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Twenty Years At Hull House by Jane Addams

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and the assumption that the sheltered, educated girl has nothing
to do with the bitter poverty and the social maladjustment which
is all about her, and which, after all, cannot be concealed, for
it breaks through poetry and literature in a burning tide which
overwhelms her; it peers at her in the form of heavy-laden market
women and underpaid street laborers, gibing her with a sense of
her uselessness.

I recall one snowy morning in Saxe-Coburg, looking from the window
of our little hotel upon the town square, that we saw crossing and
recrossing it a single file of women with semicircular, heavy,
wooden tanks fastened upon their backs. They were carrying in this
primitive fashion to a remote cooling room these tanks filled with
a hot brew incident to one stage of beer making. The women were
bent forward, not only under the weight which they were bearing,
but because the tanks were so high that it would have been
impossible for them to have lifted their heads. Their faces and
hands, reddened in the cold morning air, showed clearly the white
scars where they had previously been scalded by the hot stuff which
splashed if they stumbled ever so little on their way. Stung into
action by one of those sudden indignations against cruel conditions
which at times fill the young with unexpected energy, I found
myself across the square, in company with mine host, interviewing
the phlegmatic owner of the brewery who received us with
exasperating indifference, or rather received me, for the innkeeper
mysteriously slunk away as soon as the great magnate of the town
began to speak. I went back to a breakfast for which I had lost my
appetite, as I had for Gray's "Life of Prince Albert" and his
wonderful tutor, Baron Stockmar, which I had been reading late the
night before. The book had lost its fascination; how could a good
man, feeling so keenly his obligation "to make princely the mind of
his prince," ignore such conditions of life for the multitude of
humble, hard-working folk. We were spending two months in Dresden
that winter, given over to much reading of "The History of Art" and
after such an experience I would invariably suffer a moral
revulsion against this feverish search after culture. It was
doubtless in such moods that I founded my admiration for Albrecht
Durer, taking his wonderful pictures, however, in the most
unorthodox manner, merely as human documents. I was chiefly
appealed to by his unwillingness to lend himself to a smooth and
cultivated view of life, by his determination to record its
frustrations and even the hideous forms which darken the day for
our human imagination and to ignore no human complications. I
believed that his canvases intimated the coming religious and
social changes of the Reformation and the peasants' wars, that they
were surcharged with pity for the downtrodden, that his sad
knights, gravely standing guard, were longing to avert that
shedding of blood which is sure to occur when men forget how
complicated life is and insist upon reducing it to logical dogmas.

The largest sum of money that I ever ventured to spend in Europe
was for an engraving of his "St. Hubert," the background of which
was said to be from an original Durer plate. There is little
doubt, I am afraid, that the background as well as the figures
"were put in at a later date," but the purchase at least
registered the high-water mark of my enthusiasm.

The wonder and beauty of Italy later brought healing and some
relief to the paralyzing sense of the futility of all artistic
and intellectual effort when disconnected from the ultimate test
of the conduct it inspired. The serene and soothing touch of
history also aroused old enthusiasms, although some of their
manifestations were such as one smiles over more easily in
retrospection than at the moment. I fancy that it was no smiling
matter to several people in our party, whom I induced to walk for
three miles in the hot sunshine beating down upon the Roman
Campagna, that we might enter the Eternal City on foot through
the Porta del Popolo, as pilgrims had done for centuries. To be
sure, we had really entered Rome the night before, but the
railroad station and the hotel might have been anywhere else, and
we had been driven beyond the walls after breakfast and stranded
at the very spot where the pilgrims always said "Ecco Roma," as
they caught the first glimpse of St. Peter's dome. This
melodramatic entrance into Rome, or rather pretended entrance,
was the prelude to days of enchantment, and I returned to Europe
two years later in order to spend a winter there and to carry out
a great desire to systematically study the Catacombs. In spite of
my distrust of "advantages" I was apparently not yet so cured but
that I wanted more of them.

The two years which elapsed before I again found myself in Europe
brought their inevitable changes. Family arrangements had so
come about that I had spent three or four months of each of the
intervening winters in Baltimore, where I seemed to have reached
the nadir of my nervous depression and sense of maladjustment, in
spite of my interest in the fascinating lectures given there by
Lanciani of Rome, and a definite course of reading under the
guidance of a Johns Hopkins lecturer upon the United Italy
movement. In the latter I naturally encountered the influence of
Mazzini, which was a source of great comfort to me, although
perhaps I went too suddenly from a contemplation of his wonderful
ethical and philosophical appeal to the workingmen of Italy,
directly to the lecture rooms at Johns Hopkins University, for I
was certainly much disillusioned at this time as to the effect of
intellectual pursuits upon moral development.

The summers were spent in the old home in northern Illinois, and
one Sunday morning I received the rite of baptism and became a
member of the Presbyterian church in the village. At this time
there was certainly no outside pressure pushing me towards such a
decision, and at twenty-five one does not ordinarily take such a
step from a mere desire to conform. While I was not conscious of
any emotional "conversion," I took upon myself the outward
expressions of the religious life with all humility and
sincerity. It was doubtless true that I was

"Weary of myself and sick of asking
What I am and what I ought to be,"

and that various cherished safeguards and claims to
self-dependence had been broken into by many piteous failures.
But certainly I had been brought to the conclusion that
"sincerely to give up one's conceit or hope of being good in
one's own right is the only door to the Universe's deeper
reaches." Perhaps the young clergyman recognized this as the test
of the Christian temper, at any rate he required little assent to
dogma or miracle, and assured me that while both the ministry and
the officers of his church were obliged to subscribe to doctrines
of well-known severity, the faith required to the laity was
almost early Christian in its simplicity. I was conscious of no
change from my childish acceptance of the teachings of the
Gospels, but at this moment something persuasive within made me
long for an outward symbol of fellowship, some bond of peace,
some blessed spot where unity of spirit might claim right of way
over all differences. There was also growing within me an almost
passionate devotion to the ideals of democracy, and when in all
history had these ideals been so thrillingly expressed as when
the faith of the fisherman and the slave had been boldly opposed
to the accepted moral belief that the well-being of a privileged
few might justly be built upon the ignorance and sacrifice of the
many? Who was I, with my dreams of universal fellowship, that I
did not identify myself with the institutional statement of this
belief, as it stood in the little village in which I was born,
and without which testimony in each remote hamlet of Christendom
it would be so easy for the world to slip back into the doctrines
of selection and aristocracy?

In one of the intervening summers between these European journeys
I visited a western state where I had formerly invested a sum of
money in mortgages. I was much horrified by the wretched
conditions among the farmers, which had resulted from a long
period of drought, and one forlorn picture was fairly burned into
my mind. A number of starved hogs--collateral for a promissory
note--were huddled into an open pen. Their backs were humped in a
curious, camel-like fashion, and they were devouring one of their
own number, the latest victim of absolute starvation or possibly
merely the one least able to defend himself against their
voracious hunger. The farmer's wife looked on indifferently, a
picture of despair as she stood in the door of the bare, crude
house, and the two children behind her, whom she vainly tried to
keep out of sight, continually thrust forward their faces almost
covered by masses of coarse, sunburned hair, and their little bare
feet so black, so hard, the great cracks so filled with dust that
they looked like flattened hoofs. The children could not be
compared to anything so joyous as satyrs, although they appeared
but half-human. It seemed to me quite impossible to receive
interest from mortgages placed upon farms which might at any
season be reduced to such conditions, and with great inconvenience
to my agent and doubtless with hardship to the farmers, as
speedily as possible I withdrew all my investment. But something
had to be done with the money, and in my reaction against unseen
horrors I bought a farm near my native village and also a flock of
innocent-looking sheep. My partner in the enterprise had not
chosen the shepherd's lot as a permanent occupation, but hoped to
speedily finish his college course upon half the proceeds of our
venture. This pastoral enterprise still seems to me to have been
essentially sound, both economically and morally, but perhaps one
partner depended too much upon the impeccability of her motives
and the other found himself too preoccupied with study to know
that it is not a real kindness to bed a sheepfold with straw, for
certainly the venture ended in a spectacle scarcely less harrowing
than the memory it was designed to obliterate. At least the sight
of two hundred sheep with four rotting hoofs each, was not
reassuring to one whose conscience craved economic peace. A
fortunate series of sales of mutton, wool, and farm enabled the
partners to end the enterprise without loss, and they passed on,
one to college and the other to Europe, if not wiser, certainly
sadder for the experience.

It was during this second journey to Europe that I attended a
meeting of the London match girls who were on strike and who met
daily under the leadership of well-known labor men of London. The
low wages that were reported at the meetings, the phossy jaw
which was described and occasionally exhibited, the appearance of
the girls themselves I did not, curiously enough, in any wise
connect with what was called the labor movement, nor did I
understand the efforts of the London trades-unionists, concerning
whom I held the vaguest notions. But of course this impression
of human misery was added to the others which were already making
me so wretched. I think that up to this time I was still filled
with the sense which Wells describes in one of his young
characters, that somewhere in Church or State are a body of
authoritative people who will put things to rights as soon as
they really know what is wrong. Such a young person persistently
believes that behind all suffering, behind sin and want, must lie
redeeming magnanimity. He may imagine the world to be tragic and
terrible, but it never for an instant occurs to him that it may
be contemptible or squalid or self-seeking. Apparently I looked
upon the efforts of the trades-unionists as I did upon those of
Frederic Harrison and the Positivists whom I heard the next
Sunday in Newton Hall, as a manifestation of "loyalty to
humanity" and an attempt to aid in its progress. I was
enormously interested in the Positivists during these European
years; I imagined that their philosophical conception of man's
religious development might include all expressions of that for
which so many ages of men have struggled and aspired. I vaguely
hoped for this universal comity when I stood in Stonehenge, on
the Acropolis in Athens, or in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
But never did I so desire it as in the cathedrals of Winchester,
Notre Dame, Amiens. One winter's day I traveled from Munich to
Ulm because I imagined from what the art books said that the
cathedral hoarded a medieval statement of the Positivists' final
synthesis, prefiguring their conception of a "Supreme Humanity."

In this I was not altogether disappointed. The religious history
carved on the choir stalls at Ulm contained Greek philosophers as
well as Hebrew prophets, and among the disciples and saints stood
the discoverer of music and a builder of pagan temples. Even then
I was startled, forgetting for the moment the religious revolutions
of south Germany, to catch sight of a window showing Luther as
he affixed his thesis on the door at Wittenberg, the picture
shining clear in the midst of the older glass of saint and symbol.

