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Twenty Years At Hull House by Jane Addams

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That neglected and forlorn old age is daily brought to the
attention of a Settlement which undertakes to bear its share of
the neighborhood burden imposed by poverty, was pathetically
clear to us during our first months of residence at Hull-House.
One day a boy of ten led a tottering old lady into the House,
saying that she had slept for six weeks in their kitchen on a bed
made up next to the stove; that she had come when her son died,
although none of them had ever seen her before; but because her
son had "once worked in the same shop with Pa she thought of him
when she had nowhere to go." The little fellow concluded by
saying that our house was so much bigger than theirs that he
thought we would have more roomfor beds. The old woman herself
said absolutely nothing, but looking on with that gripping fear
of the poorhouse in her eyes, she was a living embodiment of that
dread which is so heartbreaking that the occupants of the County
Infirmary themselves seem scarcely less wretched than those who
are making their last stand against it.

This look was almost more than I could bear for only a few days
before some frightened women had bidden me come quickly to the
house of an old German woman, whom two men from the country
agent's office were attempting to remove to the County Infirmary.
The poor old creature had thrown herself bodily upon a small and
battered chest of drawers and clung there, clutching it so firmly
that it would have been impossible to remove her without also
taking the piece of furniture . She did not weep nor moan nor
indeed make any human sound, but between her broken gasps for
breath she squealed shrilly like a frightened animal caught in a
trap. The little group of women and children gathered at her
door stood aghast at this realization of the black dread which
always clouds the lives of the very poor when work is slack, but
which constantly grows more imminent and threatening as old age
approaches. The neighborhood women and I hastened to make all
sorts of promises as to the support of the old woman and the
country officials, only too glad to be rid of their unhappy duty,
left her to our ministrations. This dread of the poorhouse, the
result of centuries of deterrent Poor Law administration, seemed
to me not without some justification one summer when I found
myself perpetually distressed by the unnecessary idleness and
forlornness of the old women in the Cook County Infirmary, many
of whom I had known in the years when activity was still a
necessity, and when they yet felt bustlingly important. To take
away from an old woman whose life has been spent in household
cares all the foolish little belongings to which her affections
cling and to which her very fingers have become accustomed, is to
take away her last incentive to activity, almost to life itself.
To give an old woman only a chair and a bed, to leave her no
cupboard in which her treasures may be stowed, not only that she
may take them out when she desires occupation, but that their
mind may dwell upon them in moments of revery, is to reduce
living almost beyond the limit of human endurance.

The poor creature who clung so desperately to her chest of
drawers was really clinging to the last remnant of normal
living--a symbol of all she was asked to renounce. For several
years after this summer I invited five or six old women to take a
two weeks' vacation from the poorhouse which was eagerly and even
gayly accepted. Almost all the old men in the County Infirmary
wander away each summer taking their chances for finding food or
shelter and return much refreshed by the little "tramp," but the
old women cannot do this unless they have some help from the
outside, and yet the expenditure of a very little money secures
for them the coveted vacation. I found that a few pennies paid
their car fare into town, a dollar a week procured lodging with
an old acquaintance; assured of two good meals a day in the
Hull-House coffee-house they could count upon numerous cups of
tea among old friends to whom they would airily state that they
had "come out for a little change" and hadn't yet made up their
minds about "going in again for the winter." They thus enjoyed a
two weeks' vacation to the top of their bent and returned with
wondrous tales of their adventures, with which they regaled the
other paupers during the long winter.

The reminiscences of these old women, their shrewd comments upon
life, their sense of having reached a point where they may at
last speak freely with nothing to lose because of their
frankness, makes them often the most delightful of companions. I
recall one of my guests, the mother of many scattered children,
whose one bright spot through all the dreary years had been the
wedding feast of her son Mike,--a feast which had become
transformed through long meditation into the nectar and ambrosia
of the very gods. As a farewell fling before she went "in"
again, we dined together upon chicken pie, but it did not taste
like the "the chicken pie at Mike's wedding" and she was
disappointed after all.

Even death itself sometimes fails to bring the dignity and
serenity which one would fain associate with old age. I recall
the dying hour of one old Scotchwoman whose long struggle to
"keep respectable" had so embittered her that her last words were
gibes and taunts for those who were trying to minister to her.
"So you came in yourself this morning, did you? You only sent
things yesterday. I guess you knew when the doctor was coming.
Don't try to warm my feet with anything but that old jacket that
I've got there; it belonged to my boy who was drowned at sea nigh
thirty years ago, but it's warmer yet with human feelings than
any of your damned charity hot-water bottles." Suddenly the harsh
gasping voice was stilled in death and I awaited the doctor's
coming shaken and horrified.

The lack of municipal regulation already referred to was, in the
early days of Hull-House, parallelled by the inadequacy of the
charitable efforts of the city and an unfounded optimism that
there was no real poverty among us. Twenty years ago there was no
Charity Organization Society in Chicago and the Visiting Nurse
Association had not yet begun its beneficial work, while the
relief societies, although conscientiously administered, were
inadequate in extent and antiquated in method.

As social reformers gave themselves over to discussion of general
principles, so the poor invariably accused poverty itself of their
destruction. I recall a certain Mrs. Moran, who was returning one
rainy day from the office of the county agent with her arms full of
paper bags containing beans and flour which alone lay between her
children and starvation. Although she had no money she boarded a
street car in order to save her booty from complete destruction by
the rain, and as the burst bags dropped "flour on the ladies'
dresses" and ""beans all over the place," she was sharply
reprimanded by the conductor, who was the further exasperated when
he discovered she had no fare. He put her off, as she had hoped he
would, almost in front of Hull-House. She related to us her state
of mind as she stepped off the car and saw the last of her wares
disappearing; she admitted she forgot the proprieties and "cursed a
little," but, curiously enough, she pronounced her malediction, not
against the rain nor the conductor, nor yet against the worthless
husband who had been set up to the city prison, but, true to the
Chicago spirit of the moment, went to the root of the matter and
roundly "cursed poverty."

This spirit of generalization and lack of organization among the
charitable forces of the city was painfully revealed in that
terrible winter after the World's Fair, when the general
financial depression throughout the country was much intensified
in Chicago by the numbers of unemployed stranded at the close of
the exposition. When the first cold weather came the police
stations and the very corridors of the city hall were crowded by
men who could afford no other lodging. They made huge
demonstrations on the lake front, reminding one of the London
gatherings in Trafalgar Square.

It was the winter in which Mr. Stead wrote his indictment of
Chicago. I can vividly recall his visits to Hull-House, some of
them between eleven and twelve o'clock at night, when he would
come in wet and hungry from an investigation of the levee
district, and while he was drinking hot chocolate before an open
fire, would relate in one of his curious monologues, his
experience as an out-of-door laborer standing in line without an
overcoat for two hours in the sleet, that he might have a chance
to sweep the streets; or his adventures with a crook, who mistook
him for one of this own kind and offered him a place as an agent
for a gambling house, which he promptly accepted. Mr. Stead was
much impressed with the mixed goodness in Chicago, the lack of
rectitude in many high places, the simple kindness of the most
wretched to each other. Before he published "If Christ Came to
Chicago" he made his attempt to rally the diverse moral forces of
the city in a huge mass meeting, which resulted in a temporary
organization, later developing into the Civic Federation. I was
a member of the committee of five appointed to carry out the
suggestions made in this remarkable meeting, and or first concern
was to appoint a committee to deal with the unemployed. But when
has a committee ever dealt satisfactorily with the unemployed?
Relief stations were opened in various part of the city,
temporary lodging houses were established, Hull-House undertaking
to lodge the homeless women who could be received nowhere else;
employment stations were opened giving sewing to the women, and
street sweeping for the men was organized. It was in connection
with the latter that the perplexing question of the danger of
permanently lowering wages at such a crisis, in the praiseworthy
effort to bring speedy relief, was brought home to me. I
insisted that it was better to have the men work half a day for
seventy-five cents than a whole day for a dollar, better that
they should earn three dollars in two days than in three days. I
resigned from the street-cleaning committee in despair of making
the rest of the committee understand that, as our real object was
not street cleaning but the help of the unemployed, we must treat
the situation in such wise that the men would not be worse off
when they returned to their normal occupations. The discussion
opened up situations new to me and carried me far afield in
perhaps the most serious economic reading I have ever done.

A beginning also was then made toward a Bureau of Organized
Charities, the main office being put in charge of a young man
recently come from Boston, who lived at Hull-House. But to
employ scientific methods for the first time at such a moment
involved difficulties, and the most painful episode of the winter
came for me from an attempt on my part to conform to carefully
received instructions. A shipping clerk whom I had known for a
long time had lost his place, as so many people had that year,
and came to the relief station established at Hull-House four or
five times to secure help for his family. I told him one day of
the opportunity for work on the drainage canal and intimated that
if any employment were obtainable, he ought to exhaust that
possibility before asking for help. The man replied that he had
always worked indoors and that he could not endure outside work
in winter. I am grateful to remember that I was too uncertain to
be severe, although I held to my instructions. He did not come
again for relief, but worked for two days digging on the canal,
where he contracted pneumonia and died a week later. I have
never lost trace of the two little children he left behind him,
although I cannot see them without a bitter consciousness that it
was at their expense I learned that life cannot be administered
by definite rules and regulations; that wisdom to deal with a
man's difficulties comes only through some knowledge of his life
and habits as a whole; and that to treat an isolated episode is
almost sure to invite blundering.

It was also during this winter that I became permanently
impressed with the kindness of the poor to each other; the woman
who lives upstairs will willingly share her breakfast with the
family below because she knows they "are hard up"; the man who
boarded with them last winter will give a month's rent because he
knows the father of the family is out of work; the baker across
the street who is fast being pushed to the wall by his downtown
competitors, will send across three loaves of stale bread because
he has seen the children looking longingly into his window and
suspects they are hungry. There are also the families who,
during times of business depression, are obliged to seek help
from the county or some benevolent society, but who are
themselves most anxious not to be confounded with the pauper
class, with whom indeed they do not in the least belong. Charles
Booth, in his brilliant chapter on the unemployed, expresses
regret that the problems of the working class are so often
confounded with the problems of the inefficient and the idle,
that although working people live in the same street with those
in need of charity, to thus confound two problems is to render
the solution of both impossible.

I remember one family in which the father had been out of work
for this same winter, most of the furniture had been pawned, and
as the worn-out shoes could not be replaced the children could
not go to school. The mother was ill and barely able to come for
the supplies and medicines. Two years later she invited me to
supper one Sunday evening in the little home which had been
completely restored, and she gave as a reason for the invitation
that she couldn't bear to have me remember them as they had been
during that one winter, which she insisted had been unique in her
twelve years of married life. She said that it was as if she had
met me, not as I am ordinarily, but as I should appear misshapen
with rheumatism or with a face distorted by neuralgic pain; that
it was not fair to judge poor people that way. She perhaps
unconsciously illustrated the difference between the
relief-station relation to the poor and the Settlement relation
to its neighbors, the latter wishing to know them through all the
varying conditions of life, to stand by when they are in
distress, but by no means to drop intercourse with them when
normal prosperity has returned, enabling the relation to become
more social and free from economic disturbance.

