Jane Addams: A Rich and Revealing Portrait of an Extraordinary Figure in American History (2002)

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Jane Addams: A Rich and Revealing Portrait of an Extraordinary Figure in American History (2002)

next on public lives Jane Addams and the dream of American democracy jean bethke L stains biography of the anti-war activist hull-house founder and winner of the 1931 Nobel Prize for Peace it’s an hour in 25 minutes hello and welcome I’m peg Strobel the interim director of the Jane Addams Hull House Museum here at the University of Illinois at Chicago and we at the museum are very pleased tonight to be hosting the lecture by jean bethke ellstein she is the Laura Spellman Rockefeller professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago she was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996 she’s the author of over 400 essays and some 175 book reviews which have appeared in such publications as commentary The Weekly Standard and the New York Review of Books she has also served as a contributing editor to the New Republic among the 17 books that felstein has written or edited is democracy on trial which was named a New York Times notable book as well as women in war real politics and public man private woman she lives in Nashville Tennessee and Chicago let me welcome professor Houston good evening thank you so much for turning out on a somewhat brisk Chicago evening I understand that snow is forecast but hopefully we’ll all be able to get home safely I was telling peg before we began that I didn’t have a lecture on Jane Addams as social philosopher and then I thought better of delivering a standard academic lecture it seemed to me to make a bit more sense to talk my way through some of the themes that animate my own approach to Jane Addams and to share with you just a bit from the book and to connect some of the portions of the book to some of these general themes I’m sure many of you know great deal about Jane Addams we are after all in her neighborhood the Hull House Museum is just a few feet away from us here the Hull House complex in its heyday occupied much of the territory now occupied by the University of illinois-chicago circle Jane Addams was born as you probably know a few hours from here in Cedarville Illinois in 1860 and she died here in Chicago in 1935 so her life span correspond to some tumultuous epochs in American history to put it mildly she came from a family in which the father her beloved father her revered father was an ardent ardent being one of her favorite words an ardent abolitionist and friend of Abraham Lincoln’s her mother died when she was 2 years old her father remarried she had a somewhat fractious relationship with her stepmother but the relationship with her father was a key relationship and did indeed the key relationship in her life now we do have some biographies of Jane Addams a couple of them we have many works devoted to analyzing her to reflecting on her influence often to criticizing her she’s been the subject of some fairly withering criticism over the years but Adams as a thinker Adams as a social philosopher of great can eNOS and wit and intelligence that Adams has been very much underrated as seems to me often reading about her I would hear her referred to as someone who was had an intuitive intellect de-emphasizing the trained intellect d emphasizing the learning d emphasizing the capacious redeemed that she had done to prepare her for reflecting on the issues that confronted her over the course of her extraordinary life she is often referred to as someone without a very disciplined approach to thought someone who told stories rather than making philosophic arguments I started to get vexed as I would read these characterizations of her because it seemed to me that in fact her contributions to our understanding of the American democracy her contributions to social philosophy were being

consistent consistently underrated one would read although this has been partially corrected recently the publication of Menon’s work on the metaphysical Club there’s a discussion of Jane Addams but one could read accounts of the progressive era of progressive philosophers of pragmatism with with scarcely a mention of Jane Addams works on on dewey that would perhaps footnote adams despite John Dewey’s own claim that Jane Addams was one of the most important figures to him and that in fact she lived the very philosophy that he was propounding and she offered him his own deepest understanding of that philosophy in practice so it’s really the mind of jane addams that I wanted to capture her contribution to our thinking to the way in which she helps I believe continues to help to make us wiser about our own American experience and wiser about the American American history but wiser about the human condition more generally now as you probably know her name when it’s mentioned in most companies rings a bell most Americans of middle age or older if heard of her when I started to mention to people I was going to do an int I didn’t know quite what to call it but an intellectual biography or an intellectual appreciation of Jane Addams situating her her thought in her life and her life and her thought people would look at me with some curiosity that isn’t this a departure from what you usually do why are you doing this one person said well she was a socialist right as if that more or less settled the matter and I said no she wasn’t in fact a socialist and she’d had some hearty debates with the Marxist at Hull House about socialism but that in fact she really is a major contributor to our understanding about our own condition our own circumstance at her death she was lionized as America’s great woman one of her greatest public figures but then I have the sense that after her death it’s as if she saw fell off the face of the earth there were planned statues that were never erected there were memorials that never got off the ground she tended to fade into the background as I’ve already indicated in the histories so it’s really trying to recapture her her thought and her words that led me to to spend some time writing this book and in the writing of it I decided that I had to do a good bit of the reading that it was clear she had done those of you who have read and I’m sure everyone in this room has at one point or another years at Hall House will no doubt have noticed the number of books and authors that she references in a quite informal way there are dozens and dozens of them and this isn’t just sort of name dropping to show that she was learn it these are thinkers that she had absorbed that she had taken in that she had in some way made her own they helped to shape her own mind she was throughout her life a voracious reader she was set on this path of reading she tells us by her father who would give her a nickel for every one of Plutarch’s lives that she read and told her to just start reading the Federalist Papers and the life of George Washington and you know that’s the way you learn things and she never ceased that project of reading one of her favorite novelists was George Eliot now I don’t know if any of you has had the experience of reading of George Eliot novel recently but their rather fat books and I discovered I’d of course read Middlemarch and a few of the others but I confess I’d never read Daniel Deronda for example and several of the others and I decided I really had to assign those books to myself so I spent a good chunk of one summer reading through George Eliot or rereading George Eliot mill on the floss Middlemarch and so on because I wanted again for these this this think this writer that made such an impact on Jane Addams and shaped her own mind so powerfully to be ricocheting around in my own mind I read essayist I’d never read before I hadn’t really read Matthew Arnold or much of Arnold so I read Arnold I reread Emerson I read De Quincey someone I’d never read she loved the essay form she was a master essay writer essayist herself so I tried to make as familiar to me as possible those writers those essayists

