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 As an editor, I always ground my analysis of history by the words on the pages of the historical documents with which I am so lucky to work.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 Pratt McDermott, 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)

Dangerous Jane author Suzanne Slade Talks Inspiration for Children’s Book

Suzanne Slade is no stranger to Jane Addams, who is commonly referred to as “the mother of social work.” Addams was a pioneer American settlement activist/reformer, social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, public administrator, protestor, author, and leader in women’s suffrage and world peace. Continue reading “Dangerous Jane author Suzanne Slade Talks Inspiration for Children’s Book”

Jane Addams and Her Conflicts with Tolstoyism

Addams’ affection and admiration for Tolstoy is evident in both her correspondences and her published works. In her 1910 book Twenty Years at Hull-House, Addams recollected her visit to the Count’s residence in Russia. She embarked in search of the answer to a question: “I was most eager to know whether Tolstoy’s undertaking to do his daily share of the physical labor of the world, that labor which is ‘so disproportionate to the unnourished strength’ of those by whom it is ordinarily performed, had brought him peace?”

leon_tolstoy_barefoot
“Leo Tolstoy Barefoot” (1901) – Ilya Repin

Addams gave a lecture in 1902 in which she explained the four types of labor Tolstoy believed every person should partake in. She noted that “he would, of course, always excuse the ill, the aged, and little children” but believed that the bulk of people should perform manual and skilled labor as well as engage in literary work and social effort. According to Tolstoy, by reducing the amount of “brutal and dehumanizing” labor that one performs it gives those unaccustomed to performing that type of labor a perspective that will change the way they view their own lives and commodities. Addams spoke of skilled labor: “If we had some of this experience we would try to simplify our lives, because we would then realize, as we do not now, some of the work on which it is founded. Many people would then stop wearing many things, and having many things in their houses which are not needed.”

Many people fear meeting their favorite celebrity since it is possible it will result in embarrassment or the shattering of a previously held illusion. Addams likely experienced both upon meeting the revered author. She recounted the “distrustful” manner with which Tolstoy regarded the sleeves of her dress during their first meeting. Tolstoy, who was clad in peasant’s clothes, commented on the excessive amount of fabric on Addams’ dress and remarked that “there was enough stuff on one arm to make a frock for a little girl.”

Despite originally feeling disconcerted, Tolstoy’s comments did not dissuade Addams from searching for the answer to her question. Addams recalled a particular instance in which she attended dinner with Tolstoy, his family, and his traveling guests in Twenty Years. She wrote:

The countess presided over the usual European dinner served by men, but the count and the daughter, who had worked all day in the fields, ate only porridge and black bread and drank only kvas, the fare of the hay-making peasants. Of course we are all accustomed to the fact that those who perform the heaviest labor eat the coarsest and simplest fare at the end of the day, but it is not often that we sit at the same table with them while we ourselves eat the more elaborate food prepared by someone else’s labor. Tolstoy ate his simple supper without remark or comment upon the food his family and guests preferred to eat, assuming that they, as well as he, had settled the matter with their own consciences.

coffee-house
Immigrant Visitors Congregating in the Coffee House, 1900

Addams’ time among Tolstoy, his family, and the peasants elicited such strong feelings in her that she made a mental vow to spend two hours each morning in the bakery which had recently been added to the coffee house at Hull-House. Upon her return she realized her vision was not possible due to her overwhelming responsibilities. In Twenty Years she wrote: “The half dozen people invariably waiting to see me after breakfast, the piles of letters to be opened and answered, the demand of actual and pressing wants—were these all to be pushed aside and asked to wait while I saved my soul by two hours’ work at baking bread?”

Earlier she pointed out Tolstoy’s difficult stance:

Doubtless all of the visitors sitting in the Tolstoy garden that evening had excused themselves from laboring with their hands upon the theory that they were doing something more valuable for society in other ways. No one among our contemporaries has dissented from this point of view so violently as Tolstoy himself, and yet no man might so easily have excused himself from hard and rough work on the basis of his genius and of his intellectual contributions to the world.

While Addams admired Tolstoy, his way of life was incompatible with the life she had already established in Chicago. She wished to emulate him in some capacity, but her duties to Hull-House subsumed a great deal of her time. While writing books, giving lectures, traveling, and worrying about her own health and the health of her friends and family, Addams was always finding new ways to improve Hull-House. It is no surprise, then, that she was incapable of designating even two hours each morning to bake bread. The question remains: how might one find a compromise between Addams’ way of life and Tolstoy’s?

Hull-House later received five hundred dollars which were left over from Tolstoy’s profit from publishing his novel Resurrection. The bulk of the profit was given to the Dukhobors, a Russian religious group who had recently settled in Canada with the help of their government. When faced with the choice of what to spend the money on, Addams felt that it was only natural to use it “for the relief of the most primitive wants of food and shelter on the part of the most needy families.”

Ultimately, Addams assisted the Nineteenth Ward without spending two hours per day in the Coffee Shop baking bread. Instead, she used her talent as social reformer to improve the lives of those living in poverty around her. Although she saw the value in performing manual labor, Addams realized there was greater value, in her situation, in devoting her working hours to her role as the head figure of Hull-House.