Possibly something of the same effort has to be made within the
Settlement itself to keep its own sense of proportion in regard
to the relation of the crowded city quarter to the rest of the
country. It was in the spring following this terrible winter,
during a journey to meet lecture engagements in California, that
I found myself amazed at the large stretches of open country and
prosperous towns through which we passed day by day, whose
existence I had quite forgotten.

In the latter part of the summer of 1895, I served as a member on
a commission appointed by the mayor of Chicago, to investigate
conditions in the county poorhouse, public attention having
become centered on it through one of those distressing stories,
which exaggerates the wrong in a public institution while at the
same time it reveals conditions which need to be rectified.
However necessary publicity is for securing reformed
administration, however useful such exposures may be for
political purposes, the whole is attended by such a waste of the
most precious human emotions, by such a tearing of living tissue,
that it can scarcely be endured. Every time I entered Hull-House
during the days of the investigation, I would find waiting for me
from twenty to thirty people whose friends and relatives were in
the suspected institution, all in such acute distress of mind
that to see them was to look upon the victims of deliberate
torture. In most cases my visitor would state that it seemed
impossible to put their invalids in any other place, but if these
stories were true, something must be done. Many of the patients
were taken out only to be returned after a few days or weeks to
meet the sullen hostility of their attendants and with their own
attitude changed from confidence to timidity and alarm.

This piteous dependence of the poor upon the good will of public
officials was made clear to us in an early experience with a
peasant woman straight from the fields of Germany, whom we met
during our first six months at Hull-House. Her four years in
America had been spent in patiently carrying water up and down
two flights of stairs, and in washing the heavy flannel suits of
iron foundry workers. For this her pay had averaged thirty-five
cents a day. Three of her daughters had fallen victims to the
vice of the city. The mother was bewildered and distressed, but
understood nothing. We were able to induce the betrayer of one
daughter to marry her; the second, after a tedious lawsuit,
supported his child; with the third we were able to do nothing.
This woman is now living with her family in a little house
seventeen miles from the city. She has made two payments on her
land and is a lesson to all beholders as she pastures her cow up
and down the railroad tracks and makes money from her ten acres.
She did not need charity for she had an immense capacity for hard
work, but she sadly needed the service of the State's attorney
office, enforcing the laws designed for the protection of such
girls as her daughters.

We early found ourselves spending many hours in efforts to secure
support for deserted women, insurance for bewildered widows,
damages for injured operators, furniture from the clutches of the
installment store. The Settlement is valuable as an information
and interpretation bureau. It constantly acts between the
various institutions of the city and the people for whose benefit
these institutions were erected. The hospitals, the county
agencies, and State asylums are often but vague rumors to the
people who need them most. Another function of the Settlement to
its neighborhood resembles that of the big brother whose mere
presence on the playground protects the little one from bullies.

We early learned to know the children of hard-driven mothers who
went out to work all day, sometimes leaving the little things in
the casual care of a neighbor, but often locking them into their
tenement rooms. The first three crippled children we encountered
in the neighborhood had all been injured while their mothers were
at work: one had fallen out of a third-story window, another had
been burned, and the third had a curved spine due to the fact that
for three years he had been tied all day long to the leg of the
kitchen table, only released at noon by his older brother who
hastily ran in from a neighboring factory to share his lunch with
him. When the hot weather came the restless children could not
brook the confinement of the stuffy rooms, and, as it was not
considered safe to leave the doors open because of sneak thieves,
many of the children were locked out. During our first summer an
increasing number of these poor little mites would wander into the
cool hallway of Hull-House. We kept them there and fed them at
noon, in return for which we were sometimes offered a hot penny
which had been held in a tight little fist "ever since mother left
this morning, to buy something to eat with." Out of kindergarten
hours our little guests noisily enjoyed the hospitality of our
bedrooms under the so-called care of any resident who volunteered
to keep an eye on them, but later they were moved into a
neighboring apartment under more systematic supervision.

Hull-House was thus committed to a day nursery which we sustained
for sixteen years first in a little cottage on a side street and
then in a building designed for its use called the Children's
House. It is now carried on by the United Charities of Chicago
in a finely equipped building on our block, where the immigrant
mothers are cared for as well as the children, and where they are
taught the things which will make life in America more possible.
Our early day nursery brought us into natural relations with the
poorest women of the neighborhood, many of whom were bearing the
burden of dissolute and incompetent husbands in addition to the
support of their children. Some of them presented an impressive
manifestation of that miracle of affection which outlives abuse,
neglect, and crime,--the affection which cannot be plucked from
the heart where it has lived, although it may serve only to
torture and torment. "Has your husband come back?" you inquire
of Mrs. S., whom you have known for eight years as an overworked
woman bringing her three delicate children every morning to the
nursery; she is bent under the double burden of earning the money
which supports them and giving them the tender care which alone
keeps them alive. The oldest two children have at last gone to
work, and Mrs. S. has allowed herself the luxury of staying at
home two days a week. And now the worthless husband is back
again--the "gentlemanly gambler" type who, through all
vicissitudes, manages to present a white shirtfront and a gold
watch to the world, but who is dissolute, idle and extravagant.
You dread to think how much his presence will increase the drain
upon the family exchequer, and you know that he stayed away until
he was certain that the children were old enough to earn money
for his luxuries. Mrs. S. does not pretend to take his return
lightly, but she replies in all seriousness and simplicity, "You
know my feeling for him has never changed. You may think me
foolish, but I was always proud of his good looks and educated
appearance. I was lonely and homesick during those eight years
when the children were little and needed so much doctoring, but I
could never bring myself to feel hard toward him, and I used to
pray the good Lord to keep him from harm and bring him back to
us; so, of course, I'm thankful now." She passes on with a
dignity which gives one a new sense of the security of affection.

I recall a similar case of a woman who had supported her three
children for five years, during which time her dissolute husband
constantly demanded money for drink and kept her perpetually
worried and intimidated. One Saturday, before the "blessed
Easter," he came back from a long debauch, ragged and filthy, but
in a state of lachrymose repentance. The poor wife received him
as a returned prodigal, believed that his remorse would prove
lasting, and felt sure that if she and the children went to
church with him on Easter Sunday and he could be induced to take
the pledge before the priest, all their troubles would be ended.
After hours of vigorous effort and the expenditure of all her
savings, he finally sat on the front doorstep the morning of
Easter Sunday, bathed, shaved and arrayed in a fine new suit of
clothes. She left him sitting there in the reluctant spring
sunshine while she finished washing and dressing the children.
When she finally opened the front door with the three shining
children that they might all set forth together, the returned
prodigal had disappeared, and was not seen again until midnight,
when he came back in a glorious state of intoxication from the
proceeds of his pawned clothes and clad once more in the dingiest
attire. She took him in without comment, only to begin again the
wretched cycle. There were of course instances of the criminal
husband as well as of the merely vicious. I recall one woman
who, during seven years, never missed a visiting day at the
penitentiary when she might see her husband, and whose little
children in the nursery proudly reported the messages from father
with no notion that he was in disgrace, so absolutely did they
reflect the gallant spirit of their mother.

While one was filled with admiration for these heroic women,
something was also to be said for some of the husbands, for the
sorry men who, for one reason or another, had failed in the
struggle of life. Sometimes this failure was purely economic and
the men were competent to give the children, whom they were not
able to support, the care and guidance and even education which
were of the highest value. Only a few months ago I met upon the
street one of the early nursery mothers who for five years had
been living in another part of the city, and in response to my
query as to the welfare of her five children, she bitterly
replied, "All of them except Mary have been arrested at one time
or another, thank you." In reply to my remark that I thought her
husband had always had such admirable control over them, she
burst out, "That has been the whole trouble. I got tired taking
care of him and didn't believe that his laziness was all due to
his health, as he said, so I left him and said that I would
support the children, but not him. From that minute the trouble
with the four boys began. I never knew what they were doing, and
after every sort of a scrape I finally put Jack and the twins
into institutions where I pay for them. Joe has gone to work at
last, but with a disgraceful record behind him. I tell you I
ain't so sure that because a woman can make big money that she
can be both father and mother to her children."

As I walked on, I could but wonder in which particular we are
most stupid--to judge a man's worth so solely by his wage-earning
capacity that a good wife feels justified in leaving him, or in
holding fast to that wretched delusion that a woman can both
support and nurture her children.

One of the most piteous revelations of the futility of the latter
attempt came to me through the mother of "Goosie," as the
children for years called a little boy who, because he was
brought to the nursery wrapped up in his mother's shawl, always
had his hair filled with the down and small feathers from the
feather brush factory where she worked. One March morning,
Goosie's mother was hanging out the washing on a shed roof before
she left for the factory. Five-year-old Goosie was trotting at
her heels handing her clothes pins, when he was suddenly blown
off the roof by the high wind into the alley below. His neck was
broken by the fall, and as he lay piteous and limp on a pile of
frozen refuse, his mother cheerily called him to "climb up
again," so confident do overworked mothers become that their
children cannot get hurt. After the funeral, as the poor mother
sat in the nursery postponing the moment when she must go back to
her empty rooms, I asked her, in a futile effort to be of
comfort, if there was anything more we could do for her. The
overworked, sorrow-stricken woman looked up and replied, "If you
could give me my wages for to-morrow, I would not go to work in
the factory at all. I would like to stay at home all day and
hold the baby. Goosie was always asking me to take him and I
never had any time." This statement revealed the condition of
many nursery mothers who are obliged to forego the joys and
solaces which belong to even the most poverty-stricken. The long
hours of factory labor necessary for earning the support of a
child leave no time for the tender care and caressing which may
enrich the life of the most piteous baby.

With all of the efforts made by modern society to nurture and
educate the young, how stupid it is to permit the mothers of
young children to spend themselves in the coarser work of the
world! It is curiously inconsistent that with the emphasis which
this generation has placed upon the mother and upon the
prolongation of infancy, we constantly allow the waste of this
most precious material. I cannot recall without indignation a
recent experience. I was detained late one evening in an office
building by a prolonged committee meeting of the Board of
Education. As I came out at eleven o'clock, I met in the
corridor of the fourteenth floor a woman whom I knew, on her
knees scrubbing the marble tiling. As she straightened up to
greet me, she seemed so wet from her feet up to her chin, that I
hastily inquired the cause. Her reply was that she left home at
five o'clock every night and had no opportunity for six hours to
nurse her baby. Her mother's milk mingled with the very water
with which she scrubbed the floors until she should return at
midnight, heated and exhausted, to feed her screaming child with
what remained within her breasts.

