I have always been a prolific reader, engrossed in anything from a geometry text book, fantasy novel, or whatever I could get my hands on. After absorbing so many words, I think it only natural that I eventually wondered where our words began, how they must have evolved, and when they could have changed. My yearning to explore this new fascination and my need to spend as little money possible on this endeavor culminated in the discovery of my long-time favorite podcast: The History of English Podcast (THEP), written, produced, and hosted by Kevin Stroud.
Stroud, a practicing attorney, began THEP in 2012 by discussing Indo-European, a language that would branch off and evolve into many European languages, including modern English, spoken before any alphabets were created to express its unique set of sounds and grammar. This was the perfect recreational listening for me; not only was I surrounded by words, but learning the complex history behind those words gave me a feeling of appreciation for the English language I had not previously known. The podcast successfully guided me away from my work day, filling me with knowledge about a topic so far removed from Jane Addams and 20th century Progressive politics that I could only be amused when Episode 12 pulled me right back to her papers.
Just a week prior to listening to Episode 12, I had come across Pleads for Suffrage, April 17, 1906, an article written by Addams in support of women’s suffrage. Near the end of this article, she states:
“So many of the stumbling blocks against which we fall are the opportunities to which we have not adjusted ourselves. We keep hold of a convention which no longer squares with our genuine insight into life and we are slow to follow a [clue] which might enable us to solace and improve the life about us because it shocks an obsolete ideal.”
In this paragraph, we the editors have bracketed the word “clue” to express an effort to regularize unusual spelling for the sake of readability and searchability in our digital edition; the word was originally spelled “clew.” At the time I read this article, I bracketed the unorthodox spelling without a second thought. Addams incorporated several unconventional spellings in her correspondence and other writings, such as “inclosed” instead of “enclosed”, or “altho” instead of “although”, and I believed this instance to be another drop in this bucket of the quirky, irregular 20th century spellings she employed.
Episode 12: Early Greek, Hittite and the Trojan War of THEP, originally released in August of 2013, set out to discuss the Minoan civilization living on the island of Crete, just south of modern day Greece, and their mythical king, Minos, for whom the society was named after. According to legend, Minos was in possession of a powerful half man, half bull creature called a Minotaur which he kept in a purposefully complicated cave, or labyrinth, as a prison. Eventually, a Greek prince, Theseus, offered to kill the beast. In order to avoid becoming lost in the maze of the labyrinth, he used a ball of thread, given to him by King Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, and tied one end to the cave’s door. After defeating the Minotaur in the center of the maze, Theseus used the thread to find his way back to its entrance, left Crete without Ariadne, and sailed back to his home in Athens. This thread used by Theseus to escape the labyrinth, or any ball of thread or yarn, was historically called a “clew.”
According to Stroud, this story became wildly popular in the Middle Ages, during the time Old English was spoken. Authors used the idea of a “clew” being employed to solve a maze or a puzzle so often, eventually the word could mean either a ball of thread or yarn, or a figurative hint or guide depending on the context. In modern English, beginning around the late 16th century, two separate spellings emerged for the seemingly unrelated definitions, with writers eventually substituting the Middle English ending of “ew” with the French associated ending of “ue” for the latter meaning. Today, the word “clue” has lost its figurative status, and fully refers to an actual hint to a solution of a problem.
Looking back at Addams’s usage of the word “clew” with this newfound knowledge, we can make some guesses as to her choice of spelling. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the spelling “clew” was being used to refer to a figurative hint or guide as late as 1855. There is a real possibility that Addams, born only five years later in 1860, may have picked up the word’s earlier usage and incorporated it into her lexicon. In either case, the meaning of the word leans heavily toward a hint or guide, no matter how figurative it may be, leading editors to choose “clue” over “clew.”
The battle editors face between fidelity and accuracy when transcribing a text is often fought on a delicate rope. We can only hope that the choices we make help bring Addams’s ideas to a larger audience, and give some kind of [clue] into the world of Progressive era activism.
A documentary editor’s top priority is unwavering accuracy to their collection’s text.
Wait, that doesn’t sound right.
A documentary editor’s goal should be the regularizing of words and writing styles so as to be easily read and searched by a reader.