My smug notebook states that all this was an admission that "the
saints but embodied fine action," and it proceeds at some length
to set forth my hope for a "cathedral of humanity," which should
be "capacious enough to house a fellowship of common purpose,"
and which should be "beautiful enough to persuade men to hold
fast to the vision of human solidarity." It is quite impossible
for me to reproduce this experience at Ulm unless I quote pages
more from the notebook in which I seem to have written half the
night, in a fever of composition cast in ill-digested phrases
from Comte. It doubtless reflected also something of the faith
of the Old Catholics, a charming group of whom I had recently met
in Stuttgart, and the same mood is easily traced in my early
hopes for the Settlement that it should unite in the fellowship
of the deed those of widely differing religious beliefs.

The beginning of 1887 found our little party of three in very
picturesque lodgings in Rome, and settled into a certain
student's routine. But my study of the Catacombs was brought to
an abrupt end in a fortnight by a severe attack of sciatic
rheumatism, which kept me in Rome with a trained nurse during
many weeks, and later sent me to the Riviera to lead an invalid's
life once more. Although my Catacomb lore thus remained
hopelessly superficial, it seemed to me a sufficient basis for a
course of six lectures which I timidly offered to a Deaconess's
Training School during my first winter in Chicago, upon the
simple ground that this early interpretation of Christianity is
the one which should be presented to the poor, urging that the
primitive church was composed of the poor and that it was they
who took the wonderful news to the more prosperous Romans. The
open-minded head of the school gladly accepted the lectures,
arranging that the course should be given each spring to her
graduating class of Home and Foreign Missionaries, and at the end
of the third year she invited me to become one of the trustees of
the school. I accepted and attended one meeting of the board,
but never another, because some of the older members objected to
my membership on the ground that "no religious instruction was
given at Hull-House." I remember my sympathy for the
embarrassment in which the head of the school was placed, but if
I needed comfort, a bit of it came to me on my way home from the
trustees' meeting when an Italian laborer paid my street-car
fare, according to the custom of our simpler neighbors. Upon my
inquiry of the conductor as to whom I was indebted for the little
courtesy, he replied roughly enough, "I cannot tell one dago from
another when they are in a gang, but sure, any one of them would
do it for you as quick as they would for the Sisters."

It is hard to tell just when the very simple plan which afterward
developed into the Settlement began to form itself in my mind. It
may have been even before I went to Europe for the second time,
but I gradually became convinced that it would be a good thing to
rent a house in a part of the city where many primitive and
actual needs are found, in which young women who had been given
over too exclusively to study might restore a balance of activity
along traditional lines and learn of life from life itself; where
they might try out some of the things they had been taught and
put truth to "the ultimate test of the conduct it dictates or
inspires." I do not remember to have mentioned this plan to
anyone until we reached Madrid in April, 1888.

We had been to see a bull fight rendered in the most magnificent
Spanish style, where greatly to my surprise and horror, I found
that I had seen, with comparative indifference, five bulls and
many more horses killed. The sense that this was the last
survival of all the glories of the amphitheater, the illusion
that the riders on the caparisoned horses might have been knights
of a tournament, or the matadore a slightly armed gladiator
facing his martyrdom, and all the rest of the obscure yet vivid
associations of an historic survival, had carried me beyond the
endurance of any of the rest of the party. I finally met them in
the foyer, stern and pale with disapproval of my brutal
endurance, and but partially recovered from the faintness and
disgust which the spectacle itself had produced upon them. I had
no defense to offer to their reproaches save that I had not
thought much about the bloodshed; but in the evening the natural
and inevitable reaction came, and in deep chagrin I felt myself
tried and condemned, not only by this disgusting experience but
by the entire moral situation which it revealed. It was suddenly
made quite clear to me that I was lulling my conscience by a
dreamer's scheme, that a mere paper reform had become a defense
for continued idleness, and that I was making it a raison d'etre
for going on indefinitely with study and travel. It is easy to
become the dupe of a deferred purpose, of the promise the future
can never keep, and I had fallen into the meanest type of
self-deception in making myself believe that all this was in
preparation for great things to come. Nothing less than the
moral reaction following the experience at a bullfight had been
able to reveal to me that so far from following in the wake of a
chariot of philanthropic fire, I had been tied to the tail of the
veriest ox-cart of self-seeking.

I had made up my mind that next day, whatever happened, I would
begin to carry out the plan, if only by talking about it. I can
well recall the stumbling and uncertainty with which I finally
set it forth to Miss Starr, my old-time school friend, who was
one of our party. I even dared to hope that she might join in
carrying out the plan, but nevertheless I told it in the fear of
that disheartening experience which is so apt to afflict our most
cherished plans when they are at last divulged, when we suddenly
feel that there is nothing there to talk about, and as the golden
dream slips through our fingers we are left to wonder at our own
fatuous belief. But gradually the comfort of Miss Starr's
companionship, the vigor and enthusiasm which she brought to bear
upon it, told both in the growth of the plan and upon the sense
of its validity, so that by the time we had reached the
enchantment of the Alhambra, the scheme had become convincing and
tangible although still most hazy in detail.

A month later we parted in Paris, Miss Starr to go back to Italy,
and I to journey on to London to secure as many suggestions as
possible from those wonderful places of which we had heard,
Toynbee Hall and the People's Palace. So that it finally came
about that in June, 1888, five years after my first visit in East
London, I found myself at Toynbee Hall equipped not only with a
letter of introduction from Canon Fremantle, but with high
expectations and a certain belief that whatever perplexities and
discouragement concerning the life of the poor were in store for
me, I should at least know something at first hand and have the
solace of daily activity. I had confidence that although life
itself might contain many difficulties, the period of mere
passive receptivity had come to an end, and I had at last
finished with the ever-lasting "preparation for life," however
ill-prepared I might be.

It was not until years afterward that I came upon Tolstoy's phrase
"the snare of preparation," which he insists we spread before the
feet of young people, hopelessly entangling them in a curious
inactivity at the very period of life when they are longing to
construct the world anew and to conform it to their own ideals.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK
Initiative at the Celebration of Women Writers. Initial text
entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of
volunteer Judi Oswalt.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

[A Celebration of Women Writers]

"Chapter V: First Days at Hull-House." by Jane Addams (1860-1935)
From: Twenty Years at Hull-House with Autobiographical Notes. by
Jane Addams. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1912 (c.1910) pp.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]



The next January found Miss Starr and myself in Chicago,
searching for a neighborhood in which we might put our plans into
execution. In our eagerness to win friends for the new
undertaking, we utilized every opportunity to set forth the
meaning of the Settlement as it had been embodied at Toynbee
Hall, although in those days we made no appeal for money, meaning
to start with our own slender resources. From the very first the
plan received courteous attention, and the discussion, while
often skeptical, was always friendly. Professor Swing wrote a
commendatory column in the Evening Journal, and our early
speeches were reported quite out of proportion to their worth. I
recall a spirited evening at the home of Mrs. Wilmarth, which was
attended by that renowned scholar, Thomas Davidson, and by a
young Englishman who was a member of the then new Fabian society
and to whom a peculiar glamour was attached because he had
scoured knives all summer in a camp of high-minded philosophers
in the Adirondacks. Our new little plan met with criticism, not
to say disapproval, from Mr. Davidson, who, as nearly as I can
remember, called it "one of those unnatural attempts to
understand life through cooperative living."

It was in vain we asserted that the collective living was not an
essential part of the plan, that we would always scrupulously pay
our own expenses, and that at any moment we might decide to
scatter through the neighborhood and to live in separate
tenements; he still contended that the fascination for most of
those volunteering residence would lie in the collective living
aspect of the Settlement. His contention was, of course,
essentially sound; there is a constant tendency for the residents
to "lose themselves in the cave of their own companionship," as
the Toynbee Hall phrase goes, but on the other hand, it is
doubtless true that the very companionship, the give and take of
colleagues, is what tends to keep the Settlement normal and in
touch with "the world of things as they are." I am happy to say
that we never resented this nor any other difference of opinion,
and that fifteen years later Professor Davidson handsomely
acknowledged that the advantages of a group far outweighed the
weaknesses he had early pointed out. He was at that later moment
sharing with a group of young men, on the East Side of New York,
his ripest conclusions in philosophy and was much touched by
their intelligent interest and absorbed devotion. I think that
time has also justified our early contention that the mere
foothold of a house, easily accessible, ample in space,
hospitable and tolerant in spirit, situated in the midst of the
large foreign colonies which so easily isolate themselves in
American cities, would be in itself a serviceable thing for
Chicago. I am not so sure that we succeeded in our endeavors "to
make social intercourse express the growing sense of the economic
unity of society and to add the social function to democracy".
But Hull-House was soberly opened on the theory that the
dependence of classes on each other is reciprocal; and that as
the social relation is essentially a reciprocal relation, it
gives a form of expression that has peculiar value.

In our search for a vicinity in which to settle we went about
with the officers of the compulsory education department, with
city missionaries, and with the newspaper reporters whom I recall
as a much older set of men than one ordinarily associates with
that profession, or perhaps I was only sent out with the older
ones on what they must all have considered a quixotic mission.
One Sunday afternoon in the late winter a reporter took me to
visit a so-called anarchist sunday school, several of which were
to be found on the northwest side of the city. The young man in
charge was of the German student type, and his face flushed with
enthusiasm as he led the children singing one of Koerner's poems.
The newspaperman, who did not understand German, asked me what
abominable stuff they were singing, but he seemed dissatisfied
with my translation of the simple words and darkly intimated that
they were "deep ones," and had probably "fooled" me. When I
replied that Koerner was an ardent German poet whose songs
inspired his countrymen to resist the aggressions of Napoleon,
and that his bound poems were found in the most respectable
libraries, he looked at me rather askance and I then and there
had my first intimation that to treat a Chicago man, who is
called an anarchist, as you would treat any other citizen, is to
lay yourself open to deep suspicion.

Another Sunday afternoon in the early spring, on the way to a
Bohemian mission in the carriage of one of its founders, we
passed a fine old house standing well back from the street,
surrounded on three sides by a broad piazza, which was supported
by wooden pillars of exceptionally pure Corinthian design and
proportion. I was so attracted by the house that I set forth to
visit it the very next day, but though I searched for it then and
for several days after, I could not find it, and at length I most
reluctantly gave up the search.

Three weeks later, with the advice of several of the oldest
residents of Chicago, including the ex-mayor of the city, Colonel
Mason, who had from the first been a warm friend to our plans, we
decided upon a location somewhere near the junction of Blue
Island Avenue, Halsted Street, and Harrison Street. I was
surprised and overjoyed on the very first day of our search for
quarters to come upon the hospitable old house, the quest for
which I had so recently abandoned. The house was of course
rented, the lower part of it used for offices and storerooms in
connection with a factory that stood back of it. However, after
some difficulties were overcome, it proved to be possible to
sublet the second floor and what had been a large drawing-room on
the first floor.

