Jane Addams Hull House Chicago
By Graham Taylor
To those who look upon her from without, Miss Addams may be social democrat, peacemaker, citizen, philanthropist, either one or all in one. But to each of the inner circle of her friends, whose lives have been enriched and the horizon of whose vision has been enlarged and enlightened by her friendship, she is Interpreter. It is not so much by what she says, or even by what she thinks, as by what she is that she herself is recognized to be an interpretation of life. And the charm and reality of it all is in the fact that both she and you are alike unconscious of any interpreter's presence, and that both are conscious only of trying to learn the meaning of life.
A crippled old man who had been long isolated from the neighborhood life in the densely populated district around Hull House was asked if he knew many of his neighbors. "Very few now," he replied, "but Miss Addams knows me," he added. "You know she lives here with us and she always seems to be more conscious of everyone else who lives around here than she is of herself."
That sense of identification with others, with the group, the class, the race-life, quite as much as with each one constituting it, is the open secret not only of her influence with others but of her capacity to interpret them to herself and to each other. She not only has this sense of being identified with others, but she also gives others the sense of being identified with her.
This constitutes her democracy and makes her its most prophetic interpreter. For she is the thing she interprets, and she interprets it by being it. Moreover, it was her birthright, which she made her own. She is her father's daughter and he was a friend and fellow-worker with Abraham Lincoln in the struggle to share and spread the freedom of their Prairie State. She was her father's companion, and together they kept company with the spirit and thought of Joseph Mazzini, prophet and martyr of democracy.
Identified at first with the cultivated and resourceful people of the State, her first problem was to interpret to herself and her college mates the freest form for the best self-expression. She discovered by experience and confirmed by observation the fact that the year after graduation is the most restless, discontented, and critical year of college women's lives. And it was to give natural expression to the truest self, her own and theirs that she led the way (through Hull House) to a fairer share of the race-life than any class-life can give. By taking her own conscious need as the point of departure in her quest of her own and others' part and lot in the common life, she emphasized the fact that those who have nothing to get from others have nothing to give that others think is worth receiving. And no one could rate more highly than she what she receives from others above what she gives to them. Thus, from girlhood, democracy has been her social ethics, both the rootage and fruitage of all that is best and highest in human life and culture, and no American more than she has better exemplified and interpreted it as such. In the final estimate, what she has done to reattach to their rightful part and lot in the life of the community the classes isolated by the conditions of their labor or their poverty may not prove to be a greater service than what she has done to help the financially and socially resourceful classes out of their detached class-life into the struggle to make good their claim to a name and place among all their fellowmen.
Nowhere in America more than at her "Interpreter's House" have the democratic poor and rich met, mingled, and exchanged values in those frank, free, reciprocities which spontaneously arise wherever she is. Interpreter of democracy Jane Addams is recognized to be wherever it is loved or feared, studied or shunned, served or repressed.
In being such she has mediated peace. And again she does it by identifying herself with those who differ. The breadth of her sympathy and the comprehensiveness of her intelligence have thus been put to the severest test. Although to the American manor born, no one of her cosmopolitan neighbors knows better than she what it is to be a stranger in this strange land. Indeed the immigrant mother, youth, or lonesome laborer could neither interpret self to others nor discover the new-country self to the old-country selfhood half so truly and fully as she. In the full-orbed consciousness of what lies between their past and this present, and of every step of the way they have taken to be where they are, Miss Addams never hesitates to step in between the race antipathies, to call a halt on persecution, and to interpose interpretation between the blind execution of law and the injustice threatened thereby. What to others less informed or more uncertain of the right would be foolhardy bravado in times of popular prejudice, when almost all are against one, has proved to be only wise and just as she has done it. But she never seems to think of it as being brave or anything that others ought not of course to do. In so doing, however, her loyalty to law never falters. She never sacrifices the whole community to any part of it. Her advocacy is never partisanship nor special pleading. She is always identified with the whole democracy in her peace-making. So it has proved to be when friends have feared and foes have decried the lonely stand she has firmly taken against the extradition of some friendless refugee, or in behalf of some race suffering persecution because of one or more of its misguided or unworthy representatives, or in between the cleaving, clashing lines of our own industrial classes.
