the 1930s, when many Americans began to see involvement in World War I as a tragic mistake, Addams’ pacifist activities no longer seemed so threatening.   Praise and accolades were showered upon her, ranging from selection to Good Housekeep­ing’s list of the twelve “greatest living women” in 1931 to the Nobel Peace Prize that same year.    Much to her credit, she never distanced herself from her unpopular wartime stance.   “We of course never imagined that we could bring the war in Europe to an end,” she explained to journalist Mark Sullivan in 1933, “but we did hope that a body of neutrals with no diplomatic power of course, sitting continuously, might be able to make suggestions for peace which would shorten the conflict.”

That such proposals had only a slim chance of success during World War I never deterred Jane Addams.   “She felt,” her niece Marcet Haldeman later wrote, “that any gestures, any proposals of a pacific nature were infinitely more sensible than such mass murder.”

For more info or to order this new book, see The Approaching Storm‘s publisher’s page.

 

 

Thanks to the Ramapo College Foundation!

We would like to thank the Ramapo College Foundation for awarding the Jane Addams Papers a grant of $2,200 to support student work on the project in the 2021-2022 academic year.

These funds will support the salary of one of our excellent student workers, who process documents, transcribing the texts, creating metadata, and identifying the people, events, organizations and publications mentioned in them.

Ramapo College and the Ramapo College Foundation have been extremely generous to the project and their support has been critical to keeping our work on schedule.

We are still seeking funding to support additional student workers. If you can help, please donate to the project!

Me and Jane’s Books

Image courtesy of Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Jane Addams was an author with a fascinating and peculiar style. Her writing was all about her settlement work and social justice philosophy, but she had a delicate hand. She infused her philosophy with stories, weaving like lace her world view and ideas into the tapestry of the human drama and sometimes shocking socioeconomic realities she presented in her writing. I admire Jane Addams as a writer. In addition to publishing dozens of articles and pamphlets, she published eleven books in her lifetime. And it is my intention to own a first edition copy of every single one of them.

This is what I do. I embrace with wholeheartedness the historical subjects I study. I am no dispassionate historian, and I am always looking for tangible ways to connect with the past. As an editor, I always ground my analysis of history by the words on the pages of the historical documents with which I am so lucky to work. But I also know that weaving my historical enthusiasm into my scholarly writing, using threads from the connectedness I cultivate in my work, makes me a better historian. Perhaps, I, too, have a peculiar style.

Also like Jane Addams, I am a lover of books. My ever growing personal collection of 1,500-ish weighs heavy the bookcases in my modest 1919 bungalow. Like Jane Addams, I am an author, although my two books hold no candle to her eleven. Like Jane Addams, I also take great joy in owning, giving, and receiving books that matter to me. I appreciate Addams’s particular delight in collecting books associated with her friends and the people she admired. As Addams wrote the writer and editor Richard Watson Gilder in 1903: “The little book of Lincoln I knew very well but splendidly forgot that you had edited it. I need not say that I shall prize [it] more than before—which means a great deal.”

Having studied the papers of Jane Addams for four years now, I have come to see Jane Addams the woman as a distant friend. The project of collecting her books means a great deal to me. It feels a natural way to connect with her across the distance of the years between us. I am also drawn to Addams’s books because history has undervalued her contributions as an author. To most people who know of her, Jane Addams is Hull-House. She is a social worker and reformer. She is a campaigner for suffrage, for the short-lived Progressive Party, and for world peace. Indeed, all good and well deserved descriptions of her. Yet despite the fact that she published eleven books, she is rarely defined as an author, and with the exception of Twenty-Years at Hull-House, her books are not widely read or known today.

I am not a voice in the wilderness on the merits of Jane Addams’s literary significance. Her books are digitized on platforms like Internet Archive. Her writing inspired an excellent writer’s biography, Jane Addams: A Writer’s Life, and selections from Twenty-Years at Hull-House often appear in literary or historical anthologies. As well, in recent years, the University of Illinois Press has made her books more accessible, publishing them in paper with rich introductions to provide important historical contexts and bringing back into print the rarer among them.

Perhaps you, like so many people interested in the life and times of Jane Addams, have read one or more of the many biographies about her life. But have you read one of Jane Addams’s own books? If the answer is no, I encourage you to do so. To read her books is to know her better by seeing how she packaged her social reform knowledge for a wide audience. And, by the way, if it suits you to purchase a first edition copy in order to fulfil this imperative, and then if you find you have not the shelf space to accommodate it, I will happily take it off your hands.