But that doesn’t sound quite right, either.
These are the two schools of thought that a documentary editor grapples with when deciding on an editing style early in a project’s life. Fidelity: digitally representing an object exactly how it was created. Accuracy: changing characters or words to standardize and correct mistakes for various purposes. Humans are imperfect beings, leading us to make mistakes every so often, but also giving every person their own unique form of expression. But when someone’s written work, along with the imperfections it will undoubtedly have, is being prepared for increased access by being digitized and transcribed, how faithful should we be to their exact pen strokes?
A common mistake made by over 400 authors in our digital edition so far, Du Bois spells Addams with a single D. In this case, as per our transcription guidelines, an editor would place [brackets] around the misspelled word and correct it. Our practices lean more toward accuracy than fidelity in this case, and would be applied to any incorrectly spelled name or word. After lengthy discussion, we felt this rule would aid with online searches . We also know that the spelling written above is factually wrong, and feel that correcting the mistake lessens confusion with names that may have been spelled 10 different ways across 10 different documents.
But what about another rule we have, concerning abbreviations:
Here, in a closing of the letter to Mary Rozet Smith, Addams writes, “Always yrs J. A.” which is exactly as we have transcribed the line. But wait, “yrs” is decidedly not how you spell “yours” in which case it should be bracketed and corrected, right? In this case we are leaving the spelling as is, arguing that expanding and regularizing abbreviated words changes the tone of the writing too intrusively. By leaning more toward fidelity rather than accuracy here, we hope to retain the unique style of writing that an author may have had.
Our transcription guidelines include dozens of rules about how to treat difficult to read texts or irregularities in spelling and punctuation. With each rule, editors hope to keep the delicate balance between fidelity and accuracy in transcriptions. One rule that is visible across the site is the use of brackets. By using brackets around changed words, editors can easily inform readers that something about the text may be different than the original, and by providing an image the reader can quickly check the spot that the change took place.
The bright side to editors working on a digital edition is the ability to easily change project guidelines. If, for some reason, we decide to change any of our rules, it would be entirely possible, though perhaps time consuming. This allows our relationship with our transcriptions to continue to grow as our editors develop a deeper connection with our texts.
Mary Rozet Smith was well-loved by a long list of extraordinary, historically important women who came through the doors of Hull-House in Chicago. From 1889, when she first visited the settlement and met its young, then unknown founder Jane Addams, until 1934, when she died suddenly of pneumonia at the age of sixty-five, Smith was an unwavering supporter of Hull-House, its residents, and its activities. She became, along with her wealthy and generous family, one of Hull-House’s most important donors. She was also for nearly forty years the dearest friend and most intimate companion of the incomparable Jane Addams. Yet Mary Rozet Smith remains something of a mystery.
Despite her importance to the story of Hull-House and to the personal life of Jane Addams, Mary Smith is an elusive wisp of a historical figure. She was, apparently, content in the shadows, wanting nothing more, or so it seems, than to be generous, to be a devoted daughter, to be a cherished friend, and to be a special confidant of Jane Addams. Mary Smith’s proximity to the most famous social experiment in American history could have made her a valuable witness and informant of that history. Instead, she left historians very few clues about her life, and the loss of her letters to Jane Addams deprive us not only of her voice in that relationship but also of her own importance as a Chicago philanthropist. As Jane Addams’ nephew James Linn wrote in his biography of his beloved aunt: “the interests of [Hull-House] remained the center of her own interests, and the friendship of Mary Smith soon became and always remained the highest and clearest note in the music of Jane Addams’s personal life.”
Just after Mary Smith died, long-time Hull-House resident Dr. Alice Hamilton wrote her sister from Chicago: “I can’t look at my grief over Mary because I should lose my grip. When I came out here I told Mary that she must get well, that she could live on without J. A., but J. A. could not live without her.” Jane Addams had suffered a second heart attack and died just thirteen months after Smith, so the statement was, perhaps, prophetic. But more importantly, what resonates in Hamilton’s words and in Linn’s words, too, is the centrality of Mary Rozet Smith to the Hull-House universe. She was embedded in the heartbeat of the institution and its women, and to one woman in particular, Jane Addams, she offered quiet domestic solace to balance the chaos of public life. However, we cannot truly know who Mary Rozet Smith was, because there is so little evidence of her activities found in newspapers, pubic documents, and organizational records; and, most unfortunately, very few of her own words survive her.