|Hull House in Chicago (founded in 1889)|
Her mediation in industrial strife has been most effective just when and where it has been most persistently misunderstood and misinterpreted. Here, too, her attitude is based upon an identification with the real and abiding interests of both sides, which is so fundamental as to prevent her from satisfying the demands of the partisans on either side of the temporary issue. In these times that try men's souls, her spirit is to be tried by what has proved to be best in the long run, rather than by what the self-seeking or the timid claimed as the only thing to be done at the moment of passion or indecision. Thus judged, her "Newer Ideals of Peace" stand approved not only by what ought to be in the saner future, but quite as much by what has and what has not transpired in the distracted and distraught past. The strain of Quaker blood running in her veins will yet be analyzed to be only the one, red, racial blood of which "God made all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth." How far a drop or two of that "one blood" goes to make innocuous the virus of class-conscious bitterness may be measured by a single word descriptive of Miss Addams' peace-making interpretation. An overborne "sweated" garment-worker felt that as no one cared for her or for her invalid mother she and her fellow-crafts women could care for themselves only by uniting against the whole class of employers. Just as she had in desperation been driven to this bitter conclusion she was invited to dine and confer with Miss Addams at Hull House. At first she felt disposed to resent the invitation as "another attempt to patronize and disarm the working class." But risking the suspected indignity, she was at once undeceived by the simple, genuine welcome she received on arrival, which turned a hardened heart into fallow soil for the seed-word to be sown. "Can we not do something with you to help the women of your craft help themselves?" she was asked. "Had Miss Addams proposed to do something 'for' us," she afterward declared to another, "I would have resented it, because I want to do for myself. But when Jane Addams asked to do something with us, it was that little word 'with' that took the bitterness out of my life and led me to work with every one for the common good."
|A VIEW OF THE KITCHEN, HULL HOUSE|
Talismanic is that word "with" as the touchstone of the modern philanthropy, distinguishing it from the outgrown charity which grew apart from justice. And yet Miss Addams' historical perspective is too broad and her insight into human life is too sane ever to allow her to share the Socialists' fallacy in proposing justice as an adequate substitute for all charity. The public and private charities of Illinois and of America have had no wiser and more ardent promoter than she. Her election to the presidency of the National Conference of Charities and Correction last June, as the first woman to be chosen to preside over this greatest of our “ecumenical councils," was not only a long deferred tribute to woman's leadership in philanthropy, but a well-deserved personal tribute to her as the "first among her equals." No one among us all has done more to make over the charity of yesterday into the justice of to-day, and none more than she believes in the charity of to-day as the justice of to-morrow.
Personal independence of either the giving or the receiving class and personal identification with both have combined to constitute her the first citizen of Chicago, certainly the most widely and favorably known of all its present citizenship.
Of her pre-eminent qualifications to interpret and represent her town her last and most useful book, "The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets," is in evidence. The identifications it establishes between her own most human life and all the lives and city-wide interests which live and move and have their own true being in this little volume attest our claims of her interpreting power. Both in the title and contents of this volume Miss Addams has contributed a distinct addition to our knowledge and literature descriptive of the psychology of youth and of the conditions of city life. Originality in illustration and reasoning such as can be attained only through the insights of the most sympathetic experience appears on every page. And yet the volume deals with conditions so commonly observed and with experiences so obviously natural to growing youth that the discussion seldom eludes either the attention or the grasp of the reader, however unaware he may have been of the acute situations described. At no point of her plea to consider the spirit of youth can anyone escape the power and pathos of the argument against the toleration of conditions which brutally suppress the very nature of childhood and youth or of the argument for the free development and worthy direction of youthful ideals and energies, now so largely lost or forced into antagonism to social progress. Out of "the wrecked foundations of domesticity," the thwarted "quest for adventure," the ignored "house of dreams," a wistful, overconfident creature is pictured as walking through our streets and calling out "I am the spirit of Youth With me all things are possible." And then those who hear and see this figure of the future are faced with these alternatives: "We may either smother the divine fire of youth or we may feed it. We may either stand stupidly staring as it sinks into a murky fire of crime and flares into the intermittent blaze of folly, or we may tend it into a lambent flame with power to make clean and bright our dingy city streets." This volume is autobiographic without dreaming to be an autobiography,—just as her forthcoming "Twenty Years at Hull House" promises to be. For what she thinks is rooted in what she has experienced, and her experience is so linked with the lives of others as to be inseparable from their experiences. Thus she neither reasons nor idealizes without the suggestion and attestation of the facts of life, her own and others, Story and theory, incident and principle, personal experience and civic ideal, intermingle in her pages as they do, or ought to, in life, which is always larger than logic. Democracy, peace-making, philanthropy, and citizenship all unite in an ethical insight which is the very spirit of religion and the soul of Jane Addams, herself the interpretation of life in our urban and industrial age.
|A PARTIAL VIEW OF THE TEXTILE ROOM, HULL HOUSE|
Miss Addams has literally built her interpretation of life into buildings, institutions, laws, and literature, and, more than all, into the individual and corporate life of her generation and city.
