Being St. Jane
Almost immediately, Jane Addams was adopted by the public as the patron saint of America’s settlement movement. She became a darling of the media, and while she objected to the way they constantly tried to find a religious motive for her work, she used them to spread the word of her activities.109 Jane and Ellen were the subjects of newspaper articles and magazine spreads, which brought her national attention, and in which she was depicted as “a selfless maiden who had sacrificed personal wealth and happiness to live and work among the poor.”110 This attention was a good thing, for her share of the Addams family fortune was exhausted in 1893.111
Although the press strained to assert that Addams herself was a Christian, much was made of the fact that Hull-House had no explicitly religious mission and therefore presumably had no agenda beyond community service… The journalistic insistence on depicting Addams as a disinterested, secular nun certainly made her activities appear less threatening to the Chicago establishment and undoubtedly gained her access to some of the city’s most powerful, wealthy families.112
In 1894, a strike was called by members of the American Railway Union against all train lines using Pullman cars. The strike was in response to the horrible living conditions in Pullman, Illinois, a factory town owned by George Pullman. Pullman controlled the rents and the prices in the town stores. Between May and December 1893, he had reduced wages five times, the last one amounting to an almost 30% reduction, without similarly reducing the cost of living in his town. This was despite the fact that the company had $25 million in assets and had paid a $2.5 million dividend in 1891.113
Jane was a member of the board of trustees of the Civic Federation of Chicago, and on their behalf she went to Pullman to attempt to act as arbitrator in the strike. She met with the men and women working there, toured homes of the members of the Pullman Relief Committee, and met with the vice president of the ARU. Unfortunately, Pullman would not negotiate, and it took the National Guard to end the strike.
In 1895, Jane wrote ”A Modern Lear,” in which she lambasted Pullman for his unreasonable stance and his willingness to let the workers suffer rather than give them any quarter. Writing on the Pullman Strike, Victoria Brown says “Addams was unique in the way she captured both the human drama and the abstract issues salient to the event, and Addams was unique in the sympathetic but independent position she staked out between the various players in the Pullman drama and amidst the numerous issues that drama brought to light.”114
On one of the occasions during which she delivered this speech, Jane attracted the attention of Louise de Koven Bowen, a member of Chicago society. Bowen became an ardent advocate of Hull-House, making generous donations to Jane’s projects. She funded the building of a theater, later named Bowen Hall for Hull-House’s little theater company. She and her husband held yearly charity balls for the donors of Hull-House. She was instrumental in the funding of the summer school programs at Rockford College which so many of Hull-House’s students attended. She became a trustee and treasurer of the Hull-House Association. She donated seventy-two acres of land in rural Waukegan as the Joseph T. Bowen Country Club, which served the Hull-House Association as a summer camp. In her book, Growing Up with a City, she writes
I often felt at this Hull-House club that not even in church did I ever get the inspiration or the desire for service, so much as when I was presiding at a meeting of the club and sat on the platform and looked down on faces of 800 or 900 women gathered together, all intensely in earnest and all most anxious perhaps to put over some project in which they were interested.115
However, as time passed, Jane fell out of favour with the society members who funded her work. Her work to mediate the 1905 teamster’s strike cost her some friends.116
“To most people of the upper classes, crowds of angry men in shabby clothes—no matter what their cause—were always wrong. No matter that they were workers driven to the wall by the practices of their employers. No matter that their families were hungry. No matter that they were infuriated by wage reductions while profits were rising.”117
One major blow occurred in 1901, when she was involved in some side issues involving the assassination of President McKinley by a self-proclaimed anarchist who had immigrated from Russia. Another Russian immigrant and publisher of an anarchist newspaper was jailed for the flimsiest of associations with the assassin. Jane’s work on behalf of this man, combined with the fact that he had once been seen at Hull-House offered journalists sufficient evidence that she was a radical and possible anarchist herself.118
In 1902, John Altgeld, no longer governor, died. He was beloved by the working class people whom he had aided with the support and instruction of many Hull-House residents. Fifty thousand of them paraded past the bier where he lay in state at the Chicago Public Library. Of course, the industrialists who objected to his Work and Factory Law and other legislation that benefited the poor at their expense, still despised him. Only three people spoke at his funeral: the minister; his law partner, Clarence Darrow; and Jane.119
Throughout the rest of her life, Jane was at times beloved and at times reviled in popular opinion. In 1909 she was elected the first female president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections. She also helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, which lost her friends in some quarters.
In 1912, she helped presidential candidate Teddy Roosevelt formulate his platform. She also stood up in the Chicago Coliseum at the Progressive Party National Convention to second his nomination. It was later estimated that she won him one million votes herself, although she self-effacingly denied it.120
In working closely with immigrants from many nations, Jane began to see the stupidity of international conflicts. She helped to found to peace organisations, the Woman’s Peace Party in 1915, of which she was named the first chairwoman, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919, of which she was president until 1929. However, as a result of her absolute opposition to World War I, she was expelled from the DAR.121 Further, for her concern for the welfare of children regardless of their nationality, she was placed under surveillance by the Department of Justice. She was also included in the 1920 Lusk report, which sought to link women’s and peace organisations with “communism, socialism, and bolshevism.”122
In 1920, Jane helped to found the ACLU.123
Every year from 1920 on she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1930, she was became the first American woman to win that award. She shared the prize with Nicholas Murray Butler, a conservative internationalist. By that time, however, she was ill, and was too sick to attend the ceremonies in Oslo. She gave the money to the WILPF and the unemployed in Hull-House’s neighbourhood.124, 125
In 1935, while visiting Louise Bowen, Jane fell ill. She had been suffering from cancer for some time, but her time had finally run out. She died in hospital on 21 May with Dr. Alice Hamilton at her side.126 She is buried in Cedarville.
109. Faderman, Lillian. “Social Housekeeping: The Inspiration of Jane Addams.” To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America—A History. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. p. 125.
110. Brown, Victoria. “Advocate for Democracy: Jane Addams and the Pullman Strike.” The Pullman Strike and the Crisis of the 1890s: Essays on Labor and Politics. Richard Schneirov, Shelton Stromquist, and Nick Salvatore, ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999. p. 130.
111. Faderman, Lillian. p. 128.
112. Brown, Victoria. p. 131.
113. Bettman, Otto L. The Good Old Days—They Were Terrible! New York: Random House. 1974. p. 82.
114. Brown, Victoria. pp. 137-138.
115. Bowen, Louise de Koven. Growing Up with a City. New York: Macmillan Company, 1926. p. 85.
116. Reynolds, Moira Davidson. Women Champions of Human Rights: Eleven U.S. Leaders of the Twentieth Century. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1991. p. 13.
117. Bettman, Otto L. p. 82.
118. Meigs, Cornelia. Jane Addams: Pioneer for Social Justice. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1970. 162-164.
119. Meigs, Cornelia. p. 174-175.
120. idem. p. 207-208.
121. “Jane Addams.” Women in History. http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/adda_jan.htm (online 15 May 2001).
122. Hassencahl, Fran. “Jane Addams.” Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Biocritical Sourcebook. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell (ed.). Westport, CT; London: Greenwood Press, 1993. p. 1.
123. Reynolds, Moira Davidson. p. 14.
124. Hassencahl, Fran. p. 1.
125. Shepler, John. “Jane Addams, Mother of Social Work.” A Positive Light. http://www.execpc.com/~shepler/janeaddams.html. (online 7 May 2001).
126. Meigs, Cornelia. pp. 260-261.