As I work on the annotation for Vol. 4 of the Selected Papers of Jane Addams, covering the years 1901-1913, and as I research and write the more than 100 footnotes about Mary Rozet Smith that will appear in the volume, I am missing her voice. When I read any of the seventy-three letters Jane Addams wrote to her during that period, I mourn the loss of her letters to Addams. Not a single letter of hers to Addams survives from those years, and I sometimes curse Jane Addams for destroying correspondence which would, I suspect, provide rich context not only for their relationship but also for Smith’s engagement as a sister of Hull-House. I am editing Addams’ papers and not Smith’s, I know, but I also know we are impoverished in our ability to fully contextualize Addams’ letters without Smith’s corresponding letters. One-sided correspondence is always a disappointment to the historian, who is left by the absent voice of one of the correspondents to answer the historical questions they raise and to ponder the important historical contexts they inspire with half of the pieces of the puzzle missing.
We have selected thirty of Addams’ letters to Smith for Vol. 4, and on their own they are rich, filled with the details of Addams’ reform activities, her writing habits, her ideas, her public speaking, and her daily life. They are also filled with details of the travels of Addams and Smith, of their health, of their shared concern for each other’s families, of their shared network of friends, and of their frequent separations from each other, due to Smith’s illnesses and Addams’ extensive lecturing and involvement in national and international organizations. However, without Smith’s letters, we are left wanting more to fill in the details, gaps, and silences that are an unfortunate characteristic of one-sided correspondence.
When Addams wrote to her “Dearest,” her “Darling,” sometimes her feelings of love and longing for Smith are clear. In a 1902 letter she wrote: “You must know, dear, how I long for you all the time—and especially during the last three weeks. There is reason in the habit of married folk keeping together. Forever yrs.” In a 1904 letter, she opined: “Your letters are the most cheerful things that I have and you must know that I am mightily empty hearted without you.” And in a 1909 letter she offered three little words that she offered to no other correspondent: “I love you.”
Jane Addams’ letters to other women among her close circle of friends and Hull-House residents, such as Lillian Wald and Julia Lathrop, were filled with affection. Addams wrote with the intimate language that was the natural and ordinary way of letters between women during this period in American history, when half of all college-educated women did not marry and the kinship of female friends was loving and strong. In a precious few letters, the reader cannot help but to see Addams’ particular tenderness for Smith. However, in most of her letters, Addams’ language is more muted, her tone more guarded, and the content merely practical and informative, many the hasty missives of a busy woman. In those less intimate letters, Addams almost always addressed Smith as “Dearest,” a moniker of affection she reserved for her alone, and she closed all letters with very tender words, but these letters offer far fewer clues about the relationship between the two women and the various contexts of their lives together.
I wonder if the language Smith employed in her letters to Addams mirrored the language Addams used. Was there a tonal difference in her letters to Addams than what she employed in letters she wrote to their mutual friends? What words did she use to express her feelings for Addams? What terms of endearment did she choose to begin her letters to Addams, and did she often write “I love you.”? When Addams shared with Smith her doubts and fears about a book manuscript or an important speech, did Smith respond with a pep talk, a gentle critique, or some soothing, emotional refrain? Did Smith share her own doubts and fears with Addams in her letters, and did she share her hopes and dreams and opinions on the reform topics that occupied the minds of Jane Addams and other Hull-House residents? Did she provide details of her asthma attacks and nervous anxiety and other philanthropies, as well and her travels, and did she offer gossip or news that might explain a vague reference we cannot define and may never define without her letters? What was the character of the letters Smith sent that Addams reported as “a great comfort,” and what were the words Smith offered to soothe that others could not?