These are only a few of the problems connected with the lives of
the poorest people with whom the residents in a Settlement are
constantly brought in contact.

I cannot close this chapter without a reference to that gallant
company of men and women among whom my acquaintance is so large,
who are fairly indifferent to starvation itself because of their
preoccupation with higher ends. Among them are visionaries and
enthusiasts, unsuccessful artists, writers, and reformers. For
many years at Hull-House, we knew a well-bred German woman who was
completely absorbed in the experiment of expressing musical
phrases and melodies by means of colors. Because she was small
and deformed, she stowed herself into her trunk every night, where
she slept on a canvas stretched hammock-wise from the four corners
and her food was of the meagerest; nevertheless if a visitor left
an offering upon her table, it was largely spent for apparatus or
delicately colored silk floss, with which to pursue the
fascinating experiment. Another sadly crippled old woman, the
widow of a sea captain, although living almost exclusively upon
malted milk tablets as affording a cheap form of prepared food,
was always eager to talk of the beautiful illuminated manuscripts
she had sought out in her travels and to show specimens of her own
work as an illuminator. Still another of these impressive old
women was an inveterate inventor. Although she had seen prosperous
days in England, when we knew her, she subsisted largely upon the
samples given away at the demonstration counters of the department
stores, and on bits of food which she cooked on a coal shovel in
the furnace of the apartment house whose basement back room she
occupied. Although her inventions were not practicable, various
experts to whom they were submitted always pronounced them
suggestive and ingenious. I once saw her receive this
complimentary verdict--"this ribbon to stick in her coat"--with
such dignity and gravity that the words of condolence for her
financial disappointment, died upon my lips.

These indomitable souls are but three out of many whom I might
instance to prove that those who are handicapped in the race for
life's goods, sometimes play a magnificent trick upon the jade,
life herself, by ceasing to know whether or not they possess any
of her tawdry goods and chattels.

[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 Flo Carrierre.

"I am a full-time staff at University, continuing my studies on a
part-time basis. I volunteer in the community, and thank you for
giving me the opportunity to make a difference in the Celebration
of Women Writers by contributing time to enter book
chapters."--Flo Carrierre.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

[A Celebration of Women Writers]

"Chapter IX: A Decade of Economic Discussion." 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. 177-197.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]



The Hull-House residents were often bewildered by the desire for
constant discussion which characterized Chicago twenty years ago,
for although the residents in the early Settlements were in many
cases young persons who had sought relief from the consciousness
of social maladjustment in the "anodyne of work" afforded by
philanthropic and civic activities, their former experiences had
not thrown them into company with radicals. The decade between
1890-1900 was, in Chicago, a period of propaganda as over against
constructive social effort; the moment for marching and carrying
banners, for stating general principles and making a
demonstration, rather than the time for uncovering the situation
and for providing the legal measures and the civic organization
through which new social hopes might make themselves felt.

When Hull-House was established in 1889, the events of the
Haymarket riot were already two years old, but during that time
Chicago had apparently gone through the first period of
repressive measures, and in the winter of 1889-1890, by the
advice and with the active participation of its leading citizens,
the city had reached the conclusion that the only cure for the
acts of anarchy was free speech and an open discussion of the
ills of which the opponents of government complained. Great open
meetings were held every Sunday evening in the recital hall of
the then new auditorium, presided over by such representative
citizens as Lyman Gage, and every possible shade of opinion was
freely expressed. A man who spoke constantly at these meetings
used to be pointed out to the visiting stranger as one who had
been involved with the group of convicted anarchists, and who
doubtless would have been arrested and tried, but for the
accident of his having been in Milwaukee when the explosion
occurred. One cannot imagine such meetings being held in Chicago
to-day, nor that such a man should be encouraged to raise his
voice in a public assemblage presided over by a leading banker.
It is hard to tell just what change has come over our philosophy
or over the minds of those citizens who were then convinced that
if these conferences had been established earlier, the Haymarket
riot and all its sensational results might have been avoided.

At any rate, there seemed a further need for smaller clubs, where
men who differed widely in their social theories might meet for
discussion, where representatives of the various economic schools
might modify each other, and at least learn tolerance and the
futility of endeavoring to convince all the world of the truth of
one position. Fanaticism is engendered only when men, finding no
contradiction to their theories, at last believe that the very
universe lends itself as an exemplification of one point of view.
"The Working People's Social Science Club" was organized at
Hull-House in the spring of 1890 by an English workingman, and
for seven years it held a weekly meeting. At eight o'clock every
Wednesday night the secretary called to order from forty to one
hundred people; a chairman for the evening was elected, a speaker
was introduced who was allowed to talk until nine o'clock; his
subject was then thrown open to discussion and a lively debate
ensued until ten o'clock, at which hour the meeting was declared
adjourned. The enthusiasm of this club seldom lagged. Its zest
for discussion was unceasing, and any attempt to turn it into a
study or reading club always met with the strong disapprobation
of the members.

In these weekly discussions in the Hull-House drawing room
everything was thrown back upon general principles and all
discussion save that which "went to the root of things," was
impatiently discarded as an unworthy, halfway measure. I recall
one evening in this club when an exasperated member had thrown out
the statement that "Mr. B. believes that socialism will cure the
toothache." Mr. B. promptly rose to his feet and said that it
certainly would, that when every child's teeth were systematically
cared for from the beginning, toothaches would disappear from the
face of the earth, belonging, as it did, to the extinct
competitive order, as the black plague had disappeared from the
earth with the ill-regulated feudal regime of the Middle Ages.
"But," he added, "why do we spend time discussing trifles like the
toothache when great social changes are to be considered which
will of themselves reform these minor ills?" Even the man who had
been humorous fell into the solemn tone of the gathering. It was,
perhaps, here that the socialist surpassed everyone else in the
fervor of economic discussion. He was usually a German or a
Russian, with a turn for logical presentation, who saw in the
concentration of capital and the growth of monopolies an
inevitable transition to the socialist state. He pointed out that
the concentration of capital in fewer hands but increased the mass
of those whose interests were opposed to a maintenance of its
power, and vastly simplified its final absorption by the
community; that monopoly "when it is finished doth bring forth
socialism." Opposite to him, springing up in every discussion was
the individualist, or, as the socialist called him, the anarchist,
who insisted that we shall never secure just human relations until
we have equality of opportunity; that the sole function of the
state is to maintain the freedom of each, guarded by the like
freedom of all, in order that each man may be able to work out the
problems of his own existence.

That first winter was within three years of the Henry George
campaign in New York, when his adherents all over the country
were carrying on a successful and effective propaganda. When
Henry George himself came to Hull-House one Sunday afternoon, the
gymnasium which was already crowded with men to hear Father
Huntington's address on "Why should a free thinker believe in
Christ," fairly rocked on its foundations under the enthusiastic
and prolonged applause which greeted this great leader and
constantly interrupted his stirring address, filled, as all of
his speeches were, with high moral enthusiasm and humanitarian
fervor. Of the remarkable congresses held in connection with the
World's Fair, perhaps those inaugurated by the advocates of
single tax exceeded all others in vital enthusiasm. It was
possibly significant that all discussions in the department of
social science had to be organized by partisans in separate
groups. The very committee itself on social science composed of
Chicago citizens, of whom I was one, changed from week to week,
as partisan members had their feelings hurt because their cause
did not receive "due recognition." And yet in the same building
adherents of the most diverse religious creeds, eastern and
western, met in amity and good fellowship. Did it perhaps
indicate that their presentation of the eternal problems of life
were cast in an older and less sensitive mold than this
presentation in terms of social experience, or was it rather that
the new social science was not yet a science at all but merely a
name under cover of which we might discuss the perplexing
problems of the industrial situation? Certainly the difficulties
of our committee were not minimized by the fact that the then new
science of sociology had not yet defined its own field. The
University of Chicago, opened only the year before the World's
Fair, was the first great institution of learning to institute a
department of sociology.

In the meantime the Hull-House Social Science Club grew in
numbers and fervor as various distinguished people who were
visiting the World's Fair came to address it. I recall a
brilliant Frenchwoman who was filled with amazement because one
of the shabbiest men reflected a reading of Schopenhauer. She
considered the statement of another member most remarkable--that
when he saw a carriage driving through the streets occupied by a
capitalist who was no longer even an entrepreneur, he felt quite
as sure that his days were numbered and that his very lack of
function to society would speedily bring him to extinction, as he
did when he saw a drunkard reeling along the same street.

The club at any rate convinced the residents that no one so
poignantly realizes the failures in the social structure as the
man at the bottom, who has been most directly in contact with
those failures and has suffered most. I recall the shrewd
comments of a certain sailor who had known the disinherited in
every country; of a Russian who had served his term in Siberia;
of an old Irishman who called himself an atheist but who in
moments of excitement always blamed the good Lord for "setting
supinely" when the world was so horribly out of joint.

It was doubtless owing largely to this club that Hull-House
contracted its early reputation for radicalism. Visitors refused
to distinguish between the sentiments expressed by its members in
the heat of discussion and the opinions held by the residents
themselves. At that moment in Chicago the radical of every shade
of opinion was vigorous and dogmatic; of the sort that could not
resign himself to the slow march of human improvement; of the
type who knew exactly "in what part of the world Utopia standeth."

During this decade Chicago seemed divided into two classes; those
who held that "business is business" and who were therefore
annoyed at the very notion of social control, and the radicals,
who claimed that nothing could be done to really moralize the
industrial situation until society should be reorganized.

A Settlement is above all a place for enthusiasms, a spot to which
those who have a passion for the equalization of human joys and
opportunities are early attracted. It is this type of mind which
is in itself so often obnoxious to the man of conquering business
faculty, to whom the practical world of affairs seems so supremely
rational that he would never vote to change the type of it even if
he could. The man of social enthusiasm is to him an annoyance and
an affront. He does not like to hear him talk and considers him
per se "unsafe." Such a business man would admit, as an abstract
proposition, that society is susceptible of modification and would
even agree that all human institutions imply progressive
development, but at the same time he deeply distrusts those who
seek to reform existing conditions. There is a certain
common-sense foundation for this distrust, for too often the
reformer is the rebel who defies things as they are, because of
the restraints which they impose upon his individual desires
rather than because of the general defects of the system. When
such a rebel poses for a reformer, his shortcomings are heralded
to the world, and his downfall is cherished as an awful warning to
those who refuse to worship "the god of things as they are."

And yet as I recall the members of this early club, even those
who talked the most and the least rationally, seem to me to have
been particularly kindly and "safe." The most pronounced
anarchist among them has long since become a convert to a
religious sect, holding Buddhistic tenets which imply little food
and a distrust of all action; he has become a wraith of his
former self but he still retains his kindly smile.