that she had made her own now one of the characteristics of Adams as a writer and it’s an enormous for anyone who does a certain kind of writing I think for people who do social history as well and that is how do you write compellingly about protein Ian’s concerns how do you evoke in a powerful way the ordinary the everyday the rhythms of everyday life the life of the woman in jane addams case her central focus as a bread giver and that that’s the the mission that she saw woman as women as primarily embodying bread given a very capacious sense of that word let me just give you a little bit of a flavor of this challenge of what it means to try to convey impotent compel compelling imagery the life of the everyday I wrote a book a few years ago called women and war and in that book I noted that one frustration of pacifists historically has been the war is more exciting than peace there are lots and lots and lots of war stories to tell war is an arena of heroic self-sacrifice let me start reading here from a bit Adams knew that great stories are often about stirring conflicts unto death she herself loved the Greek classics and the Shakespearean tragedies but what about being sentenced to life two inexorable daily routines where was the dignity in that where was the adventure Adams persistently sought and found dignity in the everyday tasks of tending to the well-being of the young and the old sowing s o W and sowing sdw planting and harvesting covers for bodies bred for stomachs cool hands on fevered brows but it was a struggle to convince others of the urgency the importance of such affairs and not only because they reviewed traditionally as women’s work in hand devalued the labor of the male peasant in the field or the factory worker in the assembly line was similarly unlikely to capture and hold many readers interest Adams strove to show the adventure and conflict the hope and despair the little defeats and victories that are the stuff of life just as Greek tragedy was aimed at inculcating civic virtue and enhancing the capacity of citizens to act with foresight and to judge with insight so Adams narratives of daily life invite readers to similar forms of recognition and action the meaning of stark terror and human indignity the fusion of the small with the great in Adams writing opens up into a world as complex terrifying and conflicted in its redemptive power as anything devised by Sophocles this is a claim by the way I should say that the reviewer of this book for The Wall Street Journal took very strong exception to it didn’t want to credit her with that capacity but love me UV the judge let me give you an example of what I mean it’s it’s one example of her narrative skills and evocative power and I have I have given little historical names to her little stories in my own book so this is the story of the old German woman clinging to her chest of drawers and this is Adams now some frightened women had bidden me come quickly to the house of an old German woman whom two men from the county agents office were attempting to remove to the county infirmary the poor old creature had thrown herself upon a small and battered chest of drawers and clung there clutching it so firmly that it would have been impossible to remove her without also taking the piece of furniture she did not weep nor moan nor indeed make any human sound but between her broken gasps for breath she skilled shrilly like a frightened animal caught in a trap the little group of women and children gathered at her door stood aghast at the recognition the realization of the black dread which always clouds the lives of the very poor the neighborhood women and I hastened to make all sorts of promises as to the support of the old woman and the county officials only too glad to be rid of their unhappy duty left her to our ministrations the dread of the poorhouse the result of centuries of deterrent

pure law administration seemed to me not without justification one summer vent when I found myself perpetually distressed by the unnecessary idleness and forlorn as’ of the old women in the Cook County infirmary many of whom I had known in the years when activity was still a necessity and when they yet felt bustling Lee important to take away from an old woman whose life has been spent in household cares all the foolish little belongings to which her affections cling and to which her very fingers have become accustomed is to take away her last incentive to activity almost to life itself to give an old woman only a chair and a bed to leave her no cupboard in which her treasures may be stowed not only that she may take them out when she desires occupation but that her mind may dwell upon them in moments of reverie is to reduce living almost beyond the limit of human endurance I think that’s quite powerful and you and it paints such a vivid image and evokes something so poignant in this vignette she grips our attention with a timeless story of old age and loss reminding us that a life may be decocted to a cupboard or a chest of drawers or in my grandmother’s case a sewing chest with neatly wound balls of thread and rickrack does anyone still know what rickrack yes small containers of buttons sorted by size color and shape tiny pieces of cloth that might yet become a patch for a torn pants leg or a piece and a colorful quilt these she went over again and again in her twilight years reminding us that she had built the drawers herself for she was a carpenter as well as a seamstress when my grandmother’s wits deserted her I imagined her dreaming of thread in tidy rows and bold pieces of cloth and all of the quilts she had lovingly made and given away over the years with stories such as these in which we recognize our own lives dramas Adams calls us into empathy humility and large heartedness of a sort that prepares us to travel into shabby rooms in decrepit buildings on a mission of discovering and ameliorating or mitigating two of her favorite words just period ameliorating or mitigating period whatever there is to ameliorate or mitigate the tears shed on such occasions join the ever flowing underground strain that gives life what she called its inexorable sadness she called it the grief of things as they are that there are some things that we can try to prevent like taking away from a poor elderly woman all the things that her life clings to if you will that doesn’t have to be darn that old age involves loss is something we can’t prevent the loss of certain of our powers the loss over time of some of our memories there are things we can’t prevent but there’s much that we can much that involves whether people live out their lives in dignity or are ill dignified so she was always careful to distinguish between what she called the grief of things as they are and those things that we can in fact try to forestall and one of the remarkable features of her life it unfolded before me in reading about her works reading works that she read reading books about her was how much her life involved a search for form for appropriate sort of forms in and through which to channel enthusiasm whether it’s to find ways to give form to the play of children in the playground movement or it’s a way to help to shape a life so that it has some definition an individual life or for a whole society to find ways to channel its energies in constructive ways she’s very fond of metaphors of and that involve rivers and channels and water the chat channels are always flowing in her work and we have to find the right channel through which energies might flow we have to make sure that these energies flow between banks that we don’t sort of that they don’t flow out into a kind of formlessness this is very powerful imagery for her and one of the earliest images that she picked up on as a student at the Rockford seminary where she was in