Maybe Jane Addams destroyed Smith’s letters because they were too intimate or too emotionally embarrassing. Or maybe she destroyed them because she was a private person, despite her celebrity, and she wished to keep her special relationship with Smith from the prying eyes of the modern world that was pressing in on Hull-House in the early 1930s. I don’t really care what her reason was, but I am quite mad at her for doing it. I can’t help it, but it makes me sad to know so little about the woman to whom Jane Addams spent so much of her personal life.
I do not bemoan the loss of Smith’s letters to Addams simply because I think they would for certain answer the big question about their relationship. Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t, and then again if they did we would still have to be very careful about projecting our modern notions of female sexuality onto women of the past. As an editor, who contextualizes historical documents as windows to the past, it is not for me to interpret the nature of the relationship that existed between Jane Addams and Mary Rozet Smith. Whether they were the dearest of platonic friends or enjoyed a sexual relationship is not for me to decide. No matter, besides, because in the historical record of their relationship, there are far more questions than answers. That fact is, after all, the frustrating reality of one-sided correspondence.
I am missing Smith’s voice and her words for what they might have brought to the big Jane-Addams-Hull-House party. If we had Smith’s letters to Jane Addams, I would use Smith’s words to answer Addams’ words, to balance Addams’ particularly romantic phrases, to provide our readers with the dialogue between two women who were emotionally close to each other for four decades. But I would also use them to better understand Smith’s role in the Hull-House community, to glean some clues about who she was as a person, what she believed in, what intrigued her, and what made her smile. I would employ them to understand for myself why she was so dear to all of the extraordinary women who knew and loved her.
From Hull-House financial records, we know the scope of Smith’s contributions to the settlement and its activities. From the correspondence and personal accounts of her friends, we know something of her kindness, deportment, gentle nature, and the various physical and emotional illnesses from which she suffered. And from the extant letters Jane Addams wrote to her, we can understand a little bit about her emotional importance to the woman who is the subject of our documentary edition. Ah, but alas, there is so much of whom Mary Rozet Smith was which is lost to us because her letters to Jane Addams are lost to us. Mary Rozet Smith may well have been the “highest and clearest note in the music of Jane Addams’s personal life,” but why she was and who she was as a person will likely remain elusive. She is a woman whom historians have defined entirely by her relationship to Hull-House, and that is all well and good, I suppose, because Hull-House needed her thrive.
But darnit, I wish Jane Addams would have allowed us the chance to know her dear friend better. I wish we had Mary’s words to tell us a little bit more about Jane, and to tell us a little bit about herself, as well. I wish I had thirty or ten or even two of Smith’s letters to Addams to enhance the thirty letters to her we have chosen to annotate. They would not likely answer all of the questions I have, nor would they likely fill in all of the gaps and silences in Addams’ letters; but I suspect they would fill in a whole lot of missing details and offer a nuance or two. I know they would enlighten, enrich, and contextualize, because back-and-forth correspondence usually does. And I bet they may even offer some evidence of those highest and clearest notes in the music.
By Stacy Lynn, Associate Editor
Sources: Allen F. David, American Heroine: The Life and Legend of Jane Addams (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 85-91; Gioia Diliberto, A Useful Woman: The Early Life of Jane Addams (New York: Scribner, 1999), 182-87; Jean Bethke Elshtain, Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 23-24; Louise W. Knight, Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 217-18; James Weber Linn, Jane Addams: A Biography (New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1935, 147; Rima Lunin Schultz and Adele Hast, eds., Women Building Chicago, 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 817-19; Barbara Sicherman, Alice Hamilton: A Life in Letters (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), 346-47; Eleanor J. Stebner, The Women of Hull House: A Study in Spirituality, Vocation and Friendship (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 158-66; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, May 26, 1902; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, August 13, 1904; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, October 5, 1904; Jane Addams to Mary Rozet Smith, February 12, 1909, all in Jane Addams Digital Edition.
Members of the losing party of a presidential election are met with disappointment and sadness. In the following months the party is left to recuperate and reorganize. The losing and winning party must also plan how they will function with each other in the future. In the election of 1912, the election involved a variety of political parties with some overlapping and some clashing goals. Jane Addams had an important role in the election of 1912 and its many political parties as she became the first woman to nominate a presidential nominee by seconding the nomination for Theodore Roosevelt in the Progressive Party. The backlash she received for seconding the nomination of Theodore Roosevelt for the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party, was astounding. It lead to some of the most interesting letters I have ever read throughout my time at the Jane Addams Papers Project. After the election, Addams continued to receive letters about her participation in the 1912 election.