In the discussion of these themes, Hull-House was of course quite
as much under the suspicion of one side as the other. I remember
one night when I addressed a club of secularists, which met at the
corner of South Halsted and Madison streets, a rough-looking man
called out: "You are all right now, but, mark my words, when you
are subsidized by the millionaires, you will be afraid to talk like
this." The defense of free speech was a sensitive point with me,
and I quickly replied that while I did not intend to be subsidized
by millionaires, neither did I propose to be bullied by workingmen,
and that I should state my honest opinion without consulting either
of them. To my surprise, the audience of radicals broke into
applause, and the discussion turned upon the need of resisting
tyranny wherever found, if democratic institutions were to endure.
This desire to bear independent witness to social righteousness
often resulted in a sense of compromise difficult to endure, and at
many times it seemed to me that we were destined to alienate
everybody. I should have been most grateful at that time to accept
the tenets of socialism, and I conscientiously made my effort, both
by reading and by many discussions with the comrades. I found that
I could easily give an affirmative answer to the heated question
"Don't you see that just as the hand mill created a society with a
feudal lord, so the steam mill creates a society with an industrial
capitalist?" But it was a little harder to give an affirmative
reply to the proposition that the social relation thus established
proceeds to create principles, ideas and categories as merely
historical and transitory products.

Of course I use the term "socialism" technically and do not wish
to confuse it with the growing sensitiveness which recognizes
that no personal comfort, nor individual development can
compensate a man for the misery of his neighbors, nor with the
increasing conviction that social arrangements can be transformed
through man's conscious and deliberate effort. Such a definition
would not have been accepted for a moment by the Russians, who
then dominated the socialist party in Chicago and among whom a
crude interpretation of the class conflict was the test of faith.

During those first years on Halsted Street nothing was more
painfully clear than the fact that pliable human nature is
relentlessly pressed upon by its physical environment. I saw
nowhere a more devoted effort to understand and relieve that
heavy pressure than the socialists were making, and I should have
been glad to have had the comradeship of that gallant company had
they not firmly insisted that fellowship depends upon identity of
creed. They repudiated similarity of aim and social sympathy as
tests which were much too loose and wavering as they did that
vague socialism which for thousands has come to be a philosophy
or rather religion embodying the hope of the world and the
protection of all who suffer.

I also longed for the comfort of a definite social creed, which
should afford at one and the same time an explanation of the
social chaos and the logical steps towards its better ordering. I
came to have an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the
poverty in the midst of which I was living and which the
socialists constantly forced me to defend. My plight was not
unlike that which might have resulted in my old days of
skepticism regarding foreordination, had I then been compelled to
defend the confusion arising from the clashing of free wills as
an alternative to an acceptance of the doctrine. Another
difficulty in the way of accepting this economic determinism, so
baldly dependent upon the theory of class consciousness,
constantly arose when I lectured in country towns and there had
opportunities to read human documents of prosperous people as
well as those of my neighbors who were crowded into the city. The
former were stoutly unconscious of any classes in America, and
the class consciousness of the immigrants was fast being broken
into by the necessity for making new and unprecedented
connections in the industrial life all about them.

In the meantime, although many men of many minds met constantly
at our conferences, it was amazing to find the incorrigible good
nature which prevailed. Radicals are accustomed to hot
discussion and sharp differences of opinion and take it all in
the day's work. I recall that the secretary of the Hull-House
Social Science Club at the anniversary of the seventh year of its
existence read a report in which he stated that, so far as he
could remember, but twice during that time had a speaker lost his
temper, and in each case it had been a college professor who
"wasn't accustomed to being talked back to."

He also added that but once had all the club members united in
applauding the same speaker; only Samuel Jones, who afterwards
became the "golden rule" mayor of Toledo, had been able to
overcome all their dogmatic differences, when he had set forth a
plan of endowing a group of workingmen with a factory plant and a
working capital for experimentation in hours and wages, quite as
groups of scholars are endowed for research.

Chicago continued to devote much time to economic discussion and
remained in a state of youthful glamour throughout the nineties.
I recall a young Methodist minister who, in order to free his
denomination from any entanglement in his discussion of the
economic and social situation, moved from his church building
into a neighboring hall. The congregation and many other people
followed him there, and he later took to the street corners
because he found that the shabbiest men liked that best.
Professor Herron filled to overflowing a downtown hall every noon
with a series of talks entitled "Between Caesar and Jesus"--an
attempt to apply the teachings of the Gospel to the situations of
modern commerce. A half dozen publications edited with some
ability and much moral enthusiasm have passed away, perhaps
because they represented pamphleteering rather than journalism
and came to a natural end when the situation changed. Certainly
their editors suffered criticism and poverty on behalf of the
causes which they represented.

Trades-unionists, unless they were also socialists, were not
prominent in those economic discussions, although they were
steadily making an effort to bring order into the unnecessary
industrial confusion. They belonged to the second of the two
classes into which Mill divides all those who are dissatisfied
with human life as it is, and whose feelings are wholly identified
with its radical amendment. He states that the thoughts of one
class are in the region of ultimate aims, of "the highest ideals
of human life," while the thoughts of the other are in the region
of the "immediately useful, and practically attainable."

The meetings of our Social Science Club were carried on by men of
the former class, many of them with a strong religious bias who
constantly challenged the Church to assuage the human spirit thus
torn and bruised "in the tumult of a time disconsolate." These
men were so serious in their demand for religious fellowship, and
several young clergymen were so ready to respond to the appeal,
that various meetings were arranged at Hull-House, in which a
group of people met together to consider the social question, not
in a spirit of discussion, but in prayer and meditation. These
clergymen were making heroic efforts to induce their churches to
formally consider the labor situation, and during the years which
have elapsed since then, many denominations of the Christian
Church have organized labor committees; but at that time there
was nothing of the sort beyond the society in the established
Church of England "to consider the conditions of labor."

During that decade even the most devoted of that pioneer church
society failed to formulate the fervid desire for juster social
conditions into anything more convincing than a literary statement,
and the Christian Socialists, at least when the American branch
held its annual meeting at Hull-House, afforded but a striking
portrayal of that "between-age mood" in which so many of our
religious contemporaries are forced to live. I remember that I
received the same impression when I attended a meeting called by
the canon of an English cathedral to discuss the relation of the
Church to labor. The men quickly indicted the cathedral for its
uselessness, and the canon asked them what in their minds should be
its future. The men promptly replied that any new social order
would wish, of course, to preserve beautiful historic buildings,
that although they would dismiss the bishop and all the clergy,
they would want to retain one or two scholars as custodians and
interpreters. "And what next?" the imperturbable ecclesiastic
asked. "We would democratize it," replied the men. But when it
came to a more detailed description of such an undertaking, the
discussion broke down into a dozen bits, although illuminated by
much shrewd wisdom and affording a clue, perhaps as to the
destruction of the bishop's palace by the citizens of this same
town, who had attacked it as a symbol of swollen prosperity during
the bread riots of the earlier part of the century.

On the other hand the workingmen who continue to demand help from
the Church thereby acknowledge their kinship, as does the son who
continues to ask bread from the father who gives him a stone. I
recall an incident connected with a prolonged strike in Chicago
on the part of the typographical unions for an eight-hour day.
The strike had been conducted in a most orderly manner and the
union men, convinced of the justice of their cause, had felt
aggrieved because one of the religious publishing houses in
Chicago had constantly opposed them. Some of the younger
clergymen of the denominations who were friendly to the strikers'
cause came to a luncheon at Hull-House, where the situation was
discussed by the representatives of all sides. The clergymen,
becoming much interested in the idealism with which an officer of
the State Federation of Labor presented the cause, drew from him
the story of his search for fraternal relation: he said that at
fourteen years of age he had joined a church, hoping to find it
there; he had later become a member of many fraternal
organizations and mutual benefit societies, and, although much
impressed by their rituals, he was disappointed in the actual
fraternity. He had finally found, so it seemed to him, in the
cause of organized labor, what these other organizations had
failed to give him--an opportunity for sacrificial effort.

Chicago thus took a decade to discuss the problems inherent in
the present industrial organization and to consider what might be
done, not so much against deliberate aggression as against brutal
confusion and neglect; quite as the youth of promise passed
through a mist of rose-colored hope before he settles in the land
of achievement where he becomes all too dull and literal minded.
And yet as I hastily review the decade in Chicago which followed
this one given over to discussion, the actual attainment of these
early hopes, so far as they have been realized at all, seem to
have come from men of affairs rather than from those given to
speculation. Was the whole decade of discussion an illustration
of that striking fact which has been likened to the changing of
swords in Hamlet; that the abstract minds at length yield to the
inevitable or at least grow less ardent in their propaganda,
while the concrete minds, dealing constantly with daily affairs,
in the end demonstrate the reality of abstract notions?

I remember when Frederick Harrison visited Hull-House that I was
much disappointed to find that the Positivists had not made their
ardor for humanity a more potent factor in the English social
movement, as I was surprised during a visit from John Morley to
find that he, representing perhaps the type of man whom political
life seemed to have pulled away from the ideals of his youth, had
yet been such a champion of democracy in the full tide of
reaction. My observations were much too superficial to be of
value and certainly both men were well grounded in philosophy and
theory of social reform and had long before carefully formulated
their principles, as the new English Labor Party, which is
destined to break up the reactionary period, is now being created
by another set of theorists. There were certainly moments during
the heated discussions of this decade when nothing seemed so
important as right theory: this was borne in upon me one brilliant
evening at Hull-House when Benjamin Kidd, author of the much-read
"Social Evolution," was pitted against Victor Berger of Milwaukee,
even then considered a rising man in the Socialist Party.

At any rate the residents of Hull-House discovered that while
their first impact with city poverty allied them to groups given
over to discussion of social theories , their sober efforts to
heal neighborhood ills allied them to general public movements
which were without challenging creeds. But while we discovered
that we most easily secured the smallest of much-needed
improvements by attaching our efforts to those of organized
bodies, nevertheless these very organizations would have been
impossible, had not the public conscience been aroused and the
community sensibility quickened by these same ardent theorists.

As I review these very first impressions of the workers in
unskilled industries, living in a depressed quarter of the city,
I realize how easy it was for us to see exceptional cases of
hardship as typical of the average lot, and yet, in spite of
alleviating philanthropy and labor legislation, the indictment of
Tolstoy applied to Moscow thirty years ago still fits every
American city: "Wherever we may live, if we draw a circle around
us of a hundred thousand, or a thousand, or even of ten miles
circumference, and look at the lives of those men and women who
are inside our circle, we shall find half-starved children, old
people, pregnant women, sick and weak persons, working beyond
their strength, who have neither food nor rest enough to support
them, and who, for this reason, die before their time; we shall
see others, full grown, who are injured and needlessly killed by
dangerous and hurtful tasks."