school was the image of the woman as a bread giver her 1880 oration as the junior spokeswoman for the class of 1881 was entitled bread givers and she meant to expand the understanding of the notion of bread there’s the literal meaning of whole as she called it wholesome bread to one’s household the making of bread but there’s there’s a more expansive notion of bread that she believed one had to embrace of how to give nurturance in ways that are not in opposition to the usual ways that women proffered nurturance to their households but ways that might nurture social movements nurture social efforts and social energies might in fact helped to nurture eventually out complex plural multinational ah cracy so she’s she’s doing something that she did throughout her life which was very caning although she wasn’t doing it just for strategic reasons and that is to take very potent received imagery and to stretch its meaning and to expand the understanding of it so in her oration on bread givers actually in a letter to her one of her sisters that then became one of the themes of this oration she notes the change which has taken place over the last fifty years in the ambition and aspiration of woman and she defines it in this way the PAP is passing from the arts of pleasing to the development of her intellectual force and her capabilities for direct labour then she goes on to say don’t get me wrong we don’t we young women at Rockford seminary the new woman of the 19th century as she called her does not wish to be a man nor like a man but she claims the same right to independent thought an action the same right to independent thought and action and this is what she says to her Rockford classmates as young women of the 19th century she said we gladly claim privileges and opportunities we proudly assert our independence yet we retain the old ideal of womanhood and that old ideal is the woman whose mission it is to give bread unto the household so the question is how do you realize that mission in an expansive understanding of its meaning now of course you could read this ardent proclamation of the state the use of standard imagery is a kind of capitulation to receive notions but I think that would be a very anemic line of argument it seems to me better to think of what she’s doing as first of all this grasp that she had of our need for form and for potent icons and imagery and then the ways in which one can expand meaning of some of these potent terms in order to take account of new enthusiasms and new aspirations one of the commentators who I think is written well of her described her autobiography 20 years at Hull House as a masterpiece of balance searching again for a balance between unacceptable extremes whether it’s in the living out of an individual life or in the life of a whole society now in drawing attention to the life of the everyday to the challenges of the everyday to the tragedies of the everyday to the possibilities of the everyday she really puts us inside the world of immigrant Chicago when she find when she finally gets to Chicago we haven’t quite followed her there yet but she also helps to put us inside the complex life lives lived by men and women most of us most of the time are not engaged in doing something dramatic and something decisive we’re simply trying to get by we’re simply trying to to get through the day we’re trying to to be fair and balanced in our treatment of others we’re trying to respond to the call of duty and the various spheres in which we find ourselves and that was really what she understood and what she tried to capture in her work that search for balance that search for form now after her four years at the Rockford seminary drew to a close she of course faced the prospect that many of the educated young women and she was part of that first generation of educated college women faced which is where do I

go now what do I do now there were some fields that were open the mission field what she resisted even though she’d been rather heavily lobbied for that field women had taken over much of elementary and even secondary though to a lesser extent school teaching during the civil wars so school teaching was one area that was opened she wasn’t particularly interested in that so she was searching for what it is she was going to do and then as some of you surely know the bottom fell out of her life because her father a single most important figure in her life died suddenly at the age of 59 this is in August of 1881 she graduated in spring of that year of an inflamed appendix and that event really pitched her it’s a very complicated period of her life with lots of complex reasons for the malaise that she experienced she spent about eight years wandering and what she herself was to call the wilderness now there was a diagnosis that was offered for young women who fell into these periods of lassitude especially educated young women of the middle class and it was called neurasthenia and often what was prescribed for young women who were diagnosed as suffering from this particular ailment was bed rest which was absolutely the last thing as Jane Addams noted that they needed because the thing that they were suffering from was the lack of an outlet for their energies and yet they’re told they should you know drink lots of milk eat fruit take it easy rest all the time again exactly the opposite of the kind of advice that would have been most welcomed to her so she describes this this era that is epoch if you will in her own life with some rueful recognition later as a period when she shared with many other young women of her time a sort of fitful search for what might somehow be an appropriate outlet for their energies combating as they did along the way the well-meaning presume Blee advice of those who were counseling them – take it easy – to stay indoors not to be too active not to over tax themselves again just the opposite of what she needed to hear it was during this eight-year period she calls it her absolute nadir during this eight year period that she made to extensive trips to Europe and it was during the second of these trips to Europe although there were images that that hit her very powerfully on her first trip that she finally that the note the scheme as she called it for a whole house began to emerge she gives us a sense of some of the sights that she saw that helped to congeal this this is conviction that what she needed to do was to move into what she called a congested quarter in a city and the city was going to be Chicago chic invited confided this scheme to her her childhood friend and a traveling companion Ellen gates store she wanted to settle settlement house comes from the notion of of those who settle here’s an image of her another four very powerful images of the sights that she had seen when she was visiting London in November of 1883 desperate sites of poverty and misery of a sort that she had never seen before in the Whitechapel area and the city’s impoverished East End it’s a very famous vignette from her work I call it the story of pale hens at midnight and it’s this story that she tells us really helped to set her on her path she also it was familiar with the settlement house movement that had his origins in England she met with some of those folks let me give you another flavor of what she has to say a small party of tourists were taken to the East End by a city missionary to witness the Saturday night sale of decaying vegetables and fruit which owing to the Sunday laws in London could not be sold until Monday and as they were beyond safekeeping were disposed of at auction as late as possible on Saturday night on Mile End Road from the top of an omnibus which paused at the end of a dingy Street lighted only by occasional flares of gas we saw two huge masses of ill-clad people clamouring around to hucksters cards they were