While the Progressive Party was attempting to recover after a presidential loss, Addams received a letter that claimed that the party would potentially be destroyed by all of the other political parties involved in the election of 1912. An anonymous writer, referring to himself as “a Bull Moose,” wrote Addams on December 13, 1912 an at first seemingly innocent letter, praising Addams for her efforts with the suffrage movement. As “Bull Moose” continues, he wrote to Addams about an alleged “disaster” for the Progressive Party. In this alleged disaster the Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, and Prohibitionists had created a trap for the Progressive Party to fall into and ruin the party forever. “Bull Moose” decided to take it upon himself to create five “shamtraps” for the Progressive Party, in order to expose the traps of the other parties, but the “shamtraps” needed to be dealt with before December 15th or the plan would not work.
This was not even the strangest part of the letter. “Bull Moose” then goes on to say that Addams can tell no one else about the letter except Theodore Roosevelt, who he refers to as “our future President,” despite the fact that Roosevelt has already lost the 1912 election. “Bull Moose” must have been hoping for a 1916 victory for Roosevelt. Unfortunately for “Bull Moose,” Roosevelt would not enter the 1916 election. “Bull Moose” proceeded to give Addams a list of instructions that will prevent the other political parties from trapping the Progressive Party. The first few seem pretty reasonable – instructions such as “not to side with either Drys nor Wetts,” which makes sense since the Prohibition Party is allegedly involved in this “shamtrap” plot. Instructions six and seven are the strangest. In rule number six, “Bull Moose” instructed Addams that he would come to her as a “polish tramp to wash windows, with a raincoat on” and told her all of the horrible ways to treat him. Rule number seven instructed Addams to treat a hobo the same way, perhaps worse, if “Bull Moose” should have sent a hobo in his place.
Addams was instructed by “Bull Moose” not to share the contents of this letter with anyone besides Theodore Roosevelt until 1917. So far there has been no indication that Addams ever shared the contents of the letter with anyone, including Theodore Roosevelt. The Jane Addams Papers Project works chronologically so we have not yet read and transcribed the letters from 1917. I will certainly keep my eyes peeled for any letters about “Bull Moose” once we get there.
“Bull Moose” was not entirely off the mark when he said that the other political parties were planning to destroy the Progressive Party. The Progressive Party ultimately did fall because of other parties, mainly the Republicans. The Progressive Party essentially merged back together with the Republican Party, especially after Roosevelt refused to accept the Progressive presidential nomination in 1916 and chose to campaign for the Republican Party. Maybe the Progressive Party would have lasted longer if Addams had followed “Bull Moose’s” instructions!
This document can be located on the Jane Addams Papers microfilm on Reel 7, frame 542. It will soon be freely available to read and view in digital form on our database website, which can be found by clicking the link to the right of this post.
When thinking about the issue of police brutality in Chicago, many of our first thoughts find their way to the incidents of the recent past. The images that still burn freshly in our minds are those of Laquan McDonald being fatally shot from behind by Officer Jason Van Dyke, or a recently discovered history of gruesome torture by former police commander Jon Burge. While Chicago certainly has a history of police misconduct – Burge had reportedly been using torture to provide false confessions from his suspects since 1972 – that history sees its true beginnings in the early 20th century, as Jane Addams attempted to make sense of the violence she saw in her city of Chicago.