As the American city is awakening to self-consciousness, it
slowly perceives the civic significance of these industrial
conditions, and perhaps Chicago has been foremost in the effort
to connect the unregulated overgrowth of the huge centers of
population, with the astonishingly rapid development of
industrial enterprises; quite as Chicago was foremost to carry on
the preliminary discussion through which a basis was laid for
likemindedness and the coordination of diverse wills. I remember
an astute English visitor, who had been a guest in a score of
American cities, observed that it was hard to understand the
local pride he constantly encountered; for in spite of the
boasting on the part of leading citizens in the western, eastern,
and southern towns, all American cities seemed to him essentially
alike and all equally the results of an industry totally
unregulated by well-considered legislation.

I am inclined to think that perhaps all this general discussion
was inevitable in connection with the early Settlements, as they
in turn were the inevitable result of theories of social reform,
which in their full enthusiasm reached America by way of England,
only in the last decade of the century. There must have been
tough fiber somewhere; for, although the residents of Hull-House
were often baffled by the radicalism within the Social Science
Club and harassed by the criticism from outside, we still
continued to believe that such discussion should be carried on,
for if the Settlement seeks its expression through social
activity, it must learn the difference between mere social unrest
and spiritual impulse.

The group of Hull-House residents, which by the end of the decade
comprised twenty-five, differed widely in social beliefs, from the
girl direct from the country who looked upon all social unrest as
mere anarchy, to the resident, who had become a socialist when a
student in Zurich, and who had long before translated from the
German Engel's "Conditions of the Working Class in England,"
although at this time she had been read out of the Socialist Party
because the Russian and German Impossibilists suspected her fluent
English, as she always lightly explained. Although thus diversified
in social beliefs, the residents became solidly united through our
mutual experience in an industrial quarter, and we became not only
convinced of the need for social control and protective legislation
but also of the value of this preliminary argument.

This decade of discussion between 1890 and 1900 already seems
remote from the spirit of Chicago of to-day. So far as I have been
able to reproduce this earlier period, it must reflect the
essential provisionality of everything; "the perpetual moving on to
something future which shall supersede the present," that paramount
impression of life itself, which affords us at one and the same
time, ground for despair and for endless and varied anticipation.

[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 ofWomen Writers]

"Chapter X: Pioneer Labor Legislation in Illinois by Jane Addams

From: Twenty Years at Hull-House with Autobiographical Notes. by
Jane Addams. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1912 (c.1910) pp.

[Editor: Mary MarkOckerbloom]



Our very first Christmas at Hull-House, when we as yet knew
nothing of child labor, a number of little girls refused the
candy which was offered them as part of the Christmas good cheer,
saying simply that they "worked in a candy factory and could not
bear the sight of it." We discovered that for six weeks they had
worked from seven in the morning until nine at night, and they
were exhausted as well as satiated. The sharp consciousness of
stern economic conditions was thus thrust upon us in the midst of
the season of good will.

During the same winter three boys from a Hull-House club were
injured at one machine in a neighboring factory for lack of a
guard which would have cost but a few dollars. When the injury of
one of these boys resulted in his death, we felt quite sure that
the owners of the factory would share our horror and remorse, and
that they would do everything possible to prevent the recurrence
of such a tragedy. To our surprise they did nothing whatever, and
I made my first acquaintance then with those pathetic documents
signed by the parents of working children, that they will make no
claim for damages resulting from "carelessness."

The visits we made in the neighborhood constantly discovered
women sewing upon sweatshop work, and often they were assisted by
incredibly small children. I remember a little girl of four who
pulled out basting threads hour after hour, sitting on a stool at
the feet of her Bohemian mother, a little bunch of human misery.
But even for that there was no legal redress, for the only
child-labor law in Illinois, with any provision for enforcement,
had been secured by the coal miners' unions, and was confined to
children employed in mines.

We learned to know many families in which the working children
contributed to the support of their parents, not only because
they spoke English better than the older immigrants and were
willing to take lower wages, but because their parents gradually
found it easy to live upon their earnings. A South Italian
peasant who has picked olives and packed oranges from his
toddling babyhood cannot see at once the difference between the
outdoor healthy work which he had performed in the varying
seasons, and the long hours of monotonous factory life which his
child encounters when he goes to work in Chicago. An Italian
father came to us in great grief over the death of his eldest
child, a little girl of twelve, who had brought the largest wages
into the family fund. In the midst of his genuine sorrow he
said: "She was the oldest kid I had. Now I shall have to go back
to work again until the next one is able to take care of me." The
man was only thirty-three and had hoped to retire from work at
least during the winters. No foreman cared to have him in a
factory, untrained and unintelligent as he was. It was much
easier for his bright, English-speaking little girl to get a
chance to paste labels on a box than for him to secure an
opportunity to carry pig iron. The effect on the child was what
no one concerned thought about, in the abnormal effort she made
thus prematurely to bear the weight of life. Another little girl
of thirteen, a Russian-Jewish child employed in a laundry at a
heavy task beyond her strength, committed suicide, because she
had borrowed three dollars from a companion which she could not
repay unless she confided the story to her parents and gave up an
entire week's wages--but what could the family live upon that
week in case she did! Her child mind, of course, had no sense of
proportion, and carbolic acid appeared inevitable.

While we found many pathetic cases of child labor and hard-driven
victims of the sweating system who could not possibly earn enough
in the short busy season to support themselves during the rest of
the year, it became evident that we must add carefully collected
information to our general impression of neighborhood conditions
if we would make it of any genuine value.

There was at that time no statistical information on Chicago
industrial conditions, and Mrs. Florence Kelley, an early
resident of Hull-House, suggested to the Illinois State Bureau of
Labor that they investigate the sweating system in Chicago with
its attendant child labor. The head of the Bureau adopted this
suggestion and engaged Mrs. Kelley to make the investigation.
When the report was presented to the Illinois Legislature, a
special committee was appointed to look into the Chicago
conditions. I well recall that on the Sunday the members of this
commission came to dine at Hull-House, our hopes ran high, and we
believed that at last some of the worst ills under which our
neighbors were suffering would be brought to an end.

As a result of its investigations, this committee recommended to
the Legislature the provisions which afterward became those of the
first factory law of Illinois, regulating the sanitary conditions
of the sweatshop and fixing fourteen as the age at which a child
might be employed. Before the passage of the law could be
secured, it was necessary to appeal to all elements of the
community, and a little group of us addressed the open meetings of
trades-unions and of benefit societies, church organizations, and
social clubs literally every evening for three months. Of course
the most energetic help as well as intelligent understanding came
from the trades-unions. The central labor body of Chicago, then
called the Trades and Labor Assembly, had previously appointed a
committee of investigation to inquire into the sweating system.
This committee consisted of five delegates from the unions and
five outside their membership. Two of the latter were residents of
Hull-House, and continued with the unions in their well-conducted
campaign until the passage of Illinois's first Factory Legislation
was secured, a statute which has gradually been built upon by many
public-spirited citizens until Illinois stands well among the
States, at least in the matter of protecting her children. The
Hull-House residents that winter had their first experience in
lobbying. I remember that I very much disliked the word and still
more the prospect of the lobbying itself, and we insisted that
well-known Chicago women should accompany this first little group
of Settlement folk who with trades-unionists moved upon the state
capitol in behalf of factory legislation. The national or, to use
its formal name, The General Federation of Woman's Clubs had been
organized in Chicago only the year before this legislation was
secured. The Federation was then timid in regard to all
legislation because it was anxious not to frighten its new
membership, although its second president, Mrs. Henrotin, was most
untiring in her efforts to secure this law.

It was, perhaps, a premature effort, though certainly founded
upon a genuine need, to urge that a clause limiting the hours of
all women working in factories or workshops to eight a day, or
forty-eight a week, should be inserted in the first factory
legislation of the State. Although we had lived at Hull-House
but three years when we urged this legislation, we had known a
large number of young girls who were constantly exhausted by
night work; for whatever may be said in defense of night work for
men, few women are able to endure it. A man who works by night
sleeps regularly by day, but a woman finds it impossible to put
aside the household duties which crowd upon her, and a
conscientious girl finds it hard to sleep with her mother washing
and scrubbing within a few feet of her bed. One of the most
painful impressions of those first years is that of pale,
listless girls, who worked regularly in a factory of the vicinity
which was then running full night time. These girls also
encountered a special danger in the early morning hours as they
returned from work, debilitated and exhausted, and only too
easily convinced that a drink and a little dancing at the end of
the balls in the saloon dance halls, was what they needed to
brace them. One of the girls whom we then knew, whose name,
Chloe, seemed to fit her delicate charm, craving a drink to
dispel her lassitude before her tired feet should take the long
walk home, had thus been decoyed into a saloon, where the soft
drink was followed by an alcoholic one containing "knockout
drops," and she awoke in a disreputable rooming house--too
frightened and disgraced to return to her mother.

Thus confronted by that old conundrum of the interdependence of
matter and spirit, the conviction was forced upon us that long and
exhausting hours of work are almost sure to be followed by lurid
and exciting pleasures; that the power to overcome temptation
reaches its limit almost automatically with that of physical
resistance. The eight-hour clause in this first factory law met
with much less opposition in the Legislature than was anticipated,
and was enforced for a year before it was pronounced
unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Illinois. During the
halcyon months when it was a law, a large and enthusiastic
Eight-Hour Club of working women met at Hull-House, to read the
literature on the subject and in every way to prepare themselves
to make public sentiment in favor of the measure which meant so
much to them. The adverse decision in the test case, the progress
of which they had most intelligently followed, was a matter of
great disappointment. The entire experience left on my mind a
mistrust of all legislation which was not preceded by full
discussion and understanding. A premature measure may be carried
through a legislature by perfectly legitimate means and still fail
to possess vitality and a sense of maturity. On the other hand,
the administration of an advanced law acts somewhat as a
referendum. The people have an opportunity for two years to see
the effects of its operation. If they choose to reopen the matter
at the next General Assembly, it can be discussed with experience
and conviction; the very operation of the law has performed the
function of the "referendum" in a limited use of the term.

Founded upon some such compunction, the sense that the passage of
the child labor law would in many cases work hardship, was never
absent from my mind during the earliest years of its operation. I
addressed as many mothers' meetings and clubs among working women
as I could, in order to make clear the object of the law and the
ultimate benefit to themselves as well as to their children. I
am happy to remember that I never met with lack of understanding
among the hard-working widows, in whose behalf many prosperous
people were so eloquent. These widowed mothers would say, "Why,
of course, that is what I am working for--to give the children a
chance. I want them to have more education than I had"; or
another, "That is why we came to America, and I don't want to
spoil his start, even although his father is dead"; or "It's
different in America. A boy gets left if he isn't educated."
There was always a willingness, even among the poorest women, to
keep on with the hard night scrubbing or the long days of washing
for the children's sake.

