Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jane Addams and the Progressive Woman

I. Her Early Life

A. Birth--Jane Addams was born September 6, 1860, in Cedarville, Illinois

B. Mother-- Sarah Weber Addams, born 1817. Sarah's  father, Col. George Weber, owned a successful milling business in Kriedersville, Pennsylvania.

C. Father--John Huy Addams, born in 1822 near Reading, Pennsylvania, to Samuel and Catherine Huy Addams.

1. 7th of 10 children, 3rd son.

2. Apprenticed to Evan Reiff, a flour miller, at the age of 18. Reiff's mill was located in Ambler, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia

3. Married Sarah Weber in the summer of 1844. After a honeymoon stop in Niagara Falls, the couple continued west to Illinois. John Addams had received a $4000 loan from his father (approximately $90,000 in today's money) to establish a mill to provide for himself and his family. After months of scouting locations, Addams chose to buy a mill that he refurbished  in Cedarville. To pay off this loan, Addams dedicated himself to long hours of work.

4. Raising a Family--John and Sarah Addams had eight children together (only four lived into adulthood, however), with Jane the youngest. Sarah Addams died during her ninth pregnancy, suffering undiagnosed internal bleeding after a fall, when Jane was only two. Jane Addams became extremely close to her father as a result, and he in turn doted on her. John Addams remarried Anna Haldeman when Jane was eight (and as his eldest daughter, Mary, who had born the major responsibility for the day-to-day care of young Jane, left home after her marriage). Anna Haldeman brought two sons of her own to the marriage, Harry and George. The younger of the two boys, George, was Jane's age.

II. The Rockford Seminary-was established in 1847 in Rockford, Illinois, as the female school companion for Beloit College, across the Illinois-Wisconsin border in Beloit, Wisconsin

A. Missionary Purpose--The purpose of Rockford Seminary, in the eyes of founder Anne Sill, was to turn out educated female missionaries; the only way open to achieving this when the school was founded, however, was to turn out educated wives of missionaries.

B. The Addams/Sill Relationship--Jane Addams chafed against the restrictions placed on students at Rockford Seminary, and at times her relationship with Sill was quite frosty. Sill saw in Addams a means to achieve her ultimate goal, and worked very hard at keeping her at the school--eventually offering Addams the first baccalaureate degree that Rockford granted.

III. The Loss of Her Father

A. Death of John Addams

1. Loss of her champion--John Addams respected his daughter's intelligence, and did much to foster its growth and development. Despite his rather conservative politics, he did not hesitate to provide Jane with the means to grow intellectually; his death meant that she no longer had his assurance that she could accomplish what she desired.

IV. The Family Claim

A. Anne Hardeman Addams--as the widow of John Addams, Anne now placed an emotional claim on Jane  to provided care and companionship for her.

1. Demanding personality--Anne's demanding and emotional personality (she was not on speaking terms with her eldest son at the time of the death of her husband because she was disappointed with his drinking habits) was in direct contrast to the personality of Jane's father.

2. Jane Addams Family Mediator--Jane returned to her former role in the family as the mediator of conflicts. It was she who prevailed upon her siblings and step-siblings to remain in contact with  "Ma."

3. Jane Addams Dutiful Daughter--Jane felt--had--an obligation as the unmarried daughter to care for her stepmother. This obligation was re-iterated by her stepmother on a number of occasions. In order  to accomplish this task, the unmarried daughter would be expected to sacrifice whatever plans she had for her own life in order to care for her aged parent.

B. Jane Addams Physical Debility--Jane suffered from Pott's Disease (like Theodore Roosevelt's older sister Anne), which left her with a slight curvature of the spine, and the life-long affliction of sciatica.

1. Marquette vacation--The reason the Addams family was in Marqette, Michigan, where John Addams was afflicted with appendicitis, was to allow Jane Addams time to regain her health.

2. Women's Medical College--enrollment was occasioned by the move in the fall of 1881to Philadelphia by her stepmother, rather than a burning desire on Jane's  part to become a doctor. In fact, the seven months in medical school proved to Jane that she had no interest in becoming a doctor.

3. George Hardeman's Romantic Interest--Jane largely avoided contact with George, her stepbrother, to avoid any intimation of romance,  despite what family legend on this matter might imply (which was largely that George pursued Jane, but that interest was not reciprocated).