bidding their farthest and hey pennies for a vegetable held up by the auctioneer which he at last scornfully flung with a jibe for its cheapness to the successful bidder and the momentary pause only one man detached himself from the groups he had bitten on a cabbage and when it struck his hand he instantly sat down on the curb tore it with his teeth and hastily devoured it unwashed and uncooked as it was he and his fellows were types of the submerged tents as our missionary guide told us was some little satisfaction in the then-new phrase and he further added that so many of them could scarcely be seen in one spot save at this Saturday night auction they were huddled in two ill-fitting cast-off clothing the ragged finery which one sees only in East London their pale faces were dominated by that most unlovely of human expressions the cunning and shrewdness of the bargain hunter who starves that he cannot make a successful trade and yet the final impression was not of ragged tawdry clothing North pinched and sallow faces but of myriads of hands empty pathetic nerveless and work worn showing white in the uncertain light of the street and clutching for word for food which was already unfit to eat perhaps nothing is so fraught with significance as the human hand this oldest tools which man has dug his way from savagery and with with which he is constantly groping forward I have never since been able to see a number of hands held upward even when they are moving rhythmically in a calisthenic exercise or when they belong to a class of chubby children who waved them an eager response to a teacher’s query without a certain revival of this memory a clutching at the heart reminiscent of the despair and resentment which seized me then so having this sight this sort of ghostly sight of pale hands at midnight she wonders what it is she should do can she act upon the dreadful lesson of that story or should she instead of hurt her gaze and spurn those myriads of grasping hands she walks through the London streets she tells us almost furtively afraid to look down narrow streets and alleys lest they just disclose again this hideous human need and suffering and she finds it strange that the world is going on as usual after you’ve seen a sight like that it’s odd you know the things just keep moving along should the world not pause and take notice she tells us that her comfort has been shattered that there’s been nothing in no blame nothing uplifting about this scene it’s an unlovely scene and she can’t erase it from her mind so the question is what obligation has she been put under having witnessed such a scene and it seems to me by implication she’s raising a question for all of us do we sometimes witness things that put us under an obligation are we somehow obliged if we’ve seen something do we simply over to our eyes or are we called upon to respond I remember a moment in my own life when I confronted something of that sort it was in 1982 I was in Buenos Aires Argentina I had been invited to give some lectures at a center there called the Center for the cultural study of women in society this was surely after the Falklands Malvinas war it was toward the end of a period of rule by three successive military hunters the Galtieri regime was still in power this is before the restoration of constitutional government and nobody told me about this I was simply out one day doing a bit of wandering and happened into this great sort of open Plaza in Buenos Aires called the Plaza de Mayo and I saw a group of women silently marching in a circle around an obelisk in the center of the plaza they wore white scarves around their heads and they wore around their necks I suppose one might call them necklaces of grief because the the chain of the necklace would culminate in a photo or

in photos of a child an adult child of infant or of children with a question where is where is with a name and these were the mothers of the disappeared las madres and on the back of these white scarves there was embroidery and the embroidery listed the disappearance date of the child or of the children or of the grand job that’s not a sight that one soon forgets this silent sort of movement in a circle of women in mourning but also engaged in political protest now where is demanding and accounting and it was really that the courage of las madres that helped to raise the human rights question in argentina that helped to bring down the hunter that helped to restore constitutional government and that helped to lead to a rather remarkable not a perfect accounting but a rather remarkable accounting abe’s of a commission on the disappeared a series of hearings stories being told one can never underestimate in these kinds of situations the importance to people that the child the children be remembered that their stories be told that they not simply be obliterated and much of the hearings of the problem of the desaparecidos and argentina had to do with just getting the stories down even if not everyone who was culpable would be caught and would be punished well what happens if you’re an outsider and you witnessed a scene like that it’s it’s it’s a complicated thing it seems to me you don’t want to simply make use of someone else’s grief to score some kind of point that you want to score in a political argument and yet in conversation with the mothers it was very clear that they were they wanted their stories to be told they wanted as many people as possible to know about what it is they had suffered and what was going on so then some very complicated questions arise if you’re a scholar if you do quite a bit of writing and you write for publications that aren’t just scholarly publications if you will how is that story to be told so the power of the individual narratives isn’t lost so that that so that the stories of this these particular lives isn’t obliterated by a heavy-handed sort of theoretical apparatus you will I think that this is the challenge that Jane Addams faced all the time she wasn’t a trained political theorist design but I think she faced that challenge all the time how do you keep the particular alive even as you’re gesturing towards some some more Universal claims and general truths she was absolutely insistent that you never lose the many if you will as you’re searching that each person who makes up the company of the many as you’re looking for how it is we can come together as a people as a polity hold something in common and create a way of life in common so that’s that’s an extraordinarily difficult challenge and she uses language that wouldn’t bump surprise you given her immersion in the whole social gospel effort given her her background her father was described himself to her as a Quaker as a hick slide Quaker to be precise the importance of bearing witness of making known what one has seen and if it is grief of things as they are then that’s part of the long underground stream of human life has lived but there are many griefs that come from things that ought not to be that ought to be challenged and not to be changed and that’s the challenge that she herself ongoingly ongoingly took up well Hull House is founded in September of 1889 and as I’m sure many of you know it it exploded in a good sense I mean it just the proliferation of activities is absolutely dizzying the first kindergarten you have reading classes you have a a working people social science club being set up to she said at one point Chicago is full of social theorists and they all want to come and debate these social issues you have art class you have art classes you have dance classes you’ve got I mean it’s just