The house had passed through many changes since it had been built
in 1856 for the homestead of one of Chicago's pioneer citizens,
Mr. Charles J. Hull, and although battered by its vicissitudes,
was essentially sound. Before it had been occupied by the
factory, it had sheltered a second-hand furniture store, and at
one time the Little Sisters of the Poor had used it for a home
for the aged. It had a half-skeptical reputation for a haunted
attic, so far respected by the tenants living on the second floor
that they always kept a large pitcher full of water on the attic
stairs. Their explanation of this custom was so incoherent that
I was sure it was a survival of the belief that a ghost could not
cross running water, but perhaps that interpretation was only my
eagerness for finding folklore.

The fine old house responded kindly to repairs, its wide hall and
open fireplace always insuring it a gracious aspect. Its
generous owner, Miss Helen Culver, in the following spring gave
us a free leasehold of the entire house. Her kindness has
continued through the years until the group of thirteen
buildings, which at present comprises our equipment, is built
largely upon land which Miss Culver has put at the service of the
Settlement which bears Mr. Hull's name. In those days the house
stood between an undertaking establishment and a saloon. "Knight,
Death and the Devil," the three were called by a Chicago wit, and
yet any mock heroics which might be implied by comparing the
Settlement to a knight quickly dropped away under the genuine
kindness and hearty welcome extended to us by the families living
up and down the street.

We furnished the house as we would have furnished it were it in
another part of the city, with the photographs and other
impedimenta we had collected in Europe, and with a few bits of
family mahogany. While all the new furniture which was bought
was enduring in quality, we were careful to keep it in character
with the fine old residence. Probably no young matron ever placed
her own things in her own house with more pleasure than that with
which we first furnished Hull-House. We believed that the
Settlement may logically bring to its aid all those adjuncts
which the cultivated man regards as good and suggestive of the
best of the life of the past.

On the 18th of September, 1889, Miss Starr and I moved into it,
with Miss Mary Keyser, who began performing the housework, but who
quickly developed into a very important factor in the life of the
vicinity as well as that of the household, and whose death five
years later was most sincerely mourned by hundreds of our neighbors.

In our enthusiasm over "settling," the first night we forgot not
only to lock but to close a side door opening on Polk Street, and
we were much pleased in the morning to find that we possessed a
fine illustration of the honesty and kindliness of our new neighbors.

Our first guest was an interesting young woman who lived in a
neighboring tenement, whose widowed mother aided her in the
support of the family by scrubbing a downtown theater every
night. The mother, of English birth, was well bred and carefully
educated, but was in the midst of that bitter struggle which
awaits so many strangers in American cities who find that their
social position tends to be measured solely by the standards of
living they are able to maintain. Our guest has long since
married the struggling young lawyer to whom she was then engaged,
and he is now leading his profession in an eastern city. She
recalls that month's experience always with a sense of amusement
over the fact that the succession of visitors who came to see the
new Settlement invariably questioned her most minutely concerning
"these people" without once suspecting that they were talking to
one who had been identified with the neighborhood from childhood.
I at least was able to draw a lesson from the incident, and I
never addressed a Chicago audience on the subject of the
Settlement and its vicinity without inviting a neighbor to go
with me, that I might curb any hasty generalization by the
consciousness that I had an auditor who knew the conditions more
intimately than I could hope to do.

Halsted Street has grown so familiar during twenty years of
residence that it is difficult to recall its gradual changes,--the
withdrawal of the more prosperous Irish and Germans, and the slow
substitution of Russian Jews, Italians, and Greeks. A description
of the street such as I gave in those early addresses still stands
in my mind as sympathetic and correct.

Halsted Street is thirty-two miles long, and one of the
great thoroughfares of Chicago; Polk Street crosses it
midway between the stockyards to the south and the
shipbuilding yards on the north branch of the Chicago
River. For the six miles between these two industries the
street is lined with shops of butchers and grocers, with
dingy and gorgeous saloons, and pretentious establishments
for the sale of ready-made clothing. Polk Street, running
west from Halsted Street, grows rapidly more prosperous;
running a mile east to State Street, it grows steadily
worse, and crosses a network of vice on the corners of
Clark Street and Fifth Avenue. Hull-House once stood in
the suburbs, but the city has steadily grown up around it
and its site now has corners on three or four foreign
colonies. Between Halsted Street and the river live about
ten thousand Italians--Neapolitans, Sicilians, and
Calabrians, with an occasional Lombard or Venetian. To
the south on Twelfth Street are many Germans, and side
streets are given over almost entirely to Polish and
Russian Jews. Still farther south, these Jewish colonies
merge into a huge Bohemian colony, so vast that Chicago
ranks as the third Bohemian city in the world. To the
northwest are many Canadian-French, clannish in spite of
their long residence in America, and to the north are
Irish and first-generation Americans. On the streets
directly west and farther north are well-to-do English
speaking families, many of whom own their own houses and
have lived in the neighborhood for years; one man is still
living in his old farmhouse.

The policy of the public authorities of never taking an
initiative, and always waiting to be urged to do their
duty, is obviously fatal in a neighborhood where there is
little initiative among the citizens. The idea underlying
our self- government breaks down in such a ward. The
streets are inexpressibly dirty, the number of schools
inadequate, sanitary legislation unenforced, the street
lighting bad, the paving miserable and altogether lacking
in the alleys and smaller streets, and the stables foul
beyond description. Hundreds of houses are unconnected
with the street sewer. The older and richer inhabitants
seem anxious to move away as rapidly as they can afford
it. They make room for newly arrived immigrants who are
densely ignorant of civic duties. This substitution of
the older inhabitants is accomplished industrially also,
in the south and east quarters of the ward. The Jews and
Italians do the finishing for the great clothing
manufacturers, formerly done by Americans, Irish, and
Germans, who refused to submit to the extremely low prices
to which the sweating system has reduced their successors.
As the design of the sweating system is the elimination of
rent from the manufacture of clothing, the "outside work"
is begun after the clothing leaves the cutter. An
unscrupulous contractor regards no basement as too dark,
no stable loft too foul, no rear shanty too provisional,
no tenement room too small for his workroom, as these
conditions imply low rental. Hence these shops abound in
the worst of the foreign districts where the sweater
easily finds his cheap basement and his home finishers.

The houses of the ward, for the most part wooden, were
originally built for one family and are now occupied by
several. They are after the type of the inconvenient
frame cottages found in the poorer suburbs twenty years
ago. Many of them were built where they now stand; others
were brought thither on rollers, because their previous
sites had been taken by factories. The fewer brick
tenement buildings which are three or four stories high
are comparatively new, and there are few large tenements.
The little wooden houses have a temporary aspect, and for
this reason, perhaps, the tenement-house legislation in
Chicago is totally inadequate. Rear tenements flourish;
many houses have no water supply save the faucet in the
back yard, there are no fire escapes, the garbage and
ashes are placed in wooden boxes which are fastened to the
street pavements. One of the most discouraging features
about the present system of tenement houses is that many
are owned by sordid and ignorant immigrants. The theory
that wealth brings responsibility, that possession entails
at length education and refinement, in these cases fails
utterly. The children of an Italian immigrant owner may
"shine" shoes in the street, and his wife may pick rags
from the street gutter, laboriously sorting them in a
dingy court. Wealth may do something for her
self-complacency and feeling of consequence; it certainly
does nothing for her comfort or her children's improvement
nor for the cleanliness of anyone concerned. Another
thing that prevents better houses in Chicago is the
tentative attitude of the real estate men. Many unsavory
conditions are allowed to continue which would be regarded
with horror if they were considered permanent. Meanwhile,
the wretched conditions persist until at least two
generations of children have been born and reared in them.

In every neighborhood where poorer people live, because
rents are supposed to be cheaper there, is an element
which, although uncertain in the individual, in the
aggregate can be counted upon. It is composed of people
of former education and opportunity who have cherished
ambitions and prospects, but who are caricatures of what
they meant to be--"hollow ghosts which blame the living
men." There are times in many lives when there is a
cessation of energy and loss of power. Men and women of
education and refinement come to live in a cheaper
neighborhood because they lack the ability to make money,
because of ill health, because of an unfortunate marriage,
or for other reasons which do not imply criminality or
stupidity. Among them are those who, in spite of untoward
circumstances, keep up some sort of an intellectual life;
those who are "great for books," as their neighbors say.
To such the Settlement may be a genuine refuge.

In the very first weeks of our residence Miss Starr started a
reading party in George Eliot's "Romola," which was attended by a
group of young women who followed the wonderful tale with
unflagging interest. The weekly reading was held in our little
upstairs dining room, and two members of the club came to dinner
each week, not only that they might be received as guests, but
that they might help us wash the dishes afterwards and so make
the table ready for the stacks of Florentine photographs.

Our "first resident," as she gaily designated herself, was a
charming old lady who gave five consecutive readings from
Hawthorne to a most appreciative audience, interspersing the
magic tales most delightfully with recollections of the elusive
and fascinating author. Years before she had lived at Brook Farm
as a pupil of the Ripleys, and she came to us for ten days
because she wished to live once more in an atmosphere where
"idealism ran high." We thus early found the type of class which
through all the years has remained most popular--a combination of
a social atmosphere with serious study.

Volunteers to the new undertaking came quickly; a charming young
girl conducted a kindergarten in the drawing room, coming
regularly every morning from her home in a distant part of the
North Side of the city. Although a tablet to her memory has
stood upon a mantel shelf in Hull-House for five years, we still
associate her most vividly with the play of little children,
first in her kindergarten and then in her own nursery, which
furnished a veritable illustration of Victor Hugo's definition of
heaven--"a place where parents are always young and children
always little." Her daily presence for the first two years made
it quite impossible for us to become too solemn and
self-conscious in our strenuous routine, for her mirth and
buoyancy were irresistible and her eager desire to share the life
of the neighborhood never failed, although it was often put to a
severe test. One day at luncheon she gaily recited her futile
attempt to impress temperance principles upon the mind of an
Italian mother, to whom she had returned a small daughter of five
sent to the kindergarten "in quite a horrid state of
intoxication" from the wine-soaked bread upon which she had
breakfasted. The mother, with the gentle courtesy of a South
Italian, listened politely to her graphic portrayal of the
untimely end awaiting so immature a wine bibber; but long before
the lecture was finished, quite unconscious of the incongruity,
she hospitably set forth her best wines, and when her baffled
guest refused one after the other, she disappeared, only to
quickly return with a small dark glass of whisky, saying
reassuringly, "See, I have brought you the true American drink."
The recital ended in seriocomic despair, with the rueful
statement that "the impression I probably made on her darkened
mind was, that it was the American custom to breakfast children
on bread soaked in whisky instead of light Italian wine."