The bitterest opposition to the law came from the large glass
companies, who were so accustomed to use the labor of children
that they were convinced the manufacturing of glass could not be
carried on without it.

Fifteen years ago the State of Illinois, as well as Chicago,
exhibited many characteristics of the pioneer country in which
untrammeled energy and an "early start" were still the most
highly prized generators of success. Although this first labor
legislation was but bringing Illinois into line with the nations
in the modern industrial world, which "have long been obliged for
their own sakes to come to the aid of the workers by which they
live--that the child, the young person and the woman may be
protected from their own weakness and necessity?" nevertheless
from the first it ran counter to the instinct and tradition,
almost to the very religion of the manufacturers of the state,
who were for the most part self-made men.

This first attempt in Illinois for adequate factory legislation
also was associated in the minds of businessmen with radicalism,
because the law was secured during the term of Governor Altgeld
and was first enforced during his administration. While nothing
in its genesis or spirit could be further from "anarchy" than
factory legislation, and while the first law in Illinois was still
far behind Massachusetts and New York, the fact that Governor
Altgeld pardoned from the state's prison the anarchists who had
been sentenced there after the Haymarket riot, gave the opponents
of this most reasonable legislation a quickly utilized opportunity
to couple it with that detested word; the State document which
accompanied Governor Altgeld's pardon gave these ungenerous
critics a further opportunity, because a magnanimous action was
marred by personal rancor, betraying for the moment the infirmity
of a noble mind. For all of these reasons this first modification
of the undisturbed control of the aggressive captains of industry
could not be enforced without resistance marked by dramatic
episodes and revolts. The inception of the law had already become
associated with Hull-House, and when its ministration was also
centered there, we inevitably received all the odium which these
first efforts entailed. Mrs. Kelley was appointed the first
factory inspector with a deputy and a force of twelve inspectors
to enforce the law. Both Mrs. Kelley and her assistant, Mrs.
Stevens, lived at Hull-House; the office was on Polk Street
directly opposite, and one of the most vigorous deputies was the
president of the Jane Club. In addition, one of the early men
residents, since dean of a state law school, acted as prosecutor
in the cases brought against the violators of the law.

Chicago had for years been notoriously lax in the administration
of law, and the enforcement of an unpopular measure was resented
equally by the president of a large manufacturing concern and by
the former victim of a sweatshop who had started a place of his
own. Whatever the sentiments toward the new law on the part of
the employers, there was no doubt of its enthusiastic reception
by the trades-unions, as the securing of the law had already come
from them, and through the years which have elapsed since, the
experience of the Hull-House residents would coincide with that
of an English statesman who said that "a common rule for the
standard of life and the condition of labor may be secured by
legislation, but it must be maintained by trades unionism."

This special value of the trades-unions first became clear to the
residents of Hull-House in connection with the sweating system.
We early found that the women in the sewing trades were sorely in
need of help. The trade was thoroughly disorganized, Russian and
Polish tailors competing against English-speaking tailors,
unskilled Bohemian and Italian women competing against both.
These women seem to have been best helped through the use of the
label when unions of specialized workers in the trade are strong
enough to insist that the manufacturers shall "give out work"
only to those holding union cards. It was certainly impressive
when the garment makers themselves in this way finally succeeded
in organizing six hundred of the Italian women in our immediate
vicinity, who had finished garments at home for the most wretched
and precarious wages. To be sure, the most ignorant women only
knew that "you couldn't get clothes to sew" from the places where
they paid the best, unless "you had a card," but through the
veins of most of them there pulsed the quickened blood of a new
fellowship, a sense of comfort and aid which had been laid out to
them by their fellow-workers.

During the fourth year of our residence at Hull-House we found
ourselves in a large mass meeting ardently advocating the passage
of a Federal measure called the Sulzer Bill. Even in our short
struggle with the evils of the sweating system it did not seem
strange that the center of the effort had shifted to Washington,
for by that time we had realized that the sanitary regulation of
sweatshops by city officials, and a careful enforcement of factory
legislation by state factory inspectors will not avail, unless
each city and State shall be able to pass and enforce a code of
comparatively uniform legislation. Although the Sulzer Act failed
to utilize the Interstate Commerce legislation for its purpose,
many of the national representatives realized for the first time
that only by federal legislation could their constituents in
remote country places be protected from contagious diseases raging
in New York or Chicago, for many country doctors testify as to the
outbreak of scarlet fever in rural neighborhoods after the
children have begun to wear the winter overcoats and cloaks which
have been sent from infected city sweatshops.

Through our efforts to modify the sweating system, the Hull-House
residents gradually became committed to the fortunes of the
Consumers' League, an organization which for years has been
approaching the question of the underpaid sewing woman from the
point of view of the ultimate responsibility lodged in the
consumer. It becomes more reasonable to make the presentation of
the sweatshop situation through this League, as it is more
effectual to work with them for the extension of legal provisions
in the slow upbuilding of that code of legislation which is alone
sufficient to protect the home from the dangers incident to the
sweating system.

The Consumers' League seems to afford the best method of approach
for the protection of girls in department stores; I recall a
group of girls from a neighboring "emporium" who applied to
Hull-House for dancing parties on alternate Sunday afternoons.
In reply to our protest they told us they not only worked late
every evening, in spite of the fact that each was supposed to
have "two nights a week off," and every Sunday morning, but that
on alternate Sunday afternoons they were required "to sort the
stock." Over and over again, meetings called by the Clerks Union
and others have been held at Hull-House protesting against these
incredibly long hours. Little modification has come about,
however, during our twenty years of residence, although one large
store in the Bohemian quarter closes all day on Sunday and many
of the others for three nights a week. In spite of the Sunday
work, these girls prefer the outlying department stores to those
downtown; there is more social intercourse with the customers,
more kindliness and social equality between the saleswomen and
the managers, and above all the girls have the protection
naturally afforded by friends and neighbors and they are free
from that suspicion which so often haunts the girls downtown,
that their fellow workers may not be "nice girls."

In the first years of Hull-House we came across no trades-unions
among the women workers, and I think, perhaps, that only one
union, composed solely of women, was to be found in Chicago
then--that of the bookbinders. I easily recall the evening when
the president of this pioneer organization accepted an invitation
to take dinner at Hull-House. She came in rather a recalcitrant
mood, expecting to be patronized, and so suspicious of our
motives that it was only after she had been persuaded to become a
guest of the house for several weeks in order to find out about
us for herself, that she was convinced of our sincerity and of
the ability of "outsiders" to be of any service to working women.
She afterward became closely identified with Hull-House, and her
hearty cooperation was assured until she moved to Boston and
became a general organizer for the American Federation of Labor.

The women shirt makers and the women cloak makers were both
organized at Hull-House as was also the Dorcas Federal Labor
Union, which had been founded through the efforts of a working
woman, then one of the residents. The latter union met once a
month in our drawing room. It was composed of representatives
from all the unions in the city which included women in their
membership and also received other women in sympathy with
unionism. It was accorded representation in the central labor
body of the city, and later it joined its efforts with those of
others to found the Woman's Union Label League. In what we
considered a praiseworthy effort to unite it with other
organizations, the president of a leading Woman's Club applied
for membership. We were so sure of her election that she stood
just outside of the drawing-room door, or, in trades-union
language, "the wicket gate," while her name was voted upon. To
our chagrin, she did not receive enough votes to secure her
admission, not because the working girls, as they were careful to
state, did not admire her, but because she "seemed to belong to
the other side." Fortunately, the big-minded woman so thoroughly
understood the vote and her interest in working women was so
genuine that it was less than a decade afterward when she was
elected to the presidency of the National Woman's Trades Union
League. The incident and the sequel registers, perhaps, the
change in Chicago toward the labor movement, the recognition of
the fact that it is a general social movement concerning all
members of society and not merely a class struggle.

Some such public estimate of the labor movement was brought home
to Chicago during several conspicuous strikes; at least labor
legislation has twice been inaugurated because its need was thus
made clear. After the Pullman strike various elements in the
community were unexpectedly brought together that they might
soberly consider and rectify the weakness in the legal structure
which the strike had revealed. These citizens arranged for a
large and representative convention to be held in Chicago on
Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration. I served as secretary
of the committee from the new Civic Federation having the matter
in charge, and our hopes ran high when, as a result of the
agitation, the Illinois legislature passed a law creating a State
Board of Conciliation and Arbitration. But even a state board
cannot accomplish more than public sentiment authorizes and
sustains, and we might easily have been discouraged in those
early days could we have foreseen some of the industrial
disturbances which have since disgraced Chicago. This law
embodied the best provisions of the then existing laws for the
arbitration of industrial disputes. At the time the word
arbitration was still a word to conjure with, and many Chicago
citizens were convinced, not only of the danger and futility
involved in the open warfare of opposing social forces, but
further believed that the search for justice and righteousness in
industrial relations was made infinitely more difficult thereby.

The Pullman strike afforded much illumination to many Chicago
people. Before it, there had been nothing in my experience to
reveal that distinct cleavage of society, which a general strike
at least momentarily affords. Certainly, during all those dark
days of the Pullman strike, the growth of class bitterness was
most obvious. The fact that the Settlement maintained avenues of
intercourse with both sides seemed to give it opportunity for
nothing but a realization of the bitterness and division along
class lines. I had known Mr. Pullman and had seen his genuine
pride and pleasure in the model town he had built with so much
care; and I had an opportunity to talk to many of the Pullman
employees during the strike when I was sent from a so-called
"Citizens' Arbitration Committee" to their first meetings held in
a hall in the neighboring village of Kensington, and when I was
invited to the modest supper tables laid in the model houses.
The employees then expected a speedy settlement and no one
doubted but that all the grievances connected with the "straw
bosses" would be quickly remedied and that the benevolence which
had built the model town would not fail them. They were sure
that the "straw bosses" had misrepresented the state of affairs,
for this very first awakening to class consciousness bore many
traces of the servility on one side and the arrogance on the
other which had so long prevailed in the model town. The entire
strike demonstrated how often the outcome of far-reaching
industrial disturbances is dependent upon the personal will of
the employer or the temperament of a strike leader. Those
familiar with strikes know only too well how much they are
influenced by poignant domestic situations, by the troubled
consciences of the minority directors, by the suffering women and
children, by the keen excitement of the struggle, by the
religious scruples sternly suppressed but occasionally asserting
themselves, now on one side and now on the other, and by that
undefined psychology of the crowd which we understand so little.
All of these factors also influence the public and do much to
determine popular sympathy and judgment. In the early days of
the Pullman strike, as I was coming down in the elevator of the
Auditorium hotel from one of the futile meetings of the
Arbitration Committee, I met an acquaintance, who angrily said
"that the strikers ought all to be shot." As I had heard nothing
so bloodthirsty as this either from the most enraged capitalist
or from the most desperate of the men, and was interested to find
the cause of such a senseless outbreak, I finally discovered that
the first ten thousand dollars which my acquaintance had ever
saved, requiring, he said, years of effort from the time he was
twelve years old until he was thirty, had been lost as the result
of a strike; he clinched his argument that he knew what he was
talking about, with the statement that "no one need expect him to
have any sympathy with strikers or with their affairs."