extraordinary and you have a sense of this hubbub and this and this movement but one of the things that comes through so powerfully and it was the story that was told me by one of the women I interviewed who had grown up at Hull House she told me her she was from the Italian immigrant community and she and her mother both very active at Hull House and one day she had wandered in with her mother she was just five or six years old and Jane Addams was standing there and said I’m just going to take ki would you like to join me and that was the introduction why don’t you come have tea with me then the image of a home you know the powerful ambiance of a home where people are welcomed the doors are open Hospitality is proffered and what was going on inside Hall house was very much the a way to expand human possibility to lead to human flourishing Adams was very clear that Hall House was about creating citizens about making citizenship possible for people who came here bewildered not knowing the customs of this place not knowing the language how can they to become part of the American story without losing some of the particulars ifs and particular strengths that they bring with them that I daresay remains one of our remains one of our challenges she said the indeed the enduring question for every child is what will become of me what kind of person will I be what will become of me and Hall house was there in part to respond to that question and to make it possible for more expansive answers to that question to be brought forward there’s another gift that jane addams had and i realized that i’m only going to be able to scratch the surface and I want to leave plenty of room for your time for your questions another gift she had was a gift of listening listening very closely to the stories people were telling paying attention sometimes she herself said rapt attention when she heard especially she said the sort of piping voices of the of the old women who would wander in and who would be full of tales folkloric tales from their own cultural traditions and she wanted to think about the meaning of these stories she never just dismissed them as an old woman’s foolishness and let me just go over one very famous story it’s the story of the devil baby at hall house that she tells in a couple of places where we find Adams really playing the part of a cultural anthropologist of someone who listens and who interprets I probably won’t be able to get over I’ll go get through all of this let me give you a flavor of what she’s attempting here how it all began no one ever knew but a strange phenomenon was centered at Hall House that seemed to tap primordial myths about a power capable of transmuting present-day experience memories of these myths which coalesced into a fable into fable helped the immigrant poor to keep their moral world anchored even in the wretched situations in which so many of them lived Adams devotes two chapters in the long road of women’s memory to the devil baby phenomenon it is wonderful grist for her mill as it affords her a glimpse into the contagion of group emotion and the deeply felt need to make sense of things morally to be assured that things happen for a reason also on display is the saving grace of memory humanely transmuted and capable of sustaining the spirit even in the bleakest and most limiting circumstance the devil baby is also a story of old age specifically of old women who have been wrenched away from one culture and deposited in another who were never truly at home in the new world in which they had been compelled to make their way and in which they would one day die the devil babies story begins thus mrs Addams one day three Italian women with an excited rush through the door demanded that he the devil baby be shown to them no amount of denial convinced them that he was not there for they knew exactly what he was like with his cloven hoofs his pointed ears and diminutive tail the devil baby had moreover been able to speak as soon as he was born and

was most shockingly profane the three women were but the forerunners of a veritable multitude for six weeks from every part of the city and suburbs the streams of visitors do this mythical baby poured in all day long and so far into the night that the regular activities of the settlement were almost swamped so saying what is this about she goes on alright let me give you a sense of how she went on as Adams and the other residents were swept up into the mania they realized that different ethnic groups had particular variation on the devil baby tail and the Italian version which itself had a hundred variations she tells us the key protagonists were a pious Italian girl and her atheist husband who had torn a holy picture from the bedroom wall saying he would quite as soon have a devil in the house as such a thing whereupon the devil incarnated himself in her coming child when the devil baby was born he reproached his father and the father caught the thing and brought it to Hull house which is how Hall house was supposed to have it despite the terrible appearance of the devil baby the residents in a quest to say that soul took her to be baptized but it fled the holy water and was hiding somewhere about the premises the Jewish version features the father lamenting over his six daughters saying he would rather have a devil than another girl whereupon his perverse wish was granted Adams notes wryly I’m quoting save for a red automobile which occasionally figured in the story and a stray cigar which in some versions the newborn child had snatched from his father’s lips the tale might have been fashioned a thousand years ago well she goes on repeating different versions of the town says what is this about well it’s a moral fable it’s a fable about she decides that women told and burnished over the centuries to try to control the often lamentable behavior of men that there would be a price to pay if men behaved in ways that were impious if men drank too much especially if they decided that that was the occasion for sexual activity there’d be a price to be paid there are other ways she said in which this devil babies story shows an effort and unremitting effort she calls it at at family discipline a way to keep a sort of moral form of the the complex social relations intimate relations of the family alive and to try to hold at bay some of the worst forms of behavior so she spends a lot of time laying out all of these tales and says you know at first she was inclined to dismiss it and then she realized there’s an underlying rationale to these stories underlying fable it shows you what the political anthropologists cultural anthropologist James Scott might call the weapons of the weak what are the what are the sorts of myths the sorts of fables the sorts of stories that are told by those who have not been had the most power in order to try to shape the behavior of those who have more or Adam says the devil baby tail provided a direct causal link between wrongdoing and punishment that made sense and restored a shaken confidence as to the righteousness of the universe well let me move to the last twenty years of her her life again in the interest of time we have Hall houses this extraordinary success Jane Addams is lionized is the great woman of Chicago first and then the great woman of America and one of the great women of the world and then her public reputation plummets and some of you may know the reason for that collapse in her public reputation it was her opposition to American entry into the first world war this was a very complicated thing for her because most of her friends and allies in the progressive movement in fact went for the war support ported the war including John Dewey the journal the New Republic that she had herself written for that Dewey was one of the editors of as far as Adams was concerned World War one was an optional war it was a war the United States did not have to enter it was a war that she believed the United States should not enter and as you know the United States didn’t enter the war until several years after the war was underway the reasons given by Wilson when he finally said upon entering the war she believed were not very good reasons that the the view that the only way the United States could

play a major role in the peace settlement and perhaps redraw the map of Europe in such a way that an occasion for war would not arise again and and the US would lack that kind of bargaining power if the United States didn’t enter the war she thought was not a sufficient lay potent reason to embark upon the conflict she Abraham Lincoln was her great hero so and he was the great war leader as you well know so she clearly believed that there was at least one conflict the past that demanded a military response namely the the Civil War as I said her father had been an abolitionist a good friend of Lincoln’s and lionize Lincoln as well and she considered him the greatest person who had ever lived but World War one was a different story she was disinvited to places where she had once been invited she faced for the first time in her public career people booing and hissing at her presentations kind of chilly reception she was attacked in the press especially after she gave a speech at Carnegie Hall after having been to Europe a speech that was misinterpreted is that I’m saying that soldiers were cowards because she noted the fact and it’s a well-established fact by military historians that before the soldiers were sent over the top as it was called to face the withering fire as they went over the trenches then just like that the slaughter the mass slaughter of the Western Front that they were given large tots of rum if you were a British soldier they were given some other kind of liquor if you were a German soldier they were given absinthe for heaven’s sakes I mean if you’re a French soldier how you could go forward to battle after drinking absinthe I have no idea but at any rate they were so the soldiers knew that a battle was coming because their senses were somewhat deadened by the use of alcohol and can this is this is a standard story of traditional military history it’s one that still pertained in in World War one she told that story and it got translated as Jane Adams says soldiers are drunkard cowardly drunks basically and that led to a period in the Civic wilderness which was very very difficult for her she tried to avoid getting on a moral high horse about her own stance she understood why people might support the war and did support the war as she even questioned her own her own position as a part of her democratic thinking said if the vast majority of my fellow countrymen and women support this effort do I do right by standing apart from it standing aside so she challenged her own thinking on this many of her good friends broke with her very difficult period it took a while for her public reputation to be restored this period of time yielded some of her most powerful writing and I would simply commend the long road of women’s memory to you peace and bread in time of war some extraordinary stories the formation of the women’s peace party peace meetings of women from the combatant nations that The Hague tours at the front delegations of women going to the foreign ministers and the heads of the various nations involved in the struggle urging continuous arbitration and mediation of the dispute just an extraordinary thing the fact that they had entree to the corridors of power in this way and in the midst of the war could be making those kinds of claims is is quite a challenging tale to say the least it was during this period that she began to set up and her insistence that feminism and what she called militarism are in unalterable opposition to one another that what feminism must represent is the imperative to preserve life that militarism for her represents quite the opposite and here’s where she and in this discussion she talks about this powerful and profound imperative to preserve life she said for the woman that the child of my body might live and she offers the responses of some of the women that she talked to from the combatant countries who told her about their own anguish their anguish our considering themselves good citizens and patriots but the the tremendous sense of anguish they felt at losing a son in this in this fight sons who were themselves patriotic citizens who felt obliged to go and then face this horrific end to a young and