That first kindergarten was a constant source of education to us.
We were much surprised to find social distinctions even among its
lambs, although greatly amused with the neat formulation made by
the superior little Italian boy who refused to sit beside uncouth
little Angelina because "we eat our macaroni this way"--imitating
the movement of a fork from a plate to his mouth--"and she eat
her macaroni this way," holding his hand high in the air and
throwing back his head, that his wide-open mouth might receive an
imaginary cascade. Angelina gravely nodded her little head in
approval of this distinction between gentry and peasant. "But
isn't it astonishing that merely table manners are made such a
test all the way along--" was the comment of their democratic
teacher. Another memory which refuses to be associated with
death, which came to her all too soon, is that of the young girl
who organized our first really successful club of boys, holding
their fascinated interest by the old chivalric tales, set forth
so dramatically and vividly that checkers and jackstraws were
abandoned by all the other clubs on Boys' Day, that their members
might form a listening fringe to "The Young Heros."

I met a member of the latter club one day as he flung himself out
of the House in the rage by which an emotional boy hopes to keep
from shedding tears. "There is no use coming here any more,
Prince Roland is dead," he gruffly explained as we passed. We
encouraged the younger boys in tournaments and dramatics of all
sorts, and we somewhat fatuously believed that boys who were
early interested in adventurers or explorers might later want to
know the lives of living statesmen and inventors. It is needless
to add that the boys quickly responded to such a program, and
that the only difficulty lay in finding leaders who were able to
carry it out. This difficulty has been with us through all the
years of growth and development in the Boys' Club until now, with
its five-story building, its splendid equipment of shops, of
recreation and study rooms, that group alone is successful which
commands the services of a resourceful and devoted leader.

The dozens of younger children who from the first came to Hull-
House were organized into groups which were not quite classes and
not quite clubs. The value of these groups consisted almost
entirely in arousing a higher imagination and in giving the
children the opportunity which they could not have in the crowded
schools, for initiative and for independent social relationships.
The public schools then contained little hand work of any sort,
so that naturally any instruction which we provided for the
children took the direction of this supplementary work. But it
required a constant effort that the pressure of poverty itself
should not defeat the educational aim. The Italian girls in the
sewing classes would count the day lost when they could not carry
home a garment, and the insistence that it should be neatly made
seemed a super-refinement to those in dire need of clothing.

As these clubs have been continued during the twenty years they
have developed classes in the many forms of handicraft which the
newer education is so rapidly adapting for the delight of
children; but they still keep their essentially social character
and still minister to that large number of children who leave
school the very week they are fourteen years old, only too eager
to close the schoolroom door forever on a tiresome task that is
at last well over. It seems to us important that these children
shall find themselves permanently attached to a House that offers
them evening clubs and classes with their old companions, that
merges as easily as possible the school life into the working
life and does what it can to find places for the bewildered young
things looking for work. A large proportion of the delinquent
boys brought into the juvenile court in Chicago are the oldest
sons in large families whose wages are needed at home. The
grades from which many of them leave school, as the records show,
are piteously far from the seventh and eighth where the very
first introduction in manual training is given, nor have they
been caught by any other abiding interest.

In spite of these flourishing clubs for children early
established at Hull-House, and the fact that our first organized
undertaking was a kindergarten, we were very insistent that the
Settlement should not be primarily for the children, and that it
was absurd to suppose that grown people would not respond to
opportunities for education and social life. Our enthusiastic
kindergartner herself demonstrated this with an old woman of
ninety who, because she was left alone all day while her daughter
cooked in a restaurant, had formed such a persistent habit of
picking the plaster off the walls that one landlord after another
refused to have her for a tenant. It required but a few week's
time to teach her to make large paper chains, and gradually she
was content to do it all day long, and in the end took quite as
much pleasure in adorning the walls as she had formally taken in
demolishing them. Fortunately the landlord had never heard the
aesthetic principle that exposure of basic construction is more
desirable than gaudy decoration. In course of time it was
discovered that the old woman could speak Gaelic, and when one or
two grave professors came to see her, the neighborhood was filled
with pride that such a wonder lived in their midst. To mitigate
life for a woman of ninety was an unfailing refutation of the
statement that the Settlement was designed for the young.

On our first New Year's Day at Hull-House we invited the older
people in the vicinity, sending a carriage for the most feeble
and announcing to all of them that we were going to organize an
Old Settlers' Party.

Every New Year's Day since, older people in varying numbers have
come together at Hull-House to relate early hardships, and to take
for the moment the place in the community to which their pioneer
life entitles them. Many people who were formerly residents of
the vicinity, but whom prosperity has carried into more desirable
neighborhoods, come back to these meetings and often confess to
each other that they have never since found such kindness as in
early Chicago when all its citizens came together in mutual
enterprises. Many of these pioneers, so like the men and women of
my earliest childhood that I always felt comforted by their
presence in the house, were very much opposed to "foreigners,"
whom they held responsible for a depreciation of property and a
general lowering of the tone of the neighborhood. Sometimes we had
a chance for championship; I recall one old man, fiercely
American, who had reproached me because we had so many "foreign
views" on our walls, to whom I endeavored to set forth our hope
that the pictures might afford a familiar island to the immigrants
in a sea of new and strange impressions. The old settler guest,
taken off his guard, replied, "I see; they feel as we did when we
saw a Yankee notion from Down East,"--thereby formulating the dim
kinship between the pioneer and the immigrant, both "buffeting the
waves of a new development." The older settlers as well as their
children throughout the years have given genuine help to our
various enterprises for neighborhood improvement, and from their
own memories of earlier hardships have made many shrewd
suggestions for alleviating the difficulties of that first sharp
struggle with untoward conditions.

In those early days we were often asked why we had come to live
on Halsted Street when we could afford to live somewhere else. I
remember one man who used to shake his head and say it was "the
strangest thing he had met in his experience," but who was
finally convinced that it was "not strange but natural." In time
it came to seem natural to all of us that the Settlement should
be there. If it is natural to feed the hungry and care for the
sick, it is certainly natural to give pleasure to the young,
comfort to the aged, and to minister to the deep-seated craving
for social intercourse that all men feel. Whoever does it is
rewarded by something which, if not gratitude, is at least
spontaneous and vital and lacks that irksome sense of obligation
with which a substantial benefit is too often acknowledged.

In addition to the neighbors who responded to the receptions and
classes, we found those who were too battered and oppressed to
care for them. To these, however, was left that susceptibility
to the bare offices of humanity which raises such offices into a
bond of fellowship.

From the first it seemed understood that we were ready to perform
the humblest neighborhood services. We were asked to wash the
new-born babies, and to prepare the dead for burial, to nurse the
sick, and to "mind the children."

Occasionally these neighborly offices unexpectedly uncovered ugly
human traits. For six weeks after an operation we kept in one of
our three bedrooms a forlorn little baby who, because he was born
with a cleft palate, was most unwelcome even to his mother, and
we were horrified when he died of neglect a week after he was
returned to his home; a little Italian bride of fifteen sought
shelter with us one November evening to escape her husband who
had beaten her every night for a week when he returned home from
work, because she had lost her wedding ring; two of us officiated
quite alone at the birth of an illegitimate child because the
doctor was late in arriving, and none of the honest Irish matrons
would "touch the likes of her"; we ministered at the deathbed of
a young man, who during a long illness of tuberculosis had
received so many bottles of whisky through the mistaken kindness
of his friends, that the cumulative effect produced wild periods
of exultation, in one of which he died.

We were also early impressed with the curious isolation of many
of the immigrants; an Italian woman once expressed her pleasure
in the red roses that she saw at one of our receptions in
surprise that they had been "brought so fresh all the way from
Italy." She would not believe for an instant that they had been
grown in America. She said that she had lived in Chicago for six
years and had never seen any roses, whereas in Italy she had seen
them every summer in great profusion. During all that time, of
course, the woman had lived within ten blocks of a florist's
window; she had not been more than a five-cent car ride away from
the public parks; but she had never dreamed of faring forth for
herself, and no one had taken her. Her conception of America had
been the untidy street in which she lived and had made her long
struggle to adapt herself to American ways.

But in spite of some untoward experiences, we were constantly
impressed with the uniform kindness and courtesy we received.
Perhaps these first days laid the simple human foundations which
are certainly essential for continuous living among the poor;
first, genuine preference for residence in an industrial quarter
to any other part of the city, because it is interesting and
makes the human appeal; and second, the conviction, in the words
of Canon Barnett, that the things that make men alike are finer
and better than the things that keep them apart, and that these
basic likenesses, if they are properly accentuated, easily
transcend the less essential differences of race, language,
creed, and tradition.

Perhaps even in those first days we made a beginning toward that
object which was afterwards stated in our charter: "To provide a
center for higher civic and social life; to institute and
maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises, and to
investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial
districts of Chicago."

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK
Initiative at the Celebration of Women Writers. Initial text
entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of
volunteer Diana Camden.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

[A Celebration of Women Writers]

"Chapter VI: The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements." by
Jane Addams (1860-1935) From: Twenty Years at Hull-House with
Autobiographical Notes. by Jane Addams. New York: The MacMillan
Company, 1912 (c.1910) pp. 113-127.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]



The Ethical Culture Societies held a summer school at Plymouth,
Massachusetts, in 1892, to which they invited several people
representing the then new Settlement movement, that they might
discuss with others the general theme of Philanthropy and Social

I venture to produce here parts of a lecture I delivered in
Plymouth, both because I have found it impossible to formulate
with the same freshness those early motives and strivings, and
because, when published with other papers given that summer, it
was received by the Settlement people themselves as a
satisfactory statement.

I remember on golden summer afternoon during the sessions of the
summer school that several of us met on the shores of a pond in a
pine wood a few miles from Plymouth, to discuss our new movement.
The natural leader of the group was Robert A. Woods. He had
recently returned from a residence in Toynbee Hall, London, to
open Andover House in Boston, and had just issued a book, "English
Social Movements," in which he had gathered together and focused
the many forms of social endeavor preceding and contemporaneous
with the English Settlements. There were Miss Vida D. Scudder and
Miss Helena Dudley from the College Settlement Association, Miss
Julia C. Lathrop and myself from Hull-House. Some of us had
numbered our years as far as thirty, and we all carefully avoided
the extravagance of statement which characterizes youth, and yet I
doubt if anywhere on the continent that summer could have been
found a group of people more genuinely interested in social
development or more sincerely convinced that they had found a clue
by which the conditions in crowded cities might be understood and
the agencies for social betterment developed.