Conforming her convenience, living, and work at first to the stranded old mansion of the Hull family, which had become an immigrant tenement house, with the help of those who shared her spirit, foremost among whom the heir of the Hull estate came to be, she transformed not only the homestead, but nearly the whole block surrounding it into "Hull House," the largest, most beautiful, and practically effective settlement plant in the world.
Across the street the chambers and detention home of the Juvenile Court of Cook County arose in response to the initiative given by a group of women among whom she was one, who, with the legal aid of two or three men, wrought their higher ideals of the treatment of delinquent and dependent children into the world's first and most typical juvenile court. The Juvenile Protective League followed in the same way, initiated, managed, and sustained by those thus associated in the Chicago Woman's Club. And so with many of the public and private institutions and agencies which have arisen or newly developed within the last twenty years in Chicago and Illinois, Miss Addams has been so identified that while, on the one hand, their history could scarcely he accounted for without her, on the other hand, she would be the last to claim that their origin and progress were due to her connection with them. It is the glory of her work that, notwithstanding the impression it bears of her strong individuality, it has always been done with others, and credited by her far more to them than to herself.
More far reaching and effective has been the influence she has exerted upon legislation than that which she has contributed to the building up of institutions. The laws for factory inspection, protection of immigrants, abolition of child labor, regulation of women's work, the establishment of juvenile courts, management of county and State charitable institutions, the building and control of tenement houses, and many other kindred enactments bear the impress of a group of women of whom she more nearly than any of the others was perhaps the central figure; although the leadership in this legislation is to be credited equally, and in some instances predominantly, to Mrs. Lucy B. Flower, Mrs. A. P. Stevens, Miss Julia C. Lathrop, Mrs. Florence Kelly, Miss Mary McDowell, and Miss S. B. Breckenridge, who with many others worked together for the common cause without thought of leading one another.
These efforts to improve conditions by legislation and her service in administrative positions, which range all the way from inspecting the garbage collecting of her ward to membership in the Chicago Board of Education, have led Miss Addams to place increasing emphasis upon the extension of the suffrage to women, especially in municipal elections. Claiming that city government has come to be an extension of household economy and has long since ceased to be based upon the ability to bear arms, she contends that the housewife and the mother, the women workers and taxpayers have as much at stake to qualify them for the electorate as men can claim for "manhood suffrage."
|The Jane Club|
Almost from the day she was graduated from Rockford College, for nearly twenty-five years she has devoted all she was and could become to this wide range of human service. With the simplicity of sustained sincerity, regardless alike of pecuniary emolument and the expenditure of her always overcrowded time and often frail strength, she has responded to the demands of almost every good cause for her winsome presence, persuasive speech and the contribution of her pen to the best social literature of our day. From coast to coast, in little towns and largest cities, in obscurest groups and on greatest public occasions, at lake-front labor mass-meetings and university convocations, in small conferences and great gatherings of men where she has been the only woman to speak, as well as on all occasions on which her loyalty to womanhood was in requisition, multitudes of men, women, and children have caught the inspiration of her personal presence and been guided by her example and word to a higher life, a more effective cooperation, and to the larger world of her vision.
All through these years she has steadily contributed to the best periodical literature of the day, but not until seven years ago did her name appear under the title of a volume. In 1893, however, her chapters on "The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements" and "The Objective Value of a Social Settlement" opened the brilliant symposium published under the title "Philanthropy and Social Progress." "Hull House Maps and Papers" followed in 1895, with the concluding paper by her on "The Settlement as a Factor in the Labor Movement." Her first book, "Democracy and Social Ethics," was published in 1902 in the series called the "Citizens' Library of Economics, Politics, and Sociology.'' "Newer Ideals of Peace'' appeared in the same series in 1907. While their general circulation attest the popularity of these volumes, the depth of their ethical insight, the reach of their ideals, and a certain subtlety of style and spiritual analysis invest them with a charm to the critical reader. "The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets" and the forthcoming volume, "Twenty Years at Hull House," are certain to increase the personal influence and permanent value of her authorship.
|RECEPTION HALL, HULL HOUSE|
Thinking her own way, through to the public profession of the Christian faith and membership in the Congregational Church in her early womanhood, Miss Addams has never ceased to be a student of the experience and philosophy of religion and to love the fellowship of the closest followers of Christ. Her devotion to such saints as Francis of Assisi and Leo Tolstoi is not greater than her reverence for the humblest neighbor who in tenement house home, in shop or store, amid the storm and stress of industrial and urban life, lives out and loves in the common faith in Father God and fellow men.
From The American Review of Reviews, 1909.