Addams’ first published opinion on file of a police brutality incident comes during the time of the “Averbuch Incident” in 1908. The chronicle, told in the papers from the point of view of Officer Shippy, begins with Lazarus Averbuch, as the press called him, though in realty his name may have been Harry or Jeremiah, a Russian born Jew who had recently immigrated to America. Averbuch was a young man, almost 19, who in the early morning of March 2, 1908 called upon Chicago’s Chief of Police, George Shippy, at his home in Chicago’s North Side. Shippy, having been informed that this was the fourth time Averbuch had called upon him in two days, became suspicious; assuming Averbuch was an anarchist bent on assassination, Shippy seized Averbuch by the arms. Before Shippy could disarm him, Averbuch drew a knife and stabbed Shippy in the arm. As Shippy’s son, Harry, ran downstairs due to the commotion, Averbuch drew a revolver and fired two shots, one of which struck Harry. At this, James Foley, an officer assigned to be George Shippy’s driver and bodyguard, entered and attempted to seize Averbuch. Before being embraced by Foley, however, Averbuch fired a shot into Foley’s hand. Very shortly after, both Foley and Shippy emptied their revolvers into Averbuch’s body, who then fell dead.
Funds were raised by prominent Jews for a private investigation into the claims made by Shippy that Averbuch was an anarchist intent on assassinating the Chicago Chief of Police. Jane Addams organized an investigation to be led by young Chicago attorney Harold Ickes, who later served as Secretary of the Interior under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At the same time, the Jewish press, mainly the Jewish Courier, tried to argue that Averbuch was following foreign protocol in order to obtain a letter from the chief of police indicating that he was in good standing and of good character in order to obtain a job outside his community. All shots, the Jewish press argued, were the result of wayward bullets fired from either Foley’s or Shippy’s guns. Addams witnessed the aftermath of the Averbuch Incident from an immediate proximity. Addams’ Hull-House was located near Averbuch’s community, and the settlement often served as an interpreter between foreigners and the city’s native populace, and vice versa. She understood that foreign-born anarchists were feared in the city of Chicago after their involvement in the Haymarket Riot two decades prior. Addams, however, was not convinced of Shippy’s story, believing there to be too many inconsistencies.
In the wake of the aftermath of the Averbuch Incident, Addams wrote a piece for Charities and the Commons, a publication created to help charities give and receive information and advice, called “The Chicago Settlements and Social Unrest”. This article, while spurred by the Averbuch Incident, also gave Addams’ opinion on the cause of and solutions to the growing unrest around immigrants with varying political and religious beliefs. Addams believed that she had a unique vantage point as the head of a settlement house – as a member of a prosperous family, Addams understood the points of view of the fearful public, as well as those of the fearful immigrant population. “This settlement interpretation,” she said, “may be right or wrong, but it is at least based upon years of first hand information and upon an opportunity for free intercourse with the foreign people themselves.” (Addams, 1908) She attempted to assuage the fears on Chicago, reminding the city that
“the more excited and irrational public opinion is, the more recklessly newspapers state mere surmises as facts, and upon these surmises arouse unsubstantiated prejudices against certain immigrants, the more necessary it is that some body of people be ready to put forward the spiritual and intellectual conditions of the foreign colony which is thus being made the subject of inaccurate surmises and unjust suspicion.” (Addams, 1908)
Addams reminded the public that Russian-Jews, like Averbuch, had escaped very harsh treatment from police while in their home country; she also argued that the treatment they received from American police was no better. “The older men,” she stated, “asked whether constitutional rights gave no guarantee against such violent aggression of police power, and the hot-headed ones cried out at once that the only way to deal with the police was to defy them; that that was true of the police the world over”. “It registered,” she said, “a conviction that in a moment of panic a republican government cared no more for justice and fair play than an autocratic government did” (Addams, 1908).
In true Addams fashion, the philanthropic philosopher gave her own homegrown solution to the problem at hand. “The only possible way to break down such a persistent and secretive purpose,” she said, “was by the kindliness which might have induced confession, which might have restored him into fellowship with normal men” (Addams, 1908).
Addams’ theory of kindness as an eradicator of terrorism has never really been tested in the city of Chicago, or anywhere else. One of the most recent stories about police brutality, mentioned above, states that former police commander, Lt. Jon Burge oversaw a torture ring of detectives from 1972 until 1991. In October of 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot fatally in the back 16 times by Jason Van Dyke – an officer who alone has accumulated 20 complaints, all of which have gone undisciplined. Citizens are so concerned about the escalation of crime in Chicago, that a website has been created to chronicle police misconduct spanning the years 2002-2008 and 2011-2015. The Citizens Police Data Project’s findings are astounding. Without revealing the entirety of the Project’s report, of all 56,384 of the allegations in the study, 54,089 of these, or 95.93%, were found to be “Unsustained”.