We were all careful to avoid saying that we had found a "life
work," perhaps with an instinctive dread of expending all our
energy in vows of constancy, as so often happens; and yet it is
interesting to note that of all the people whom I have recalled as
the enthusiasts at that little conference have remained attached to
Settlements in actual residence for longer or shorter periods each
year during the eighteen years that have elapsed since then,
although they have also been closely identified as publicists or
governmental officials with movements outside. It is as if they
had discovered that the Settlement was too valuable as a method as
a way of approach to the social question to abandoned, although
they had long since discovered it was not a "social movement" in
itself. This, however, is anticipating the future, whereas the
following paper on "The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements"
should have a chance to speak for itself. It is perhaps too
late in the day to express regret for its stilted title.

This paper is an attempt to analyze the motives which underlie a
movement based, not only upon conviction, but upon genuine
emotion, wherever educated young people are seeking an outlet for
that sentiment for universal brotherhood, which the best spirit of
our times is forcing from an emotion into a motive. These young
people accomplish little toward the solution of this social
problem, and bear the brunt of being cultivated into unnourished,
oversensitive lives. They have been shut off from the common
labor by which they live which is a great source of moral and
physical health. They feel a fatal want of harmony between their
theory and their lives, a lack of coordination between thought and
action. I think it is hard for us to realize how seriously many
of them are taking to the notion of human brotherhood, how eagerly
they long to give tangible expression to the democratic ideal.
These young men and women, longing to socialize their democracy,
are animated by certain hopes which may be thus loosely
formulated; that if in a democratic country nothing can be
permanently achieved save through the masses of the people, it
will be impossible to establish a higher political life than the
people themselves crave; that it is difficult to see how the
notion of a higher civic life can be fostered save through common
intercourse; that the blessings which we associate with a life of
refinement and cultivation can be made universal and must be made
universal if they are to be permanent; that the good we secure for
ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in mid-air,
until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common
life. It is easier to state these hopes than to formulate the
line of motives, which I believe to constitute the trend of the
subjective pressure toward the Settlement. There is something
primordial about these motives, but I am perhaps overbold in
designating them as a great desire to share the race life. We all
bear traces of the starvation struggle which for so long made up
the life of the race. Our very organism holds memories and
glimpses of that long life of our ancestors, which still goes on
among so many of our contemporaries. Nothing so deadens the
sympathies and shrivels the power of enjoyment as the persistent
keeping away from the great opportunities for helpfulness and a
continual ignoring of the starvation struggle which makes up the
life of at least half the race. To shut one's self away from that
half of the race life is to shut one's self away from the most
vital part of it; it is to live out but half the humanity to which
we have been born heir and to use but half our faculties. We have
all had longings for a fuller life which should include the use of
these faculties. These longings are the physical complement of
the "Intimations of Immortality," on which no ode has yet been
written. To portray these would be the work of a poet, and it is
hazardous for any but a poet to attempt it.

You may remember the forlorn feeling which occasionally seizes
you when you arrive early in the morning a stranger in a great
city: the stream of laboring people goes past you as you gaze
through the plate-glass window of your hotel; you see hard
working men lifting great burdens; you hear the driving and
jostling of huge carts and your heart sinks with a sudden sense
of futility. The door opens behind you and you turn to the man
who brings you in your breakfast with a quick sense of human
fellowship. You find yourself praying that you may never lose
your hold on it all. A more poetic prayer would be that the
great mother breasts of our common humanity, with its labor and
suffering and its homely comforts, may never be withheld from
you. You turn helplessly to the waiter and feel that it would be
almost grotesque to claim from him the sympathy you crave because
civilization has placed you apart, but you resent your position
with a sudden sense of snobbery. Literature is full of
portrayals of these glimpses: they come to shipwrecked men on
rafts; they overcome the differences of an incongruous multitude
when in the presence of a great danger or when moved by a common
enthusiasm. They are not, however, confined to such moments, and
if we were in the habit of telling them to each other, the
recital would be as long as the tales of children are, when they
sit down on the green grass and confide to each other how many
times they have remembered that they lived once before. If these
childish tales are the stirring of inherited impressions, just so
surely is the other the striving of inherited powers.

"It is true that there is nothing after disease, indigence and a
sense of guilt, so fatal to health and to life itself as the want
of a proper outlet for active faculties." I have seen young girls
suffer and grow sensibly lowered in vitality in the first years
after they leave school. In our attempt then to give a girl
pleasure and freedom from care we succeed, for the most part, in
making her pitifully miserable. She finds "life" so different
from what she expected it to be. She is besotted with innocent
little ambitions, and does not understand this apparent waste of
herself, this elaborate preparation, if no work is provided for
her. There is a heritage of noble obligation which young people
accept and long to perpetuate. The desire for action, the wish
to right wrong and alleviate suffering haunts them daily. Society
smiles at it indulgently instead of making it of value to itself.
The wrong to them begins even farther back, when we restrain the
first childish desires for "doing good", and tell them that they
must wait until they are older and better fitted. We intimate
that social obligation begins at a fixed date, forgetting that it
begins at birth itself. We treat them as children who, with
strong-growing limbs, are allowed to use their legs but not their
arms, or whose legs are daily carefully exercised that after a
while their arms may be put to high use. We do this in spite of
the protest of the best educators, Locke and Pestalozzi. We are
fortunate in the meantime if their unused members do not weaken
and disappear. They do sometimes. There are a few girls who, by
the time they are "educated", forget their old childish desires
to help the world and to play with poor little girls "who haven't
playthings". Parents are often inconsistent: they deliberately
expose their daughters to knowledge of the distress in the world;
they send them to hear missionary addresses on famines in India
and China; they accompany them to lectures on the suffering in
Siberia; they agitate together over the forgotten region of East
London. In addition to this, from babyhood the altruistic
tendencies of these daughters are persistently cultivated. They
are taught to be self-forgetting and self-sacrificing, to
consider the good of the whole before the good of the ego. But
when all this information and culture show results, when the
daughter comes back from college and begins to recognize her
social claim to the "submerged tenth", and to evince a
disposition to fulfill it, the family claim is strenuously
asserted; she is told that she is unjustified, ill-advised in her
efforts. If she persists, the family too often are injured and
unhappy unless the efforts are called missionary and the
religious zeal of the family carry them over their sense of
abuse. When this zeal does not exist, the result is perplexing.
It is a curious violation of what we would fain believe a
fundamental law--that the final return of the deed is upon the
head of the doer. The deed is that of exclusiveness and caution,
but the return, instead of falling upon the head of the exclusive
and cautious, falls upon a young head full of generous and
unselfish plans. The girl loses something vital out of her life
to which she is entitled. She is restricted and unhappy; her
elders meanwhile, are unconscious of the situation and we have
all the elements of a tragedy.

We have in America a fast-growing number of cultivated young
people who have no recognized outlet for their active faculties.
They hear constantly of the great social maladjustment, but no way
is provided for them to change it, and their uselessness hangs
about them heavily. Huxley declares that the sense of uselessness
is the severest shock which the human system can sustain, and that
if persistently sustained, it results in atrophy of function.
These young people have had advantages of college, of European
travel, and of economic study, but they are sustaining this shock
of inaction. They have pet phrases, and they tell you that the
things that make us all alike are stronger than the things that
make us different. They say that all men are united by needs and
sympathies far more permanent and radical than anything that
temporarily divides them and sets them in opposition to each
other. If they affect art, they say that the decay in artistic
expression is due to the decay in ethics, that art when shut away
from the human interests and from the great mass of humanity is
self-destructive. They tell their elders with all the bitterness
of youth that if they expect success from them in business or
politics or in whatever lines their ambition for them has run,
they must let them consult all of humanity; that they must let
them find out what the people want and how they want it. It is
only the stronger young people, however, who formulate this. Many
of them dissipate their energies in so-called enjoyment. Others
not content with that, go on studying and go back to college for
their second degrees; not that they are especially fond of study,
but because they want something definite to do, and their powers
have been trained in the direction of mental accumulation. Many
are buried beneath this mental accumulation with lowered vitality
and discontent. Walter Besant says they have had the vision that
Peter had when he saw the great sheet let down from heaven,
wherein was neither clean nor unclean. He calls it the sense of
humanity. It is not philanthropy nor benevolence, but a thing
fuller and wider than either of these.

This young life, so sincere in its emotion and good phrases and
yet so undirected, seems to me as pitiful as the other great mass
of destitute lives. One is supplementary to the other, and some
method of communication can surely be devised. Mr. Barnett, who
urged the first Settlement,--Toynbee Hall, in East
London,--recognized this need of outlet for the young men of
Oxford and Cambridge, and hoped that the Settlement would supply
the communication. It is easy to see why the Settlement movement
originated in England, where the years of education are more
constrained and definite than they are here, where class
distinctions are more rigid. The necessity of it was greater
there, but we are fast feeling the pressure of the need and
meeting the necessity for Settlements in America. Our young
people feel nervously the need of putting theory into action, and
respond quickly to the Settlement form of activity.

Other motives which I believe make toward the Settlement are the
result of a certain renaissance going forward in Christianity.
The impulse to share the lives of the poor, the desire to make
social service, irrespective of propaganda, express the spirit of
Christ, is as old as Christianity itself. We have no proof from
the records themselves that the early Roman Christians, who
strained their simple art to the point of grotesqueness in their
eagerness to record a "good news" on the walls of the catacombs,
considered this good news a religion. Jesus had no set of truths
labeled Religious. On the contrary, his doctrine was that all
truth is one, that the appropriation of it is freedom. His
teaching had no dogma to mark it off from truth and action in
general. He himself called it a revelation--a life. These early
Roman Christians received the Gospel message, a command to love
all men, with a certain joyous simplicity. The image of the Good
Shepherd is blithe and gay beyond the gentlest shepherd of Greek
mythology; the hart no longer pants, but rushes to the water
brooks. The Christians looked for the continuous revelation, but
believed what Jesus said, that this revelation, to be retained
and made manifest, must be put into terms of action; that action
is the only medium man has for receiving and appropriating truth;
that the doctrine must be known through the will.

That Christianity has to be revealed and embodied in the line of
social progress is a corollary to the simple proposition, that
man's action is found in his social relationships in the way in
which he connects with his fellows; that his motives for action
are the zeal and affection with which he regards his fellows. By
this simple process was created a deep enthusiasm for humanity;
which regarded man as at once the organ and the object of
revelation; and by this process came about the wonderful
fellowship, the true democracy of the early Church, that so
captivates the imagination. The early Christians were
preeminently nonresistant. They believed in love as a cosmic
force. There was no iconoclasm during the minor peace of the
Church. They did not yet denounce nor tear down temples, nor
preach the end of the world. They grew to a mighty number, but
it never occurred to them, either in their weakness or in their
strength, to regard other men for an instant as their foes or as
aliens. The spectacle of the Christians loving all men was the
most astounding Rome had ever seen. They were eager to sacrifice
themselves for the weak, for children, and for the aged; they
identified themselves with slaves and did not avoid the plague;
they longed to share the common lot that they might receive the
constant revelation. It was a new treasure which the early
Christians added to the sum of all treasures, a joy hitherto
unknown in the world--the joy of finding the Christ which lieth
in each man, but which no man can unfold save in fellowship. A
happiness ranging from the heroic to the pastoral enveloped them.
They were to possess a revelation as long as life had new meaning
to unfold, new action to propose.