4. Stay With Harry and Alice Hardeman--Jane's sciatica remained quite painful, and she was persuaded to go live in Iowa with her sister and step-brother,  where Harry would provide her with treatment. The treatment necessitated months of recover, where Jane was obligated to remain flat on her back.

5. Weber Addams'  Mental Illness--Jane's older brother suffered from mental illness, and in the spring of 1883 had  a manic episode so severe that he was institutionalized. With the assistance of a lawyer, Jane helped Weber's wife put the family's financial situation back in order.

C. Deepening Friendship with Ellen Starr

1. Faith--the continuing crises Jane experienced prompted her to change her mind on the issue of Jesus Christ; Ellen Starr's own belief in his divinity meant that Jane felt she could turn to an intellectual equal in this matter, and could therefore feel more at ease about "returning to the flock" of Christianity.

D. Rockford Seminary Address (1883)

1. End of the Sill Era--Anna Peck Sill prevailed upon Jane Addams in the spring of 1883 to attend an upcoming  board meeting, and to give a commencement address. The board was pressuring Sill to retire, and she wanted Jane to speak to them on  her behalf.

2. "To the Uncomfortableness of Tranisition"--speaking to the graduates and board members,  Jane focused her remarks on the transition of the school from its previous status to this new  collegiate status--but these remarks  also reflected her own trials and and frustrations as she attempted to find her way to a productive adulthood.

E. Jane Addams' Grand Tour--began in the fall of 1883.

V. Making Partners

A. Ellen Gates Starr--joined Jane Adams in this venture without ever having visited Toynbee Hall--the only settlement house model in existence.

1. Working-class background--Starr came from a working-class family, and her father's anti-capitalist beliefs  undoubtedly influence her own thinking on this matter. Her lack of deference toward the "well-born" was one of the things that attracted Addams to her--but this  also limited Starr's helpfulness in recruiting benefactors for the Hull House programs, and eventually this became one of the factors in severing their intimate personal relationship.

2. Starr's role--She provided the emotional support that Addams needed to break the family bond that had held her in Cedarville and as her stepmother's companion.

a. Lesbians?--Depends upon how that word is defined. If we use it to refer to women who sought the company of other women over the company of men, and developed deep romantic attachments with other women,  then yes Addams and Starr were lesbians. If we define the word as referring only to women who sought genital contact with other women--that  we really have no evidence of this between Addams and Starr, so we can draw no conclusions.  What we do no is that none of the people they came into contact with--including other residents of Hull House--saw nothing out of the ordinary in the relationship between the two women.

3. Starr's Financial Position--Starr did not have the money that Addams did; in fact, Starr gave up her livelihood, teaching, in order to co-found Hull House with Addams, and then had to hustle jobs to make ends meet,  since neither woman drew a salary.

4. Pleasing Addams--While Starr made many important contributions to the early success of Hull House, her anxiety over pleasing Addams on a personal level, and the personal drama led to a cooling of the personal relationship.

B. Helen Culver--inherited her uncle Charles Hull's home on  South Halstead, along with most of the property in the block the house occupied--as well as more than 220 other lots in the city.

1. Business woman--while Culver inherited a great deal of wealth from her uncle, but her management of that wealth increased it.

2. Less-than-willing philanthropist--Addams and Starr persuaded Culver to rent half of the house to them; within four years the settlement had expanded to the rest of the house and much of the block that surrounded  it--rent free.

C. Creating Female Space--Hull House was not exclusively female space, but the space created had a definite feminine touch. Much of the early attention garnered in the early was for the "feminine touches" around the house--the furnishings, the art work, etc.

VI. Leading--and Learning

A. Initial Purpose--Addams and Starr both initially visualized the settlement house mainly benefiting the residents of the house, who would find uses for their lives.

B. Neighborhood--the 19th Ward was an idyllic suburb when Charles Hull  built his home, but by the late 1880s it was an extremely impoverished neighborhood. It was home to a large population of recent Italian immigrants, with a smattering of other immigrants, as well.

1. "Dirty Dagoes"--these immigrants had a reputation in Chicago for being unsanitary--unwashed, smelling bad, lazy, etc. What was overlooked was the fact that most of the homes these people lived in lacked running water, so there was no place to bath or to wash.