A very intimate and personal experience revealed, at least to
myself, my constant dread of the spreading ill will. At the
height of the sympathetic strike my oldest sister, who was
convalescing from a long illness in a hospital near Chicago,
became suddenly very much worse. While I was able to reach her
at once, every possible obstacle of a delayed and blocked
transportation system interrupted the journey of her husband and
children who were hurrying to her bedside from a distant state.
As the end drew nearer and I was obliged to reply to my sister's
constant inquiries that her family had not yet come, I was filled
with a profound apprehension lest her last hours should be
touched with resentment toward those responsible for the delay;
lest her unutterable longing should at the very end be tinged
with bitterness. She must have divined what was in my mind, for
at last she said each time after the repetition of my sad news:
"I don't blame any one, I am not judging them." My heart was
comforted and heavy at the same time; but how many more such
moments of sorrow and death were being made difficult and lonely
throughout the land, and how much would these experiences add to
the lasting bitterness, that touch of self-righteousness which
makes the spirit of forgiveness well-nigh impossible.

When I returned to Chicago from the quiet country I saw the
Federal troops encamped about the post office; almost everyone on
Halsted Street wearing a white ribbon, the emblem of the
strikers' side; the residents at Hull-House divided in opinion as
to the righteousness of this or that measure; and no one able to
secure any real information as to which side was burning the
cars. After the Pullman strike I made an attempt to analyze in a
paper which I called The Modern King Lear the inevitable revolt
of human nature against the plans Mr. Pullman had made for his
employees, the miscarriage of which appeared to him such black
ingratitude. It seemed to me unendurable not to make some effort
to gather together the social implications of the failure of this
benevolent employer and its relation to the demand for a more
democratic administration of industry. Doubtless the paper
represented a certain "excess of participation," to use a gentle
phrase of Charles Lamb's in preference to a more emphatic one
used by Mr. Pullman himself. The last picture of the Pullman
strike which I distinctly recall was three years later when one
of the strike leaders came to see me. Although out of work for
most of the time since the strike, he had been undisturbed for
six months in the repair shops of a street-car company, under an
assumed name, but he had at that moment been discovered and
dismissed. He was a superior type of English workingman, but as
he stood there, broken and discouraged, believing himself so
black-listed that his skill could never be used again, filled
with sorrow over the loss of his wife who had recently died after
an illness with distressing mental symptoms, realizing keenly the
lack of the respectable way of living he had always until now
been able to maintain, he seemed to me an epitome of the wretched
human waste such a strike implies. I fervently hoped that the
new arbitration law would prohibit in Chicago forever more such
brutal and ineffective methods of settling industrial disputes.
And yet even as early as 1896, we found the greatest difficulty
in applying the arbitration law to the garment workers' strike,
although it was finally accomplished after various mass meetings
had urged it. The cruelty and waste of the strike as an
implement for securing the most reasonable demands came to me at
another time, during the long strike of the clothing cutters.
They had protested, not only against various wrongs of their own,
but against the fact that the tailors employed by the custom
merchants were obliged to furnish their own workshops and thus
bore a burden of rent which belonged to the employer. One of the
leaders in this strike, whom I had known for several years as a
sober, industrious, and unusually intelligent man, I saw
gradually break down during the many trying weeks and at last
suffer a complete moral collapse.

He was a man of sensitive organization under the necessity, as is
every leader during a strike, to address the same body of men day
after day with an appeal sufficiently emotional to respond to
their sense of injury; to receive callers at any hour of the day
or night; to sympathize with all the distress of the strikers who
see their families daily suffering; he must do it all with the
sickening sense of the increasing privation in his own home, and
in this case with the consciousness that failure was approaching
nearer each day. This man, accustomed to the monotony of his
workbench and suddenly thrown into a new situation, showed every
sign of nervous fatigue before the final collapse came. He
disappeared after the strike and I did not see him for ten years,
but when he returned he immediately began talking about the old
grievances which he had repeated so often that he could talk of
nothing else. It was easy to recognize the same nervous symptoms
which the broken-down lecturer exhibits who has depended upon the
exploitation of his own experiences to keep himself going. One
of his stories was indeed pathetic. His employer, during the
busy season, had met him one Sunday afternoon in Lincoln Park
whither he had taken his three youngest children, one of whom had
been ill. The employer scolded him for thus wasting his time and
roughly asked why he had not taken home enough work to keep
himself busy through the day. The story was quite credible
because the residents of Hull-House have had many opportunities
to see the worker driven ruthlessly during the season and left in
idleness for long weeks afterward. We have slowly come to
realize that periodical idleness as well as the payment of wages
insufficient for maintenance of the manual worker in full
industrial and domestic efficiency, stand economically on the
same footing with the "sweated" industries, the overwork of
women, and employment of children.

But of all the aspects of social misery nothing is so
heartbreaking as unemployment, and it was inevitable that we
should see much of it in a neighborhood where low rents attracted
the poorly paid worker and many newly arrived immigrants who were
first employed in gangs upon railroad extensions and similar
undertakings. The sturdy peasants eager for work were either the
victims of the padrone who fleeced them unmercifully, both in
securing a place to work and then in supplying them with food, or
they became the mere sport of unscrupulous employment agencies.
Hull-House made an investigation both of the padrone and of the
agencies in our immediate vicinity, and the outcome confirming
what we already suspected, we eagerly threw ourselves into a
movement to procure free employment bureaus under State control
until a law authorizing such bureaus and giving the officials
intrusted with their management power to regulate private
employment agencies, passed the Illinois Legislature in 1899. The
history of these bureaus demonstrates the tendency we all have to
consider a legal enactment in itself an achievement and to grow
careless in regard to its administration and actual results; for
an investigation into the situation ten years later discovered
that immigrants were still shamefully imposed upon. A group of
Bulgarians were found who had been sent to work in Arkansas where
their services were not needed; they walked back to Chicago only
to secure their next job in Oklahoma and to pay another railroad
fare as well as another commission to the agency. Not only was
there no method by which the men not needed in Arkansas could
know that there was work in Oklahoma unless they came back to
Chicago to find it out, but there was no certainty that they
might not be obliged to walk back from Oklahoma because the
Chicago agency had already sent out too many men.

This investigation of the employment bureau resources of Chicago
was undertaken by the League for the Protection of Immigrants,
with whom it is possible for Hull-House to cooperate whenever an
investigation of the immigrant colonies in our immediate
neighborhood seems necessary, as was recently done in regard to
the Greek colonies of Chicago. The superintendent of this
League, Miss Grace Abbott, is a resident of Hull-House and all of
our later attempts to secure justice and opportunity for
immigrants are much more effective through the League, and when
we speak before a congressional committee in Washington
concerning the needs of Chicago immigrants, we represent the
League as well as our own neighbors.

It is in connection with the first factory employment of newly
arrived immigrants and the innumerable difficulties attached to
their first adjustment that some of the most profound industrial
disturbances in Chicago have come about. Under any attempt at
classification these strikes belong more to the general social
movement than to the industrial conflict, for the strike is an
implement used most rashly by unorganized labor who, after they
are in difficulties, call upon the trades-unions for organization
and direction. They are similar to those strikes which are
inaugurated by the unions on behalf of unskilled labor. In
neither case do the hastily organized unions usually hold after
the excitement of the moment has subsided, and the most valuable
result of such strikes is the expanding consciousness of the
solidarity of the workers. This was certainly the result of the
Chicago stockyard strike in 1905, inaugurated on behalf of the
immigrant laborers and so conspicuously carried on without
violence that, although twenty-two thousand workers were idle
during the entire summer, there were fewer arrests in the
stockyards district than the average summer months afford.
However, the story of this strike should not be told from
Hull-House, but from the University of Chicago Settlement, where
Miss Mary McDowell performed such signal public service during
that trying summer. It would be interesting to trace how much of
the subsequent exposure of conditions and attempts at
governmental control of this huge industry had their genesis in
this first attempt of the unskilled workers to secure a higher
standard of living. Certainly the industrial conflict when
epitomized in a strike, centers public attention on conditions as
nothing else can do. A strike is one of the most exciting
episodes in modern life, and as it assumes the characteristics of
a game, the entire population of a city becomes divided into two
cheering sides. In such moments the fair-minded public, who
ought to be depended upon as a referee, practically disappears.
Anyone who tries to keep the attitude of nonpartisanship, which
is perhaps an impossible one, is quickly under suspicion by both
sides. At least that was the fate of a group of citizens
appointed by the mayor of Chicago to arbitrate during the stormy
teamsters' strike which occurred in 1905. We sat through a long
Sunday afternoon in the mayor's office in the City Hall, talking
first with the labor men and then with the group of capitalists.
The undertaking was the more futile in that we were all
practically the dupes of a new type of "industrial conspiracy"
successfully inaugurated in Chicago by a close compact between
the coal teamsters' union and the coal team owners' association,
who had formed a kind of monopoly hitherto new to a
monopoly-ridden public.

The stormy teamsters' strike, ostensibly undertaken in defense of
the garment workers, but really arising from causes so obscure
and dishonorable that they have never yet been made public, was
the culmination of a type of trades-unions which had developed in
Chicago during the preceding decade in which corruption had
flourished almost as openly as it had previously done in the City
Hall. This corruption sometimes took the form of grafting after
the manner of Samuel Parks in New York; sometimes that of
political deals in the "delivery of the labor vote"; and
sometimes that of a combination between capital and labor hunting
together. At various times during these years the better type of
trades-unionists had made a firm stand against this corruption
and a determined effort to eradicate it from the labor movement,
not unlike the general reform effort of many American cities
against political corruption. This reform movement in the
Chicago Federation of Labor had its martyrs, and more than one
man nearly lost his life through the "slugging" methods employed
by the powerful corruptionists. And yet even in the midst of
these things were found touching examples of fidelity to the
earlier principles of brotherhood totally untouched by the
corruption. At one time the scrubwomen in the downtown office
buildings had a union of their own affiliated with the elevator
men and the janitors. Although the union was used merely as a
weapon in the fight of the coal teamsters against the use of
natural gas in downtown buildings, it did not prevent the women
from getting their first glimpse into the fellowship and the
sense of protection which is the great gift of trades-unionism to
the unskilled, unbefriended worker. I remember in a meeting held
at Hull-House one Sunday afternoon, that the president of a
"local" of scrubwomen stood up to relate her experience. She
told first of the long years in which the fear of losing her job
and the fluctuating pay were harder to bear than the hard work
itself, when she had regarded all the other women who scrubbed in
the same building merely as rivals and was most afraid of the
most miserable, because they offered to work for less and less as
they were pressed harder and harder by debt. Then she told of
the change that had come when the elevator men and even the
lordly janitors had talked to her about an organization and had
said that they must all stand together. She told how gradually
she came to feel sure of her job and of her regular pay, and she
was even starting to buy a house now that she could "calculate"
how much she "could have for sure." Neither she nor any of the
other members knew that the same combination which had organized
the scrubwomen into a union later destroyed it during a strike
inaugurated for their own purposes.