I believe that there is a distinct turning among many young men
and women toward this simple acceptance of Christ's message. They
resent the assumption that Christianity is a set of ideas which
belong to the religious consciousness, whatever that may be.
They insist that it cannot be proclaimed and instituted apart
from the social life of the community and that it must seek a
simple and natural expression in the social organism itself. The
Settlement movement is only one manifestation of that wider
humanitarian movement which throughout Christendom, but
pre-eminently in England, is endeavoring to embody itself, not in
a sect, but in society itself.

I believe that this turning, this renaissance of the early
Christian humanitarianism, is going on in America, in Chicago, if
you please, without leaders who write or philosophize, without
much speaking, but with a bent to express in social service and in
terms of action the spirit of Christ. Certain it is that
spiritual force is found in the Settlement movement, and it is
also true that this force must be evoked and must be called into
play before the success of any Settlement is assured. There must
be the overmastering belief that all that is noblest in life is
common to men as men, in order to accentuate the likenesses and
ignore the differences which are found among the people whom the
Settlement constantly brings into juxtaposition. It may be true,
as the Positivists insist, that the very religious fervor of man
can be turned into love for his race, and his desire for a future
life into content to live in the echo of his deeds; Paul's formula
of seeking for the Christ which lieth in each man and founding our
likenesses on him, seems a simpler formula to many of us.

In a thousand voices singing the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel's
"Messiah," it is possible to distinguish the leading voices, but
the differences of training and cultivation between them and the
voices in the chorus, are lost in the unity of purpose and in the
fact that they are all human voices lifted by a high motive.
This is a weak illustration of what a Settlement attempts to do.
It aims, in a measure, to develop whatever of social life its
neighborhood may afford, to focus and give form to that life, to
bring to bear upon it the results of cultivation and training;
but it receives in exchange for the music of isolated voices the
volume and strength of the chorus. It is quite impossible for me
to say in what proportion or degree the subjective necessity
which led to the opening of Hull-House combined the three trends:
first, the desire to interpret democracy in social terms;
secondly, the impulse beating at the very source of our lives,
urging us to aid in the race progress; and, thirdly, the
Christian movement toward humanitarianism. It is difficult to
analyze a living thing; the analysis is at best imperfect. Many
more motives may blend with the three trends; possibly the desire
for a new form of social success due to the nicety of
imagination, which refuses worldly pleasures unmixed with the
joys of self-sacrifice; possibly a love of approbation, so vast
that it is not content with the treble clapping of delicate
hands, but wishes also to hear the bass notes from toughened
palms, may mingle with these.

The Settlement then, is an experimental effort to aid in the
solution of the social and industrial problems which are
engendered by the modern conditions of life in a great city. It
insists that these problems are not confined to any one portion of
a city. It is an attempt to relieve, at the same time, the
overaccumulation at one end of society and the destitution at the
other; but it assumes that this overaccumulation and destitution
is most sorely felt in the things that pertain to social and
educational privileges. From its very nature it can stand for no
political or social propaganda. It must, in a sense, give the
warm welcome of an inn to all such propaganda, if perchance one of
them be found an angel. The only thing to be dreaded in the
Settlement is that it lose its flexibility, its power of quick
adaptation, its readiness to change its methods as its environment
may demand. It must be open to conviction and must have a deep and
abiding sense of tolerance. It must be hospitable and ready for
experiment. It should demand from its residents a scientific
patience in the accumulation of facts and the steady holding of
their sympathies as one of the best instruments for that
accumulation. It must be grounded in a philosophy whose
foundation is on the solidarity of the human race, a philosophy
which will not waver when the race happens to be represented by a
drunken woman or an idiot boy. Its residents must be emptied of
all conceit of opinion and all self-assertion, and ready to arouse
and interpret the public opinion of their neighborhood. They must
be content to live quietly side by side with their neighbors,
until they grow into a sense of relationship and mutual interests.
Their neighbors are held apart by differences of race and
language which the residents can more easily overcome. They are
bound to see the needs of their neighborhood as a whole, to
furnish data for legislation, and to use their influence to secure
it. In short, residents are pledged to devote themselves to the
duties of good citizenship and to the arousing of the social
energies which too largely lie dormant in every neighborhood given
over to industrialism. They are bound to regard the entire life
of their city as organic, to make an effort to unify it, and to
protest against its over-differentiation.

It is always easy to make all philosophy point one particular
moral and all history adorn one particular tale; but I may be
forgiven the reminder that the best speculative philosophy sets
forth the solidarity of the human race; that the highest moralists
have taught that without the advance and improvement of the whole,
no man can hope for any lasting improvement in his own moral or
material individual condition; and that the subjective necessity
for Social Settlements is therefore identical with that necessity,
which urges us on toward social and individual salvation.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK
Initiative at the Celebration of Women Writers. Initial text
entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of
volunteer Diana Camden.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

[A Celebration of Women Writers]

"Chapter VII: Some Early Undertakings at Hull-House." by Jane
Addams (1860-1935) From: Twenty Years at Hull-House with
Autobiographical Notes. by Jane Addams. New York: The MacMillan
Company, 1912 (c.1910) pp. 128-153.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]



If the early American Settlements stood for a more exigent
standard in philanthropic activities, insisting that each new
undertaking should be preceded by carefully ascertained facts,
then certainly Hull-House held to this standard in the opening of
our new coffee-house first started as a public kitchen. An
investigation of the sweatshops had disclosed the fact, that
sewing women during the busy season paid little attention to the
feeding of their families, for it was only by working steadily
through the long day that the scanty pay of five, seven, or nine
cents for finishing a dozen pairs of trousers could be made into
a day's wage; and they bought from the nearest grocery the canned
goods that could be most quickly heated, or gave a few pennies to
the children with which they might secure a lunch from a
neighboring candy shop.

One of the residents made an investigation, at the instance of
the United States Department of Agriculture, into the food values
of the dietaries of the various immigrants, and this was followed
by an investigation made by another resident, for the United
States Department of Labor, into the foods of the Italian colony,
on the supposition that the constant use of imported products
bore a distinct relation to the cost of living. I recall an
Italian who, coming into Hull-House one day as we were sitting at
the dinner table, expressed great surprise that Americans ate a
variety of food, because he believed that they partook only of
potatoes and beer. A little inquiry showed that this conclusion
was drawn from the fact that he lived next to an Irish saloon and
had never seen anything but potatoes going in and beer coming

At that time the New England kitchen was comparatively new in
Boston, and Mrs. Richards, who was largely responsible for its
foundation, hoped that cheaper cuts of meat and simpler
vegetables, if they were subjected to slow and thorough processes
of cooking, might be made attractive and their nutritive value
secured for the people who so sadly needed more nutritious food.
It was felt that this could be best accomplished in public
kitchens, where the advantage of scientific training and careful
supervision could be secured. One of the residents went to
Boston for a training under Mrs. Richards, and when the
Hull-House kitchen was fitted under her guidance and direction,
our hopes ran high for some modification of the food of the
neighborhood. We did not reckon, however, with the wide diversity
in nationality and inherited tastes, and while we sold a certain
amount of the carefully prepared soups and stews in the neigh-
boring factories--a sale which has steadily increased throughout
the years--and were also patronized by a few households, perhaps
the neighborhood estimate was best summed up by the woman who
frankly confessed, that the food was certainly nutritious, but
that she didn't like to eat what was nutritious, that she liked
to eat "what she'd ruther."

If the dietetics were appreciated but slowly, the social value of
the coffee-house and the gymnasium, which were in the same
building, were quickly demonstrated. At that time the saloon
halls were the only places in the neighborhood where the immigrant
could hold his social gatherings, and where he could celebrate
such innocent and legitimate occasions as weddings and christenings.

These halls were rented very cheaply with the understanding that
various sums of money should be "passed across the bar," and it
was considered a mean host or guest who failed to live up to this
implied bargain. The consequence was that many a reputable party
ended with a certain amount of disorder, due solely to the fact
that the social instinct was traded upon and used as a basis for
money making by an adroit host. From the beginning the young
people's clubs had asked for dancing, and nothing was more
popular than the increased space for parties offered by the
gymnasium, with the chance to serve refreshments in the room
below. We tried experiments with every known "soft drink," from
those extracted from an expensive soda water fountain to slender
glasses of grape juice, but so far as drinks were concerned we
never became a rival to the saloon, nor indeed did anyone imagine
that we were trying to do so. I remember one man who looked
about the cozy little room and said, "This would be a nice place
to sit in all day if one could only have beer." But the
coffee-house gradually performed a mission of its own and became
something of a social center to the neighborhood as well as a
real convenience. Business men from the adjacent factories and
school teachers from the nearest public schools, used it
increasingly. The Hull-House students and club members supped
together in little groups or held their reunions and social
banquets, as, to a certain extent, did organizations from all
parts of the town. The experience of the coffee-house taught us
not to hold to preconceived ideas of what the neighborhood ought
to have, but to keep ourselves in readiness to modify and adapt
our undertakings as we discovered those things which the
neighborhood was ready to accept.

Better food was doubtless needed, but more attractive and safer
places for social gatherings were also needed, and the
neighborhood was ready for one and not for the other. We had no
hint then in Chicago of the small parks which were to be
established fifteen years later, containing the halls for dancing
and their own restaurants in buildings where the natural desire
of the young for gayety and social organization, could be safely
indulged. Yet even in that early day a member of the Hull-House
Men's Club who had been appointed superintendent of Douglas Park
had secured there the first public swimming pool, and his fellow
club members were proud of the achievement.

There was in the earliest undertakings at Hull-House a touch of
the artist's enthusiasm when he translates his inner vision
through his chosen material into outward form. Keenly conscious
of the social confusion all about us and the hard economic
struggle, we at times believed that the very struggle itself
might become a source of strength. The devotion of the mothers
to their children, the dread of the men lest they fail to provide
for the family dependent upon their daily exertions, at moments
seemed to us the secret stores of strength from which society is
fed, the invisible array of passion and feeling which are the
surest protectors of the world. We fatuously hoped that we might
pluck from the human tragedy itself a consciousness of a common
destiny which should bring its own healing, that we might extract
from life's very misfortunes a power of cooperation which should
be effective against them.