2. "Introducing hygiene"--one of the first things that Addams and Starr did was to open their bathrooms to their neighbors for their use, and to provide the women of the neighborhood with facilities to wash clothes. Eventually, Addams convinced the city of Chicago to open a bathhouse in the  neighborhood.

C. Learning from their neighbors--while Addams initially thought that the poor people of the neighborhood would learn from exposure to the residents living in the settlement house. What quickly became apparent to the women, however, was that the immigrant neighbors had much knowledge of their own to impart.

1. Immigrant aspirations--Addams and Starr quickly learned that many of their immigrant neighbors arrived in the United States with skills that they were not allowed to use (many were doctors, lawyers, and other professionals),  despite popular perceptions that these people were unskilled.

VII. Summer 1894

A. Pullman Strike--the ongoing railroad strike tied up rail traffic in the western part of the country.

B. Mary Addams Linn--Jane's eldest sister was gravely ill during this summer, and separated temporarily from her husband, who had just taken on a new pastorate. Because of the strike, he did not make it back to Mary before she passed on.

C.  Care of the "Linnettes"--in her will, sister Mary left the care of her minor children--Esther, age 14 and Stanley, age 11--to the care of her sister Jane, rather than to her husband. Stanley is a bit of a sickly child, so this gave Jane extra incentive to take care of the garbage problem that had been festering in the  neighborhood since Hull House was established.

VIII. The Garbage Problem

A. Population density--the fact that people were closely confined in poorer neighborhoods, combined with the fact that they received inadequate city services, and lived in neglected properties, contributed to this problem.

B. Chicago Politics--while the mayor was not without a great deal of power, most power lay in the hands of ward aldermen in Chicago.

1. John Powers--"Johnny da Pow" was alderman of the 19th Ward from 1888 to 1927.  Powers was a saloon keeper  in Bridgeport (the  home of the Dailey clan--Richard J. and  Richard  M, the current mayor of Chicago).

a. Each ward had two aldermen; the most infamous were the aldermen for the First Ward--"Hinky-Dink" Kenna and "Bathhouse John" Coughlin, who got a cut from most all the vice that occurred in the First Ward  fiefdom.

2. Reformers--mayoral candidates regularly ran in Chicago promising to "clean-up" municipal politics--but their subordination to city council really prevented reform from taking place.

3. Appointment as Garbage Inspector--Addams did not place a great deal of  emphasis on the  cleanliness of the neighborhood until she took on the responsibility of raising here sister Mary's children.

a.  Rejected bid--Addams  and her Hull House team made a careful study of the situation,  and then submitted a bid to be given the position. Her bid was rejected on a technicality, but Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, Jr., gave her the position, anyway--despite the protest from the aldermen, who did not want to see the $1,000 the appointee received go outside their political machine.

C. On the job--Addams and another Hull House resident rode around the neighborhood to ensure the firm they contracted actually did the work they were being paid to do.

1. Animal carcasses--the two women also made sure that animal carcasses were disposed of.

2. Hull House incinerator--was installed, and neighbors were encouraged to bring some of their garbage to the incinerator; later in the 20th century, this became a major means of disposing of garbage

D.  Civil Service--The State of Illinois made these garbage inspector positions Civil Service protected; this later leads to  Addams losing her position, when an alderman proposed that the position become a city civil service position--which by law meant that women could not hold the position.

Conclusion. The initial idea behind the Hull House settlement was to assist those people in the neighborhood in leading better lives--by having an example of upstanding white Protestants in their midst, the immigrant Roman Catholic and Jews would be able to see how "real" Americans lived their lives, and then follow that example. What Addams and the residents of Hull House quickly found  out, however,  was that they had much to learn from their neighbors.

What else became readily apparent to  the residents of Hull House was that although many of their neighbors were very poor, they were not without intelligence and culture--indeed, these recent immigrants from Europe were much more cognizant with European culture than many wealthy native Americans.

Addams also discovered that many of the Hull House neighbors did not need to be "Americanized," but rather when given the opportunity they were more than willing to take classes about American government and a willingness to learn English. But Addams  also came to the realization that this rush to "Americanize" led many of the offspring of these immigrants to reject their parent's cultural practices.

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