Thus far, I have collected five first editions in various states of condition. I have The Second Twenty-Years at Hull-House, My Friend, Julia Lathrop, The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets,  A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil , and Twenty Years at Hull-House. The condition of my copy of Twenty Years at Hull-House is a bit rough, or, perhaps, I should  say that it is delicate, like Jane’s soft employment of her bold philosophical ideas in her writing. No matter. It is my favorite, partly because of the lovely etching on the cover by Frank Hazenplug and the drawings scattered throughout by Norah Hamilton, both of these artists Hull-House residents. Because of their contributions to the book, Jane Addams wrote that it was “quite a Hull-House effort.” The book is quintessential Jane Addams, beautiful in its connections to the critical reform work she conducted in Chicago, to the settlement house that made her famous, and to the extraordinary people who lived and worked with her there.

Inside my copy of Twenty Years at Hull-House is the name, written in pencil, of the woman whom I suspect was the book’s first owner. Fanell Crawford McDaniel. She was a former teacher, trained at the Normal School in St. Louis, who was a 33-year-old homemaker in 1910 or early 1911 when she purchased the book and when she was the wife of a prominent attorney in Tuscaloosa, AL. I lived in St. Louis for eight years, and one of my dearest friends in the world was born and raised in Tuscaloosa. The spine may be broken on my affordable first edition of Twenty-Years, but possessing it connects my heart to Jane, to Fanell, and to my friend Christi in ways that make it more prized than a more pristine but less loved copy of Addams’s most well-known book might be.

I am content to take time in the acquisition of the remaining six of Jane Addams’s books. It is a fun process this state of collecting, and I don’t want to reach its end too soon. I know the first two books, Democracy and Social Ethics and Newer Ideals of Peace, are more rare and will come at dearer prices. Last week I almost pulled the trigger on a copy of Democracy, but its raggedy condition bid me pause to think it over for a while. There is a fine copy of the Chautauqua Reading Series edition of Newer Ideals available for $24, which is intriguing. I might purchase that one soon, although it would be an addition and not a replacement of the original edition I desire.

Right now, I also have my eye on a first edition of The Excellent Becomes the Permanent. I hope one of the books I collect will have an inscription by Jane Addams. This copy of The Excellent would check that box in glorious fashion. It is inscribed by Addams to her English friend Stanton Coit, a leader in the Ethical Culture Movement. The book is in the UK, and its list price of $360 will make it my most expensive acquisition yet. The shipping costs alone will top the bargain price I paid for my first edition copy of My Friend, Julia Lathrop. I wonder if this might be my best and least expensive chance for a signed Jane Addams original, but I don’t know enough about the market to deem my hesitation a gamble.

On one of the bookseller websites I monitor there is a first edition, second printing of The Long Road of Woman’s Memory. Not the first edition I seek, but it is desirable for its lengthy inscription: “With all good wishes from ‘the author’ Jane Addams Hull-House Chicago.” Sigh. Heavy sigh. The list price of that dandy is $2,500. Free shipping, but still beyond the budget of this historian.

Maybe I should order that $360 book in the UK and count my first-edition-Jane-Addams-book blessings.

Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor

Sources: Katherine Joslin, Jane Addams: A Writer’s Life (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); “Stanton Coit” (1857-1944), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; “James Watson Gilder” (1844-1909), American National Biography; 1900 U.S. Federal Census; 1920 U.S. Federal Census; “A Charming Teacher,” Tuscaloosa (AL) Gazette, July 9, 1896, 3; Wedding Notice, Tuscaloosa News, Nov. 10, 1903, p. 5; Jane Addams to Richard Watson Gilder, April 6, 1903; Jane Addams to Graham Taylor, September 4, 1910, all in Jane Addams Digital Edition.

Below is the impressive book bibliography of Jane Addams, the oldest books with links to a version of them on the internet. It is Women’s History Month, you know, so why not celebrate by reading a book by a great American writer?

Democracy and Social Ethics (1902)

Newer Ideals of Peace (1907) 

The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (1909)

Twenty Years at Hull-House with Autobiographical Notes (1910)

A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil (1912)

The Long Road of Woman’s Memory (1916)

Peace and Bread in Time of War (1922)

The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House (1930)

The Excellent Becomes the Permanent (1932)

My Friend, Julia Lathrop (1935)

Forty Years at Hull-House (1935)

Cassandra and Bread Givers – The College Speeches of Jane Addams

by Patricia M. Shields, PhD, Texas State University

Jane Addams attended Rockford Female Seminary and was among the first class to receive a Bachelors degree. At Rockford she honed skills that would later be used in her career as the founder of Hull House, leader of the Suffrage, Settlement and Peace movements and her literary career as author of 11 books and hundreds of journal and magazine articles. At Rockford she was the Valedictorian, Editor of the school newspaper, President of the Debate Club and President of her class.