promising life let me read you one of the most famous passages that comes out of these reflections certainly the women in every country who are under a profound imperative to preserve human life have a right to regard this maternal impulse as important now as was the compelling instinct events by primitive women long ago when they made the first crude beginnings of society by refusing to share the vagrant life of man because they insisted upon a fixed abode in which they might cherish their children undoubtedly women were then told that the interests of the tribe the diminishing food supplied the honor of the chieftain demanded that they leave their particular caves and go out in the wind and weather without regard to the survival of their children but at the present moment the very names of the tribes and of the honors and the glories which they sought are forgotten while the basic fact that the mother has held the lives of their children above all else insisted upon stayin where the children had a chance to live and cultivated the earth for their food laid the foundations of an ordered society now that is really her those are really her own sentiments she puts them in these sentiments in the mouths of a prototypical woman educated woman responding to the challenge of the war whatever one thinks of her characterization of maternal impulse and so on and of course that’s something that would be highly controversial in this day and age I think what’s very interesting is that she traces the origins of human society not to the hunt and to the activities as were often told in some versions of of anthropology if you will and of early hominid history not the activities of male hunters but to the activities of women agriculturalists there were in fact some anthropological theories at the time that she was basing this on but she very much traces the origins of civilization in this essentially Pacific activity an activity that requires once again settling staying in a place tending to the crops tending to the children and this offers a powerful challenge to many of the received myths of human origins certainly that’s the case in the field of which I’m apart political theory where the beginnings of human political society were often traced from some men getting together and signing a social contract you know as if human beings spring full-blown from the head of John Locke know and and and nobody’s ever born and there and and nobody ever dies you just have this sort of timeless social contract that gets fine and keeps chugging on forever and forever so this challenge to many of the received ways of thinking about human origins remains a challenge to this day well I’m going to have to stop I think I’ve gone on already too long she died as I told you in 1935 all of Chicago mourned all of the country mourned the world mourn she had by then been the first woman honored with a Nobel Peace Prize 1931 and she shared the award with Nicholas Marie Butler let me simply read in conclusion a bit from a eulogy written at the time by walter Lippmann and that will be the end of my remarks she had compassion without condescension she had pity without retreat into vulgarity she had infinite sympathy for the common things without forgetfulness of those that are uncommon that I think is why those who have known her say that she was not only good but great for this blend of sympathy with distinction of common humanity with a noble’s is recognizable by those who have eyes to see it as the occasional but authentic issue of the mystic promise of American democracy thanks very much thanks for your patience the as you can tell the lecture is being taped by the book TV people and they’ve asked that you give the boom man I think that’s what you’re called right boom person enough time to get the mic to you when you’re asking your questions so that your question is captured I’ll let you just I do you want to call upon and then at some point we’ll call it we’ll call it a halt and in other words your questions going to be on c-span so not that that should be that you should find

that daunting but but that’s why these good folks are here tonight so whenever you indicate that you have a question one over here you’re supposed to stand up and wait for the boom mic to get to you so I enjoyed your talk it’s very interesting to look at Jane Addams and intellectual terms and the question I had is the complexity about her pacifism for example she declined to go on the Ford peace ship in 1915 secondly she opposed of course American entry into the war which you described and she says that French infantry were taking a Basim but it’s not clear that they were by the time she made the statement they may not have been taking Addison Fenn but they had been previously but then thirdly is she won the Nobel Peace Prize and that which is a Peace Prize but at the same time she also was given the order of Phoenix by the Greek government and the order Athena is a war prize unlike the Nobel Peace Prize because she had permitted Greek Americans on halsted street to do paramilitary training in the Hull House gymnasium in 1911 1912 and those same Greek Americans volunteered to go fight the Balkan wars against Turkey so how can this pacifist permit these Greek Americans to do paramilitary training in the gymnasium at the same time opposed American entry into World War one and she did accept the order of Phoenix which is a war price I think thank you for the question most people are not aware of the complexity of her pacifism is used to well put it you mentioned a number of moments if you will in the in in that story let’s start with a challenge of the the training of young men from the greek immigrant community paramilitary training we might now call it a kind of ROTC something like that that she she describes that to us and tells us notes it and indicates that she did it out of deference to that community given the importance of that identity for the young men of that community it was part of their tradition the ideal of the young man prepared to fight for his country was so much a part of the pride of that community that she believed it would be an insult if you will a blow to the Greek immigrant community if she didn’t permit that activity to go forward I think would be too much to say that she was enthusiastic about it and of course there’s something that that is in a sense rather removed from actual combat when people are doing exercises and are training and doing marches in smart uniforms that they actually went off to fight I think would be a source to her of considerable considerable sadness not so much because they had trained at Hull House but just because she lamented the loss of any young life and certainly lamented it in the loss of life in military struggles when she believed that there were other ways to deal with the real conflict she knew there were real conflicts and she opposed and this is her language he opposed what she called goody-goody pacifism she wanted a tough-minded pacifist some aware that there were real disputes between people’s in between countries but searching always for an another way to settle those disputes I mentioned her support for the Civil War retrospectively so to speak but her father had supported it she would certainly not go against him in that regard you mentioned one other what was you in another example oh yes the Ford peace ship the reason that she resisted going on the Ford patient this was Henry Ford’s plan shall we say a notion that he would basically hire a very big ship sail it to Europe onboard would be an T bore people and that within a matter of a few months with taking this group of folks that were determined to end the war over to Europe and and dealing with powerful folks that he believed could bring an end to the conflict that in fact an end could be brought and he promised in conclusion of the conflict very quickly Jane Addams had been slated to go on the Ford peace ship she fell ill before the journey she had periods of illness as I’m sure you many of you know that and was often beleaguered as far as her health in in the last couple of decades