In another disheartening flurry of statistics, we also know that violence in Chicago is the highest among all US cities with 2,900 shootings in 2015. How much of a correlation do these two numbers have? And if the statistics are intertwined, is the answer to employ and release more officers into a populace that obviously entertains varying degrees of fear for their “protectors”? Or should we attempt to appeal to our better natures and try actions of kindness? Perhaps another of Addams’ solutions can be used, an effort to better educate officers, citizens, and members of immigrants and working class communities in lessons of cultural assimilation and understanding could be implemented to foster partnership based on harmony rather than discord.
I’ll be the first to admit it. Reading Jane Addams’ handwriting is difficult, and just when you think that you have gotten it down, you run across a letter that makes you question your profession.
Working on a digital edition with such challenging handwriting has been a bit different than working on a print edition. With print it is essential to get the transcription as perfect as you can because it is unlikely that there will ever be a revised printing of your edition; the best you can usually hope for is an embarrassing errata page that highlights every mistake that you have made (at least those that you have found!). With digital publication, we can seamlessly correct errors in transcription as soon as we discover them. And while this means there is less pressure on us to craft a perfect transcription, we do have to grapple with the question of how good our transcription should be in order to publish it.
First pass transcriptions generally have errors. Most of our draft transcriptions are done by students (amazing students!), who have made great strides in reading and transcribing Addams’ hand, but they are not perfect. Errors are made even when transcribing typed documents, which are sometimes long and have repetitive elements. In order to ensure that these errors are caught and corrected, we proofread each transcription at least once, in teams. What this means is that one editor reads from the document (reading punctuation and capitalization aloud as well) while the other follows along with the transcription. Whenever the two do not match, we stop and identify the discrepancy and correct it. It is not always the transcription–sometimes we read the document incorrectly. But this ensures that we have carefully proofread the original.
Problems arise when we cannot make out the words at the proofreading stage either. We mark the places where we are unsure of the meaning of the word with [square brackets], adding [question marks?] when the reading is a bit less certain that that, and we admit that the word or words are [illegible] when we just can’t make them out. No editor likes to see [illegible words] in her edition–each one stabs at us, taunting us with our own inadequacies–no matter how hard that word really is to read!
For most editors, the decision of when to give up and publish a problem document’s transcription is a difficult one, and we review and revise our readings of the document over and over until we throw our hands up in frustration and let it go out with an [illegible]. When publishing a digital edition, this decision gets even harder. Is it more useful for our readers that we publish a transcription of 99% of a document quickly, or that we wait and wait to get that last 1%? We have made the decision to publish the 99% and to invite help, both from experts on our Advisory Board, Addams scholars, but also from the general public, to help tease out that 1%.
We’ve done this by creating a Help! tag for documents in the digital edition that have words that we cannot read. To get a look at them, follow this link, or select Browse Items, and then Browse by Tag. If you think you can read the [illegible words] that we couldn’t, drop us a line in the Comment box at the bottom of the document. If this is something you enjoy doing, reach out to us; we would be delighted to have you check our problem documents before they are published.
Between 1976 and 1983 the original staff of the Jane Addams Papers Project, led by Mary Lynn Bryan, undertook a massive search for Addams documents, searching thousands of archival collections and locating documents in 574 of them. These documents, microfilmed in 1996, will serve as the base of the new Jane Addams Digital Edition. We estimate that they found almost 20,000 letters from the period between 1901 and 1935. They also found evidence that not everything had been preserved. Some documents were lost, but others were deliberately destroyed.