Her addresses at Rockford show that even at ages 20 and 21, Addams saw a new, exciting and complicated future for the women in her class. In her Junior Class Oration (1880), entitled “Bread Givers” she catalogued “the change which has taken place … in the ambition and aspirations of woman.” As women developed their intellect and direct labor something new had emerged. “She wishes not to be a man, nor like a man, but she claims the same right to independent thought and action … [She] has gained a new confidence in her possibilities, and fresher hope in her progress.” At age 20, Addams recognized that women of her generation were poised to cross boundaries. Yet they were not interested in a complete break with the past, woman’s traditional role and experiences had great value. “As young women of the 19th century, we assert our independence … we still retain the old ideal of womanhood – the Saxon lady whose mission it was to give bread onto her household” (Addams, 1880). Over her entire life, Addams acted in accordance with these insights. She, indeed, developed her intellect and claims of “independent thought and action”. She also understood the Bread Giver’s role as she brought an ethic of care to her work at Hull House and organized efforts to feed the starving children of post WWI Europe (Addams, 1922).

In her Valedictory speech (1881), Addams had a cautionary and hopeful message. Here she drew on Greek mythology and the tragic story of Cassandra a princess who was cursed to share true prophesies that no one would believe. As educated women entered the broader world, their gift of intuition and sense of morality could be dismissed as Cassandra’s prophesies. Women should guard against this and bring “force to bear throughout morals and justice, then she must take the active, busy world as a test for the genuineness of her intuition.” Addams believed that educated women had the ability to help establish “actual justice” in the world through their “trained intelligence” and with their “broadened sympathies toward the individual man and woman…  Only an intuitive mind has a grasp comprehensive enough to embrace the opposing facts and forces,” and meet future challenges. If women like she and her fellow classmates are able to balance their intelligence and intuition “the story of Cassandra will be forgotten”. Addams certainly foresaw the difficult struggle she and her future sisters would have to be taken seriously as full participants in the modern world.

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Addams, Jane. (1880). “Bread Givers” (Junior Class Oration). Dailey Register (Rockford April).

Addams, Jane (1881). Cassandra (Valedictory Speech). Rockford Seminary Magazine (July).

Addams, Jane (1922). Peace and Bread in Time of War. New York: Macmillan.

Patricia Shields is the author of the 2017 book, Jane Addams: Progressive Pioneer of Peace Philosophy, Sociology, Social Work and Public Administration published by Springer.

 

The 1915 Trojan Women Tour

1915 was a momentous year for women’s efforts for peace and suffrage. Jane Addams and others established the Women’s Peace Party (WPP), met at the International Congress for Women, formed the International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace (ICWPP), (known today as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom [WILPF]), and held a massive Suffrage parade in New York City, N.Y. While they worked together for one ultimate goal — equality — they used a variety of methods, one of which was revisiting Ancient Greece.

Continue reading “The 1915 Trojan Women Tour”

Addams’ Living Legacy in Color

Giusti’s “Civilization,” made of india ink and gouache on paper, is owned by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The inspirational legacy and work Jane Addams left behind is no secret; from Hull House to social reform to woman’s suffrage, Addams’ was a revolutionary thinker for her time and a true inspiration for so many people, including artist George Giusti (1908-1990) who was inspired to take Addams’ vision of equality and bring it to life in one of his best regarded pieces of art.

Jane Addams was an advocate for social justice including inclusivity regardless of skin color. Addams’ wanted to give every person and equal opportunity shown through her lifelong effort to fight for social reform and offer all an equal opportunity for a better life in Hull House. After her passing, her work was still unfinished but she gave hope and opened the door for true equality for all.

Flash forward 20 years after Addams’ death, Italian-born artist, George Giusti, created his Civilization is a method of living, an attitude of equal respect for all men.”–Jane Addams, Speech, Honolulu, 1933. From the series Great Ideas of Western Man in 1955. Giusti wanted to avoid classical art and focus on a more modern and relevant effect, which shows through many of his pieces. Giusti’s works did not relate to the time period he created them in, giving them a futuristic effect that modern society still relates to.

So why did Giusti pick  Addams’ quote for the title? Well, Addams was a known advocate for equality regardless of race. The drawing that Giusti created illustrates a sense of  community, unity and equality, all goals to which Addams had dedicated her life. Her goals were not realized in her lifetime and by the 1950s were still plaguing American society. Racial tension in American society divided the nation, and Giusti was inspired to visualize Addams’ quote as a call for equality.

Despite years of advocating and pushing for change, social reform is still an issue in today’s society. Giusti’s drawing received numerous awards and recognition, while Addams’ work has lead her to be one of the most historical and influential figures of the 20th century. Her unfinished business still inspires thousands to this day, with no sign of slowing down.


Civilization is a method of living, an attitude of equal respect for all men.”–Jane Addams, Speech, Honolulu, 1933. From the series Great Ideas of Western Man. (Smithsonian American Art Museum.)

George Giusti,” ADC Hall of Fame, 1979.