of her life it seems a rather of a strategic moment for her to become hill needless to say because she she bullit she believed that she had to do it she committed herself to do but she also thought that it was it was a rather foolish mission in many ways so I think she was quite relieved to be spared that trip and she was in fact spending some time in recuperation from I think it was pneumonia so she had a reason for not going but she also just thought it wasn’t going to work and that you shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep and you shouldn’t make a noble cause seem faintly ridiculous and that was her worry about the Ford pshoo Sonia wait wait for the boom sort of to follow up a little bit on that question it’s my I’m sorry we call the Hicks I’d Quakers you’re quite a radical sect of Quakers so I wonder how her or her father if you notice how he rationalized his support for the Civil War and then a sort of related question well two questions did she consider herself to be a Quaker and also what were her views on race in America but she did she write about that um she she was curious as to what her father was because he didn’t talk about his religious background so she tells us in 20 years at Hull House that she puts the question to him at one point well what are we anyway and he says Quaker and she’s the whoa is there not more in effect he says Hicks eyed Quaker and that’s an into it at least that’s an end of the story it’s he did we do not she does not tell us that he went to Quaker Meeting we do know that he supported with contributions all of the Protestant churches in Cedarville because he thought they were all doing good works and he wasn’t particularly interested in theological and doctrinal matters she joined the Presbyterian Church as an adult and in her village and tells us that she didn’t believe that she should hold herself apart from an institution that was such a central feature of the little village in which she was born so her own adult denominational connection was to Presbyterianism she had early on decided that she was not religious in a doctrinal sense we have some of her her childhood letters she was a very earnest young woman and is grappling with these moral questions that at a young age and just pondering them and in some of her exchanges with some of her childhood friends including Ellen gates star she said I should very much like to believe in the divinity of Christ but I don’t think I do and then she wonders if she should fret about that very much and then she just finds she really doesn’t have to fret about that too much then she embarks on an experiment of not praying for a period of time and decides that she doesn’t feel any the worse for it so so she so her her religious connection is really as I mentioned the social gospel which was as you know the kind of social application of Christian belief and was very much an on or even anti doctrinal movement so it would it would be unreasonable to call her a deeply religious person she talks to time about the Christ spirit but that spirit was manifest in good work she’s very much a good works person and the second part of your question was raised and there she as you may know was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People she talks about race from time to time makes the it’s a comment that comes as close as any to approaching bitterness on her part in a description she this is I believe in the second 20 years in Oz where she talks about the fact that immigrants from the Mediterranean may in fact be of service in helping us with our own race problem because they are less race conscious than the anglo-saxon and she notes that there had been a lynching at one point that had involved some members of one of the immigrant communities I’m I hesitate to say which one at this point is I don’t want to get it wrong but one of the communities of the sort that she thought were someone in immunized to the whole issue of race and a friend of hers that remarked well they’re becoming more American and she

takes that as very very sorry commentary on the way the race issue plays itself out in American life so she was a she was very much aware of this issue I knew it was a problem she writes about it the women that I the women that I talked to had been children Halla has described their own classes if you will their activities as integrated there was a Mexican immigrant community there was a small African American contingent and this is as you know well before the the enormous sort of movement of African Americans from the American South to the north so the percentage of African Americans in the Chicago population was by comparison to what it later became very small so on that issue she certainly was what we would call forward-looking and and her many of her own memories fond memories of the the abolitionist commitments of her father on that on that issue here and then and I see your hand as well yeah yes point but I don’t know what else to do given the conditions of the day especially the terrible poverty on the one hand and the ostentatious wealth on the other I can well understand why do we became a socialist maybe today we would call him a social democrat I can understand why he became one but I don’t understand why she didn’t I can understand that perhaps she had those sympathies but it was prudent to keep them silent because I know that she relied upon very wealthy people in part to fund Hull House but she mentioned earlier that she was not not a socialist so I can he clarify what her position was on this the question is about her rejection of doctrinaire socialism she talks about socializing the American democracy by which she means realizing the latent capacities within the American democracy for a greater and more flourishing a Galit arianism but she believed that could not be a doctrinaire project and she’s very clear on that that her her objection to Marxism as the primary sort of theory of socialism was to the highly abstract and doctrinaire nature of it and to its commitment remember she’s a pragmatist and to the the requirement of a certain set of adherence to a certain set of unvarying dogmatic truths including the view that things are going to proceed from this stage to this stage of this stage sort of inevitably they even objects to the use of the language of class in a newspaper interview doesn’t like people talking about class warfare and class conflict because for her that starts to pit people against one another in relationships of enmity and makes it more difficult for them to see some possibilities for again her favorite amelioration and mitigation in a way that doesn’t involve destruction but might involve each you know each group seen some bit of truth in the position of the other so she is in that sense she has very profound and deep and enthusiastic commitments politically she is quintessentially very much a moderate on most issues certainly her method her method if you will was one of moderation she was a moderately if you will committed to the promises and the premises of the American democracy but she believed the only way to see those fleshed out and to see a full flourishing of those possibilities was through a process of amelioration and change to which people then could adjust commit themselves participate in feel that they were a part of and that it was something that hadn’t simply been foisted upon them she tells the rather amusing anecdote about one of the debates at one of the evenings at the working people’s social science club and and this is important in telling why it was she didn’t become a socialist even though she said that that they kept