Of course there was always present the harrowing consciousness of
the difference in economic condition between ourselves and our
neighbors. Even if we had gone to live in the most wretched
tenement, there would have always been an essential difference
between them and ourselves, for we should have had a sense of
security in regard to illness and old age and the lack of these
two securities are the specters which most persistently haunt the
poor. Could we, in spite of this, make their individual efforts
more effective through organization and possibly complement them
by small efforts of our own?

Some such vague hope was in our minds when we started the
Hull-House Cooperative Coal Association, which led a vigorous
life for three years, and developed a large membership under the
skillful advice of its one paid officer, an English workingman
who had had experience in cooperative societies at "'ome." Some
of the meetings of the association, in which people met to
consider together their basic dependence upon fire and warmth,
had a curious challenge of life about them. Because the
cooperators knew what it meant to bring forth children in the
midst of privation and to see the tiny creatures struggle for
life, their recitals cut a cross section, as it were, in that
world-old effort--the "dying to live" which so inevitably
triumphs over poverty and suffering. And yet their very
familiarity with hardship may have been responsible for that
sentiment which traditionally ruins business, for a vote of the
cooperators that the basket buyers be given one basket free out
of every six, that the presentation of five purchase tickets
should entitle the holders to a profit in coal instead of stock
"because it would be a shame to keep them waiting for the
dividend," was always pointed to by the conservative
quarter-of-a-ton buyers as the beginning of the end. At any
rate, at the close of the third winter, although the Association
occupied an imposing coal yard on the southeast corner of the
Hull-House block and its gross receipts were between three and
four hundred dollars a day, it became evident that the concern
could not remain solvent if it continued its philanthropic
policy, and the experiment was terminated by the cooperators
taking up their stock in the remaining coal.

Our next cooperative experiment was much more successful, perhaps
because it was much more spontaneous.

At a meeting of working girls held at Hull-House during a strike
in a large shoe factory, the discussions made it clear that the
strikers who had been most easily frightened, and therefore first
to capitulate, were naturally those girls who were paying board
and were afraid of being put out if they fell too far behind.
After a recital of a case of peculiar hardship one of them
exclaimed: "Wouldn't it be fine if we had a boarding club of our
own, and then we could stand by each other in a time like this?"
After that events moved quickly. We read aloud together Beatrice
Potter's little book on "Cooperation," and discussed all the
difficulties and fascinations of such an undertaking, and on the
first of May, 1891, two comfortable apartments near Hull-House
were rented and furnished. The Settlement was responsible for
the furniture and paid the first month's rent, but beyond that
the members managed the club themselves. The undertaking
"marched," as the French say, from the very first, and always on
its own feet. Although there were difficulties, none of them
proved insurmountable, which was a matter for great satisfaction
in the face of a statement made by the head of the United States
Department of Labor, who, on a visit to the club when it was but
two years old, said that his department had investigated many
cooperative undertakings, and that none founded and managed by
women had ever succeeded. At the end of the third year the club
occupied all of the six apartments which the original building
contained, and numbered fifty members.

It was in connection with our efforts to secure a building for the
Jane Club, that we first found ourselves in the dilemma between
the needs of our neighbors and the kind-hearted response upon
which we had already come to rely for their relief. The adapted
apartments in which the Jane Club was housed were inevitably more
or less uncomfortable, and we felt that the success of the club
justified the erection of a building for its sole use.

Up to that time, our history had been as the minor peace of the
early Church. We had had the most generous interpretation of our
efforts. Of course, many people were indifferent to the idea of
the Settlement; others looked on with tolerant and sometimes
cynical amusement which we would often encounter in a good story
related at our expense; but all this was remote and unreal to us,
and we were sure that if the critics could but touch "the life of
the people," they would understand.

The situation changed markedly after the Pullman strike, and our
efforts to secure factory legislation later brought upon us a
certain amount of distrust and suspicion; until then we had been
considered merely a kindly philanthropic undertaking whose new
form gave us a certain idealistic glamour. But sterner tests
were coming, and one of the first was in connection with the new
building for the Jane Club. A trustee of Hull-House came to see
us one day with the good news that a friend of his was ready to
give twenty thousand dollars with which to build the desired new
clubhouse. When, however, he divulged the name of his generous
friend, it proved to be that of a man who was notorious for
underpaying the girls in his establishment and concerning whom
there were even darker stories. It seemed clearly impossible to
erect a clubhouse for working girls with such money and we at
once said that we must decline the offer. The trustee of
Hull-House was put in the most embarrassing situation; he had, of
course, induced the man to give the money and had had no thought
but that it would be eagerly received; he would now be obliged to
return with the astonishing, not to say insulting, news that the
money was considered unfit.

In the long discussion which followed, it gradually became clear
to all of us that such a refusal could be valuable only as it
might reveal to the man himself and to others, public opinion in
regard to certain methods of money-making, but that from the very
nature of the case our refusal of this money could not be made
public because a representative of Hull-House had asked for it.
However, the basic fact remained that we could not accept the
money, and of this the trustee himself was fully convinced. This
incident occurred during a period of much discussion concerning
"tainted money" and is perhaps typical of the difficulty of
dealing with it. It is impossible to know how far we may blame
the individual for doing that which all of his competitors and
his associates consider legitimate; at the same time, social
changes can only be inaugurated by those who feel the
unrighteousness of contemporary conditions, and the expression of
their scruples may be the one opportunity for pushing forward
moral tests into that dubious area wherein wealth is accumulated.

In the course of time a new clubhouse was built by an old friend of
Hull-House much interested in working girls, and this has been
occupied for twelve years by the very successful cooperating Jane
Club. The incident of the early refusal is associated in my mind
with a long talk upon the subject of questionable money I held with
the warden of Toynbee Hall, whom I visited at Bristol where he was
then canon in the Cathedral. By way of illustration he showed me a
beautiful little church which had been built by the last
slave-trading merchant in Bristol, who had been much disapproved of
by his fellow townsmen and had hoped by this transmutation of
ill-gotten money into exquisite Gothic architecture to reconcile
himself both to God and man. His impulse to build may have been
born from his own scruples or from the quickened consciences of his
neighbors who saw that the world-old iniquity of enslaving men must
at length come to an end. The Abolitionists may have regarded this
beautiful building as the fruit of a contrite heart, or they may
have scorned it as an attempt to magnify the goodness of a slave
trader and thus perplex the doubting citizens of Bristol in regard
to the entire moral issue.

Canon Barnett did not pronounce judgment on the Bristol merchant.
He was, however, quite clear upon the point that a higher moral
standard for industrial life must be embodied in legislation as
rapidly as possible, that it may bear equally upon all, and that
an individual endeavoring to secure this legislation must forbear
harsh judgment. This was doubtless a sound position, but during
all the period of hot discussion concerning tainted money I never
felt clear enough on the general principle involved, to accept the
many invitations to write and speak upon the subject, although I
received much instruction in the many letters of disapproval sent
to me by radicals of various schools because I was a member of the
university extension staff of the then new University of Chicago,
the righteousness of whose foundation they challenged.

A little incident of this time illustrated to me the confusion in
the minds of a least many older men between religious teaching
and advancing morality. One morning I received a letter from the
head of a Settlement in New York expressing his perplexity over
the fact that his board of trustees had asked money from a man
notorious for his unscrupulous business methods. My
correspondent had placed his resignation in the hands of his
board, that they might accept it at any time when they felt his
utterances on the subject of tainted money were offensive, for he
wished to be free to openly discuss a subject of such grave moral
import. The very morning when my mind was full of the questions
raised by this letter, I received a call from the daughter of the
same business man whom my friend considered so unscrupulous. She
was passing through Chicago and came to ask me to give her some
arguments which she might later use with her father to confute
the charge that Settlements were irreligious. She said, "You
see, he has been asked to give money to our Settlement and would
like to do it, if his conscience was only clear; he disapproves
of Settlements because they give no religious instruction; he has
always been a very devout man."

I remember later discussing the incident with Washington Gladden
who was able to parallel it from his own experience. Now that
this discussion upon tainted money has subsided, it is easy to
view it with a certain detachment impossible at the moment, and
it is even difficult to understand why the feeling should have
been so intense, although it doubtless registered genuine moral

There was room for discouragement in the many unsuccessful
experiments in cooperation which were carried on in Chicago
during the early nineties; a carpenter shop on Van Buren Street
near Halsted, a labor exchange started by the unemployed, not so
paradoxical an arrangement as it seems, and a very ambitious plan
for a country colony which was finally carried out at Ruskin,
Tennessee. In spite of failures, cooperative schemes went on,
some of the same men appearing in one after another with
irrepressible optimism. I remember during a cooperative
congress, which met at Hull-House in the World's Fair summer that
Mr. Henry D. Lloyd, who collected records of cooperative
experiments with the enthusiasm with which other men collect
coins or pictures, put before the congress some of the remarkable
successes in Ireland and North England, which he later embodied
in his book on "Copartnership." One of the old-time cooperators
denounced the modern method as "too much like cut-throat
business" and declared himself in favor of "principles which may
have failed over and over again, but are nevertheless as sound as
the law of gravitation." Mr. Lloyd and I agreed that the fiery
old man presented as fine a spectacle of devotion to a lost cause
as either of us had ever seen, although we both possessed
memories well stored with such romantic attachments.

And yet this dream that men shall cease to waste strength in
competition and shall come to pool their powers of production is
coming to pass all over the face of the earth. Five years later
in the same Hull-House hall in which the cooperative congress was
held, an Italian senator told a large audience of his fellow
countrymen of the successful system of cooperative banks in north
Italy and of their cooperative methods of selling produce to the
value of millions of francs annually; still later Sir Horace
Plunkett related the remarkable successes in cooperation in

I have seldom been more infected by enthusiasm than I once was in
Dulwich at a meeting of English cooperators where I was fairly
overwhelmed by the fervor underlying the businesslike proceedings
of the congress, and certainly when I served as a juror in the
Paris Exposition of 1900, nothing in the entire display in the
department of Social Economy was so imposing as the building
housing the exhibit, which had been erected by cooperative
trades-unions without the assistance of a single contractor.

And so one's faith is kept alive as one occasionally meets a
realized ideal of better human relations. At least traces of
successful cooperation are found even in individualistic America.
I recall my enthusiasm on the day when I set forth to lecture at
New Harmony, Indiana, for I had early been thrilled by the tale
of Robert Owen, as every young person must be who is interested
in social reform; I was delighted to find so much of his spirit
still clinging to the little town which had long ago held one of
his ardent experiments, although the poor old cooperators, who
for many years claimed friendship at Hull-House because they
heard that we "had once tried a cooperative coal association,"
might well have convinced me of the persistency of the
cooperative ideal.