No historian likes to hear stories like this:
According to Ellen Starr Brinton, Curator of the Swarthmore Peace Collection, “A chance call on Jane Addams in Hull House, Chicago, just when she was burning personal papers on the fireplace was the beginning of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.”(1)
or to see what Addams wrote to her nephew and biographer, James Linn shortly before her death:
I have been going over a box full of letters of mine to Mary Smith. They quite filled a drawer of her desk–all sorts of notes. I am destroying a good many and sending others–a lot in fact–on to you. Not that you will want to use them, I hope, but they will give you a certain ‘feel’ of the 1890s, etc. Among those am I destroying are the purely family ones–of her family or mine–but I am sending a few on to you that you may want to read first. Please ‘read–destroy.’ (March 8, 1935)(2)
We are grateful that Linn didn’t do it–what little correspondence remains between Mary Rozet Smith and Jane Addams survives because of Linn’s disobedience.
The Addams Papers editors searched archives and libraries, located private collections, found articles published in newspapers and locked away in attics and basements. As they did so, they identified other holes in the Addams archive, the most prominent being:
All but two of Hull-House’s complex was razed to build the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle in 1963.
Some key Addams’ diaries are missing, including the ones that chronicled her visit to Toynbee Hall, where she and Ellen Gates Starr hit upon the idea to open Hull-House.
Manuscripts for many of her books have not been found.
Many of Hull-House’s records were destroyed accidentally when a basement they were stored in flooded during construction.
After Addams’ death, her family sold or donated various parts of her papers and the family papers to a number of archives, scattering the Addams archive.
As any researcher knows, you can never find everything. Even if you search all known collections for Addams materials, the day that you stop looking, a new collection will be deposited at an archive or an existing collection will finally be processed (described and organized by archivists) and reveal new Addams documents.
As we embark on building a digital edition of Jane Addams’ correspondence and writings, it is time to do another search.
A New World
The last Addams search was done 30 years ago and a world away when you think about it in terms of technological advances. As we begin our search, we have so many research tools that the editors in the 1970s and 1980s did not.
All right, it wasn’t quite that bad!
We used to consult incomplete printed guides to locate archives and libraries that might have holdings. The NUCMC (National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections) was organized by state and city, and editors used to tackle a few pages at a time, writing letters (yes, actual letters!) to them seeking information about their holdings. Smaller libraries might not even be listed. Now we can search the web to find libraries and archives and use databases like ArchiveGrid that provide information and links to specific archival collections, in many cases letting us see the finding aids that describe them. These guides are often so detailed that we can simply e-mail the archives and ask them to look in specific folders and send copies.
To locate newspaper articles written by Addams, or about her activities, editors had access to very few indexed newspapers, and often had to scan old newspapers on microfilm, hoping to find coverage. Looking for journals was a bit easier, as many were indexed, but obtaining copies from them could take months as we relied on inter-library loans and letters (again!) to libraries and archives. Now many journals and newspapers, especially those published before 1923 are available online, through large sites like Google Books, the Digital Public Library of America, the Hathi Trust, or the Internet Archive. Old newspapers are becoming more easy to access, through sites like the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America, though many sites require subscriptions. The Addams Papers has access to ProQuest’s historical newspapers, Newspapers.com, and a number of other databases that we will be able to search, both for missing Addams documents, and for details on her life and travels.
What happened in 1923?
Some things have not changed. It is still a complex process, but one that technology helps us to master. Creating visualizations, like the graph below, have shown us a new potential gap in the collection–the sudden reduction of documents written by Jane Addams in 1923. A serious decline in her usual production might mean a box of documents was lost or destroyed, perhaps she wrote less because she was traveling the world, or because she became ill. Using databases to enter all potential sources of new Addams documents allows us to track our progress in contacting them and obtaining materials. In many cases, we will still have to do the leg work of visiting the archives, checking through boxes and boxes of material, and making copies and scans.
We have started by listing the archival collections that do not appear in the microfilm. We will search these, by e-mail and in person, and then check the documents found against what was filmed on the microfilm (some could be duplicates). We plan to search digitized newspaper sites and e-journals looking for Addams articles that might have slipped through the original search, and will also look to European archives, which are also far more accessible using digital tools than they ever were before. With luck, we can add to the substantial work done to build the Addams microfilm to make available even more of Jane Addams’s documents.
(1) Mary McCree Bryan, The Jane Addams Papers: A Comprehensive Guide, (1996), p. 68.
(2) Mary McCree Bryan, The Jane Addams Papers: A Comprehensive Guide, (1996), p. 69.