telling her the only reason she didn’t was because she was caught in the coils of capitalism and she kept saying no I simply don’t agree with you it’s not but she tells the story of the kind of one-upmanship that’s involved on where one of the these very committed socialist men said well in the future socialist society everyone would have you know what we would now call free access to dental care or even if you had a toothache you’d be able to get it fixed right away and then someone else not to be outdone said no no it would be much better than that in the future socialist society there wouldn’t be any more toothache that would be gone so she tells this story with a you know wry sense of humor because she’s not a utopian she doesn’t think that you’re simply going to eliminate toothaches and a human grief attendant upon all kinds of ailments and so on and that we have to distinguish between the things that we can do something about and those that are just a part of life so her her rejection is a principled one not either there was certainly I mean she’s a canny politician in many ways so I’m not saying there’s no strategic considerations but it’s a principled rejection and she and she offers the priests in support offers up arguments for why even as she talks about socializing the American democracy and realizing its full social possibilities and social potential not again as socialism as a system imposed but realizing this is a Galit Aryan spirit that she saw as so much a part of the American motif if you will yes here okay I’d like to pick up on the same theme because as a political theorist I know you were interested in in framing her in relation to other but contemporary by a political thought and I was interested that your framing her in her opposition to doctrinaire socialism in Marxism but of course as you know in the contemporary world classical Marxism was one of only many threads of socialist thinking and I thought it was interesting that you didn’t connect her to Christian socialism and if you’re going to contrast her views to you know class struggle Marxism what about on the positive side her attitudes towards the empowerment of working people through their own self-organization and issues of the the role of the state as opposed to the market because I think in as you say trying to reinvigorate her thinking for the present I’m wondering how you frankly how you do that in relation to the sort of the dominant themes of say important contemporary instruments you know instruments of opinion like commentary and the Weekly Standard actually it’s incorrect I’ve never written anything for the weekly standard but not that I wouldn’t vast I mean if they as long as they let me say what I wanted to say but but I you know I I’m going to I’m not going to be baited in quite that way let me respond to to to the serious part of your question and that has to do with the issue of her views on let’s say her views on social change and on socially Galit arianism she didn’t like labels very much as you probably know because she worried about the way in which they hardened into orthodoxies and she wanted to be ongoingly open to whatever possibilities were imminent within a given moment and those possibilities could not be foretold exhaustively and decisively by any particular theory so she moved back and forth with some ease between positions that we would now tend to sort of locate in opposition to one another and she would take bits of what let’s say nowadays one would call kind of classical liberalism and bits of what we would now call perhaps a certain version of social conservatism with emphasis on the importance of family life what we might call communitarianism and she puts these all together in a kind of eclectic creative mix always alert to the cries

of injustice always alert to the claims that people rightly have for dignity and for in fusion are always aware of the ill dignities that get heaped upon people for reasons that are that have nothing to do whatever with merit or with what it is they have earned or not earned and I think that openness and that determination again never to lose any face in the crowd is such a potent and distinguishing mark of her career and her life and her thought and the way it all comes together is quite interesting and it defies the usual lines of demarcation so it’s unsurprising that some of the attacks on her have come from the left some of the attacks on earth come from the right because people pick up on bits you know in her right and say I wish she should have been a Marxist and she’s trying to prevent the emergence of the sort of class consciousness and the others say oh no she’s doing this other thing and I think that she must have be doing something right if she gets those kinds of criticisms from so many sides because it shows how she was alive to the real complexity of social situations and the real complexity of the lives people lived and to their own articulated aspirations she didn’t want to impose over people her own aspirations but wanted that’s why she paid so much attention to the stories that she heard what is it that people understand about their own situations what are their exigent felt needs how can the society most creatively respond to those and she believed in order to to do that you couldn’t be locked into a dogma of some sort now whole house was certainly open to all sorts of folks who came through Sidney and Beatrice Webb or famous fabian socialist w EBD boy a prince Kropotkin all sorts of people who espoused philosophies of a variety of sorts and she felt quite free and uninhibited in taking bits and pieces that she thought were important or helpful and responding to the concrete particulars of a situation I think it’s important to bear in mind that she was always alert to she called sort of lingering effects of the the the militarist way of doing things a militarism which she linked with a certain kind of rigidity and a certain sort of inflexibility and she believed that that that kind of attitude and that kind of and flexibility was not the purview of any single group or class but it could infect any group and any class and that you you shouldn’t look the other way if you see that arise in any place you need to sort of name it for what it is and figure out how to deal with it it’s very clear on which side her sympathies lie and in most she makes no bones about that and I think that her her her bravery and coming to the defense of attacked and beleaguered people when they’re being rounded up because they’re allegedly anarchists or really are anarchist preaching anarchism but they haven’t violated any law going to their defense and insisting on their that they be treated as the law and said they should be treated rather than as many people wanted to treat them she courted unpopularity all the time in doing that and in fact lost a good many supporters for for Hall House through her defense of of alleged Russian anarchists and others on a variety of new well-known and if he will notorious incidents so I think that she should you know we should not tax her with not being doctrinaire that it’s best to given that she’s devoted to a pragmatic method and approach that one needs to look at the concrete situations that she was responding to and then assess her response to those concrete situations and was were their possibilities latent in a situation that she perhaps didn’t see that might have moved things further along in a direction of making more social our democracy or not and I think those are the questions that seem to be most consistent with her own approach in her own method and don’t impose them prefabricated formula over her life which is something that I tried very hard not to not to do and to be open to variety and to that flexibility that was so much a hallmark of her own life I think we’ve probably run out of women if

not out of questions your patience and listening to me respond to them so I think you will very very much for coming and I know it’s a tribute to the interest that some of you have in Jane Addams and I hope that I have done her at least a measure of justice thank you all very much sure sure