That a Settlement is drawn into the labor issues of its city can
seem remote to its purpose only to those who fail to realize that
so far as the present industrial system thwarts our ethical
demands, not only for social righteousness but for social order,
a Settlement is committed to an effort to understand and, as far
as possible, to alleviate it. That in this effort it should be
drawn into fellowship with the local efforts of trades-unions is
most obvious. This identity of aim apparently commits the
Settlement in the public mind to all the faiths and works of
actual trades-unions. Fellowship has so long implied similarity
of creed that the fact that the Settlement often differs widely
from the policy pursued by trades-unionists and clearly expresses
that difference does not in the least change public opinion in
regard to its identification. This is especially true in periods
of industrial disturbance, although it is exactly at such moments
that the trades-unionists themselves are suspicious of all but
their "own kind." It is during the much longer periods between
strikes that the Settlement's fellowship with trades-unions is
most satisfactory in the agitation for labor legislation and
similar undertakings. The first officers of the Chicago Woman's
Trades Union League were residents of Settlements, although they
can claim little share in the later record the League made in
securing the passage of the Illinois Ten-Hour Law for Women and
in its many other fine undertakings.

Nevertheless the reaction of strikes upon Chicago Settlements
affords an interesting study in social psychology. For whether
Hull-House is in any wise identified with the strike or not,
makes no difference. When "Labor" is in disgrace we are always
regarded as belonging to it and share the opprobrium. In the
public excitement following the Pullman strike Hull-House lost
many friends; later the teamsters' strike caused another such
defection, although my office in both cases had been solely that
of a duly appointed arbitrator.

There is, however, a certain comfort in the assumption I have
often encountered that wherever one's judgment might place the
justice of a given situation, it is understood that one's
sympathy is not alienated by wrongdoing, and that through this
sympathy one is still subject to vicarious suffering. I recall
an incident during a turbulent Chicago strike which brought me
much comfort. On the morning of the day of a luncheon to which I
had accepted an invitation, the waitress, whom I did not know,
said to my prospective hostess that she was sure I could not
come. Upon being asked for her reason she replied that she had
seen in the morning paper that the strikers had killed a "scab"
and she was sure that I would feel quite too badly about such a
thing to be able to keep a social engagement. In spite of the
confused issues, she evidently realized my despair over the
violence in a strike quite as definitely as if she had been told
about it. Perhaps that sort of suffering and the attempt to
interpret opposing forces to each other will long remain a
function of the Settlement, unsatisfactory and difficult as the
role often becomes.

There has gradually developed between the various Settlements of
Chicago a warm fellowship founded upon a like-mindedness
resulting from similar experiences, quite as identity of interest
and endeavor develop an enduring relation between the residents
of the same Settlement. This sense of comradeship is never
stronger than during the hardships and perplexities of a strike
of unskilled workers revolting against the conditions which drag
them even below the level of their European life. At such time
the residents in various Settlements are driven to a standard of
life argument running somewhat in this wise--that as the very
existence of the State depends upon the character of its
citizens, therefore if certain industrial conditions are forcing
the workers below the standard of decency, it becomes possible to
deduce the right of State regulation. Even as late as the
stockyard strike this line of argument was denounced as
"socialism" although it has since been confirmed as wise
statesmanship by a decision of the Supreme Court of the United
States which was apparently secured through the masterly argument
of the Brandeis brief in the Oregon ten-hour case.

In such wise the residents of an industrial neighborhood
gradually comprehend the close connection of their own
difficulties with national and even international movements. The
residents in the Chicago Settlements became pioneer members in
the American branch of the International League for Labor
Legislation, because their neighborhood experiences had made them
only too conscious of the dire need for protective legislation.
In such a league, with its ardent members in every industrial
nation of Europe, with its encouraging reports of the abolition
of all night work for women in six European nations, with its
careful observations on the results of employer's liability
legislation and protection of machinery, one becomes identified
with a movement of world-wide significance and manifold

[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 Terri Perkins.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

[A Celebration ofWomen Writers]

"Chapter XI: Immigrants and Their Children. 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. 230-258.

[Editor: Mary MarkOckerbloom]



From our very first months at Hull-House we found it much easier
to deal with the first generation of crowded city life than with
the second or third, because it is more natural and cast in a
simpler mold. The Italian and Bohemian peasants who live in
Chicago still put on their bright holiday clothes on a Sunday and
go to visit their cousins. They tramp along with at least a
suggestion of having once walked over plowed fields and breathed
country air. The second generation of city poor too often have
no holiday clothes and consider their relations a "bad lot." I
have heard a drunken man in a maudlin stage babble of his good
country mother and imagine he was driving the cows home, and I
knew that his little son who laughed loud at him would be drunk
earlier in life and would have no pastoral interlude to his
ravings. Hospitality still survives among foreigners, although it
is buried under false pride among the poorest Americans. One
thing seemed clear in regard to entertaining immigrants; to
preserve and keep whatever of value their past life contained and
to bring them in contact with a better type of Americans. For
several years, every Saturday evening the entire families of our
Italian neighbors were our guests. These evenings were very
popular during our first winters at Hull-House. Many educated
Italians helped us, and the house became known as a place where
Italians were welcome and where national holidays were observed.
They come to us with their petty lawsuits, sad relics of the
vendetta, with their incorrigible boys, with their hospital
cases, with their aspirations for American clothes, and with
their needs for an interpreter.

An editor of an Italian paper made a genuine connection between
us and the Italian colony, not only with the Neapolitans and the
Sicilians of the immediate neighborhood, but with the educated
connazionali throughout the city, until he went south to start an
agricultural colony in Alabama, in the establishment of which
Hull-House heartily cooperated.

Possibly the South Italians more than any other immigrants
represent the pathetic stupidity of agricultural people crowded
into city tenements, and we were much gratified when thirty
peasant families were induced to move upon the land which they
knew so well how to cultivate. The starting of this colony,
however, was a very expensive affair in spite of the fact that
the colonists purchased the land at two dollars an acre; they
needed much more than raw land, and although it was possible to
collect the small sums necessary to sustain them during the hard
time of the first two years, we were fully convinced that
undertakings of this sort could be conducted properly only by
colonization societies such as England has established, or,
better still, by enlarging the functions of the Federal
Department of Immigration.

An evening similar in purpose to the one devoted to the Italians
was organized for the Germans, in our first year. Owing to the
superior education of our Teutonic guests and the clever leading
of a cultivated German woman, these evenings reflected something
of that cozy social intercourse which is found in its perfection
in the fatherland. Our guests sang a great deal in the tender
minor of the German folksong or in the rousing spirit of the
Rhine, and they slowly but persistently pursued a course in
German history and literature, recovering something of that
poetry and romance which they had long since resigned with other
good things. We found strong family affection between them and
their English-speaking children, but their pleasures were not in
common, and they seldom went out together. Perhaps the greatest
value of the Settlement to them was in placing large and pleasant
rooms with musical facilities at their disposal, and in reviving
their almost forgotten enthusiams. I have seen sons and
daughters stand in complete surprise as their mother's knitting
needles softly beat time to the song she was singing, or her worn
face turned rosy under the hand-clapping as she made an
old-fashioned curtsy at the end of a German poem. It was easy to
fancy a growing touch of respect in her children's manner to her,
and a rising enthusiasm for German literature and reminiscence on
the part of all the family, an effort to bring together the old
life and the new, a respect for the older cultivation, and not
quite so much assurance that the new was the best.

This tendency upon the part of the older immigrants to lose the
amenities of European life without sharing those of America has
often been deplored by keen observers from the home countries.
When Professor Masurek of Prague gave a course of lectures in the
University of Chicago, he was much distressed over the
materialism into which the Bohemians of Chicago had fallen. The
early immigrants had been so stirred by the opportunity to own
real estate, an appeal perhaps to the Slavic land hunger, and
their energies had become so completely absorbed in money-making
that all other interests had apparently dropped away. And yet I
recall a very touching incident in connection with a lecture
Professor Masurek gave at Hull-House, in which he had appealed to
his countrymen to arouse themselves from this tendency to fall
below their home civilization and to forget the great enthusiasm
which had united them into the Pan-Slavic Movement. A Bohemian
widow who supported herself and her two children by scrubbing,
hastily sent her youngest child to purchase, with the twenty-five
cents which was to have supplied them with food the next day, a
bunch of red roses which she presented to the lecturer in
appreciation of his testimony to the reality of the things of the

An overmastering desire to reveal the humbler immigrant parents
to their own children lay at the base of what has come to be
called the Hull-House Labor Museum. This was first suggested to
my mind one early spring day when I saw an old Italian woman, her
distaff against her homesick face, patiently spinning a thread by
the simple stick spindle so reminiscent of all southern Europe. I
was walking down Polk Street, perturbed in spirit, because it
seemed so difficult to come into genuine relations with the
Italian women and because they themselves so often lost their
hold upon their Americanized children. It seemed to me that
Hull-House ought to be able to devise some educational enterprise
which should build a bridge between European and American
experiences in such wise as to give them both more meaning and a
sense of relation. I meditated that perhaps the power to see
life as a whole is more needed in the immigrant quarter of a
large city than anywhere else, and that the lack of this power is
the most fruitful source of misunderstanding between European
immigrants and their children, as it is between them and their
American neighbors; and why should that chasm between fathers and
sons, yawning at the feet of each generation, be made so
unnecessarily cruel and impassable to these bewildered
immigrants? Suddenly I looked up and saw the old woman with her
distaff, sitting in the sun on the steps of a tenement house. She
might have served as a model for one of Michelangelo's Fates, but
her face brightened as I passed and, holding up her spindle for
me to see, she called out that when she had spun a little more
yarn, she would knit a pair of stockings for her goddaughter.
The occupation of the old woman gave me the clue that was needed.
Could we not interest the young people working in the
neighborhood factories in these older forms of industry, so that,
through their own parents and grandparents, they would find a
dramatic representation of the inherited resources of their daily
occupation. If these young people could actually see that the
complicated machinery of the factory had been evolved from simple

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