Many experiences in those early years, although vivid, seemed to
contain no illumination; nevertheless they doubtless permanently
affected our judgments concerning what is called crime and vice.
I recall a series of striking episodes on the day when I took the
wife and child, as well as the old godfather, of an Italian
convict to visit him in the State Penitentiary. When we
approached the prison, the sight of its heavy stone walls and
armed sentries threw the godfather into a paroxysm of rage; he
cast his hat upon the ground and stamped upon it, tore his hair,
and loudly fulminated in weird Italian oaths, until one of the
guards, seeing his strange actions, came to inquire if "the
gentleman was having a fit." When we finally saw the convict, his
wife, to my extreme distress, talked of nothing but his striped
clothing, until the poor man wept with chagrin. Upon our return
journey to Chicago, the little son aged eight presented me with
two oranges, so affectionately and gayly that I was filled with
reflections upon the advantage of each generation making a fresh
start, when the train boy, finding the stolen fruit in my lap,
violently threatened to arrest the child. But stranger than any
episode was the fact itself that neither the convict, his wife,
nor his godfather for a moment considered him a criminal. He had
merely gotten excited over cards and had stabbed his adversary
with a knife. "Why should a man who took his luck badly be kept
forever from the sun?" was their reiterated inquiry.

I recall our perplexity over the first girls who had "gone
astray"--the poor, little, forlorn objects, fifteen and sixteen
years old, with their moral natures apparently untouched and
unawakened; one of them whom the police had found in a
professional house and asked us to shelter for a few days until
she could be used as a witness, was clutching a battered doll
which she had kept with her during her six months of an "evil
life." Two of these prematurely aged children came to us one day
directly from the maternity ward of the Cook County hospital,
each with a baby in her arms, asking for protection, because they
did not want to go home for fear of "being licked." For them were
no jewels nor idle living such as the storybooks portrayed. The
first of the older women whom I knew came to Hull-House to ask
that her young sister, who was about to arrive from Germany,
might live near us; she wished to find her respectable work and
wanted her to have the "decent pleasures" that Hull-House
afforded. After the arrangement had been completed and I had in
a measure recovered from my astonishment at the businesslike way
in which she spoke of her own life, I ventured to ask her
history. In a very few words she told me that she had come from
Germany as a music teacher to an American family. At the end of
two years, in order to avoid a scandal involving the head of the
house, she had come to Chicago where her child was born, but when
the remittances ceased after its death, finding herself without
home and resources, she had gradually become involved in her
present mode of life. By dint of utilizing her family
solicitude, we finally induced her to move into decent lodgings
before her sister arrived, and for a difficult year she supported
herself by her exquisite embroidery. At the end of that time,
she gave up the struggle, the more easily as her young sister,
well established in the dressmaking department of a large shop,
had begun to suspect her past life.

But discouraging as these and other similar efforts often were,
nevertheless the difficulties were infinitely less in those days
when we dealt with "fallen girls" than in the years following
when the "white slave traffic" became gradually established and
when agonized parents, as well as the victims themselves, were
totally unable to account for the situation. In the light of
recent disclosures, it seems as if we were unaccountably dull not
to have seen what was happening, especially to the Jewish girls
among whom "the home trade of the white slave traffic" was first
carried on and who were thus made to break through countless
generations of chastity. We early encountered the difficulties
of that old problem of restoring the woman, or even the child,
into the society she has once outraged. I well remember our
perplexity when we attempted to help two girls straight from a
Virginia tobacco factory, who had been decoyed into a
disreputable house when innocently seeking a lodging on the late
evening of their arrival. Although they had been rescued
promptly, the stigma remained, and we found it impossible to
permit them to join any of the social clubs connected with
Hull-House, not so much because there was danger of
contamination, as because the parents of the club members would
have resented their presence most hotly. One of our trustees
succeeded in persuading a repentant girl, fourteen years old,
whom we tried to give a fresh start in another part of the city,
to attend a Sunday School class of a large Chicago church. The
trustee hoped that the contact with nice girls, as well as the
moral training, would help the poor child on her hard road. But
unfortunately tales of her shortcomings reached the
superintendent who felt obliged, in order to protect the other
girls, to forbid her the school. She came back to tell us about
it, defiant as well as discouraged, and had it not been for the
experience with our own clubs, we could easily have joined her
indignation over a church which "acted as if its Sunday School
was a show window for candy kids."

In spite of poignant experiences or, perhaps, because of them,
the memory of the first years at Hull-House is more or less
blurred with fatigue, for we could of course become accustomed
only gradually to the unending activity and to the confusion of a
house constantly filling and refilling with groups of people.
The little children who came to the kindergarten in the morning
were followed by the afternoon clubs of older children, and those
in turn made way for the educational and social organizations of
adults, occupying every room in the house every evening. All
one's habits of living had to be readjusted, and any student's
tendency to sit with a book by the fire was of necessity
definitely abandoned.

To thus renounce "the luxury of personal preference" was,
however, a mere trifle compared to our perplexity over the
problems of an industrial neighborhood situated in an unorganized
city. Life pressed hard in many directions and yet it has always
seemed to me rather interesting that when we were so distressed
over its stern aspects and so impressed with the lack of
municipal regulations, the first building erected for Hull-House
should have been designed for an art gallery, for although it
contained a reading-room on the first floor and a studio above,
the largest space on the second floor was carefully designed and
lighted for art exhibits, which had to do only with the
cultivation of that which appealed to the powers of enjoyment as
over against a wage-earning capacity. It was also significant
that a Chicago business man, fond of pictures himself, responded
to this first appeal of the new and certainly puzzling
undertaking called a Settlement.

The situation was somewhat complicated by the fact that at the time
the building was erected in 1891, our free lease of the land upon
which Hull-House stood expired in 1895. The donor of the building,
however, overcame the difficulty by simply calling his gift a
donation of a thousand dollars a year. This restriction of course
necessitated the simplest sort of a structure, although I remember
on the exciting day when the new building was promised to us, that
I looked up my European notebook which contained the record of my
experience in Ulm, hoping that I might find a description of what I
then thought "a Cathedral of Humanity" ought to be. The
description was "low and widespreading as to include all men in
fellowship and mutual responsibility even as the older pinnacles
and spires indicated communion with God." The description did not
prove of value as an architectural motive I am afraid, although the
architects, who have remained our friends through all the years,
performed marvels with a combination of complicated demands and
little money. At the moment when I read this girlish outbreak it
gave me much comfort, for in those days in addition to our other
perplexities Hull-House was often called irreligious.

These first buildings were very precious to us and it afforded us
the greatest pride and pleasure as one building after another was
added to the Hull-House group. They clothed in brick and mortar
and made visible to the world that which we were trying to do;
they stated to Chicago that education and recreation ought to be
extended to the immigrants. The boys came in great numbers to
our provisional gymnasium fitted up in a former saloon, and it
seemed to us quite as natural that a Chicago man, fond of
athletics, should erect a building for them, as that the boys
should clamor for more room.

I do not wish to give a false impression, for we were often
bitterly pressed for money and worried by the prospect of unpaid
bills, and we gave up one golden scheme after another because we
could not afford it; we cooked the meals and kept the books and
washed the windows without a thought of hardship if we thereby
saved money for the consummation of some ardently desired

But in spite of our financial stringency, I always believed that
money would be given when we had once clearly reduced the
Settlement idea to the actual deed. This chapter, therefore,
would be incomplete if it did not record a certain theory of
nonresistance or rather universal good will which I had worked
out in connection with the Settlement idea and which was later so
often and so rudely disturbed. At that time I had come to
believe that if the activities of Hull-House were ever
misunderstood, it would be either because there was not time to
fully explain or because our motives had become mixed, for I was
convinced that disinterested action was like truth or beauty in
its lucidity and power of appeal.

But more gratifying than any understanding or response from
without could possibly be, was the consciousness that a growing
group of residents was gathering at Hull-House, held together in
that soundest of all social bonds, the companionship of mutual
interests. These residents came primarily because they were
genuinely interested in the social situation and believed that
the Settlement was valuable as a method of approach to it. A
house in which the men residents lived was opened across the
street, and at the end of the first five years the Hull-House
residential force numbered fifteen, a majority of whom still
remain identified with the Settlement.

Even in those early years we caught glimpses of the fact that
certain social sentiments, which are "the difficult and
cumulating product of human growth" and which like all higher
aims live only by communion and fellowship, are cultivated most
easily in the fostering soil of a community life.

Occasionally I obscurely felt as if a demand were being made upon
us for a ritual which should express and carry forward the hope
of the social movement. I was constantly bewildered by the
number of requests I received to officiate at funeral services
and by the curious confessions made to me by total strangers.
For a time I accepted the former and on one awful occasion
furnished "the poetic part" of a wedding ceremony really
performed by a justice of the peace, but I soon learned to
steadfastly refuse such offices, although I saw that for many
people without church affiliations the vague humanitarianism the
Settlement represented was the nearest approach they could find
to an expression of their religious sentiments.

These hints of what the Settlement might mean to at least a few
spirits among its contemporaries became clear to me for the first
time one summer's day in rural England, when I discussed with John
Trevor his attempts to found a labor church and his desire to turn
the toil and danger attached to the life of the workingman into
the means of a universal fellowship. That very year a papyrus
leaf brought to the British Museum from Egypt, containing among
other sayings of Jesus, "Raise the stone, and there thou shalt
find me; cleave the wood and I am there," was a powerful reminder
to all England of the basic relations between daily labor and
Christian teaching.

In those early years at Hull-House we were, however, in no danger
of losing ourselves in mazes of speculation or mysticism, and there
was shrewd penetration in a compliment I received from one of our
Scotch neighbors. He came down Polk Street as I was standing near
the foundations of our new gymnasium, and in response to his
friendly remark that "Hull-House was spreading out," I replied that
"Perhaps we were spreading out too fast." "Oh, no," he rejoined,
"you can afford to spread out wide, you are so well planted in the
mud," giving the compliment, however, a practical turn, as he
glanced at the deep mire on the then unpaved street. It was this
same condition of Polk Street which had caused the crown prince of
Belgium when he was brought upon a visit to Hull-House to shake his
head and meditatively remark, "There is not such a street--no, not
one--in all the territory of Belgium."

At the end of five years the residents of Hull-House published
some first found facts and our reflections thereon in a book
called "Hull-House Maps and Papers." The maps were taken from
information collected by one of the residents for the United
States Bureau of Labor in the investigation into "the slums of
great cities" and the papers treated of various neighborhood
matters with candor and genuine concern if not with skill. The
first edition became exhausted in two years, and apparently the
Boston publisher did not consider the book worthy of a second.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK
Initiative at the Celebration of Women Writers. Initial text
entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of
volunteer Jill Thoren.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

[A Celebration of Women Writers]

"Chapter VIII: Problems of Poverty." by Jane Addams (1860-1935)
From: Twenty Years at Hull-House with Autobiographical Notes. by
Jane Addams. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1912 (c.1910) pp.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]



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