Twenty Years At Hull House
Jane Addams

Part 1 out of 6

[A Celebration of Women Writers]











Preface vii


Jane Addams, from a photograph taken in 1899 Frontispiece
John H. Addams, from a photograph taken in 1880 22
Ellen Gates Starr, from a photograph taken in 1906 64
A Hull-House Interior 88
A View from a Hull-House Window 112
A Spent Old Man 154
Sweatshop Workers 198
Chicago River at Halsted Street 258
Polk Street opposite Hull-House 280
Julia C. Lathrop 310
A Studio in Hull-House Court 370
A View between Hull-House Gymnasium and Theater 426


Birthplace, Jane Addams, Cedarville, Illinois 4
Jane Addams, aged Seven, from a Photograph of 1867 7
Mill at Cedarville, Illinois 10
Stream at Cedarville, Illinois 22
Old Abe 42
Rockford College, Rockford, Illinois 44
Porto del Popolo, Rome 76
View of St. Peter's 88
Polk Street opposite Hull-House 95
South Halsted Street opposite Hull-House 96
Consulting the Hull-House Bulletin Board, from a Photograph by
Lewis W. Hine 104
A Boy's Club Member 105
An Italian Woman with Grandchild 111
Portrait, Jane Addams, from a Charcoal Drawing by Alice Kellogg
Tyler of 1892 114
Main Entrance to Hull-House 128
Head of Slavic Woman 134
Head of Italian Woman 135
A Doorway in Hull-House Court 149
Woman and Child in Hull-House Reception Room 154
In a Tenement House, Sick Mother and Children 164
A Row of Nursery Babies 168
A Neighborhood Alley 181
Hull-House on Halsted Street, Apartment House in Foreground 197
An Italian Sweatshop Worker 208
Out of Work, from a Drawing by Alice Kellogg Tyler 220
Head of Immigrant Woman 226
Aniello 235
Irish Spinner in the Hull-House Labor Museum 238
Scandinavian Weaver in the Hull-House Labor Museum 239
Italian Spinner in the Hull-House Labor Museum 241
An Italian Grocery opposite Hull-House 258
Sketches of Tolstoy Mowing 271
Head of Russian Immigrant 275
Rear Tenement in Hull-House Neighborhood 282
An Alley near Hull-House 293
A View from Hull-House Window 314
Alley between Hull-House Buildings 321
A Window in the Hull-House Library 346
An Italian Mother and Child 354
Facade of Bowen Hall 363
A Club Child listening to a Story 367
In the Hull-House Studio, from a Photograph by Lewis W. Hine 374
Exterior Hull-House Music School 379
In the Hull-House Music School 383
Terrace in the Hull-House Court 398
South Halsted Street 401
Russian Immigrant on Halsted Street, from a Photograph by Lewis W. Hine 416
Entrance to Hull-House Courtyard 426
Boy at Forge, Hull-House Boy's Club, from a Photograph by Lewis W. Hine 439
Steps to Hull-House Terrace 447
Waiting in the Hull-House Hall 453

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

This book has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers through the combined work of: Adrienne
Fermoyle, Andrea Jeddi, David Cheezem, Diana Camden, Flo Carriere, Jill
Thoren, Judi Oswalt, Margaret Sylvia, Samantha M. Constant, Terri Perkins,
and Mary Mark Ockerbloom.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

[A Celebration of Women Writers]

"Preface." 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. vii-ix.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]


Every preface is, I imagine, written after the book has been
completed and now that I have finished this volume I will state
several difficulties which may put the reader upon his guard
unless he too postpones the preface to the very last.

Many times during the writing of these reminiscences, I have
become convinced that the task was undertaken all too soon.
One's fiftieth year is indeed an impressive milestone at which
one may well pause to take an accounting, but the people with
whom I have so long journeyed have become so intimate a part of
my lot that they cannot be written of either in praise or blame;
the public movements and causes with which I am still identified
have become so endeared, some of them through their very
struggles and failures, that it is difficult to discuss them.

It has also been hard to determine what incidents and experiences
should be selected for recital, and I have found that I might
give an accurate report of each isolated event and yet give a
totally misleading impression of the whole, solely by the
selection of the incidents. For these reasons and many others I
have found it difficult to make a [Page viii] faithful record of
the years since the autumn of 1889 when without any preconceived
social theories or economic views, I came to live in an
industrial district of Chicago.

If the reader should inquire why the book was ever undertaken in
the face of so many difficulties, in reply I could instance two
purposes, only one of which in the language of organized charity,
is "worthy." Because Settlements have multiplied so easily in the
United States I hoped that a simple statement of an earlier
effort, including the stress and storm, might be of value in
their interpretation and possibly clear them of a certain charge
of superficiality. The unworthy motive was a desire to start a
"backfire," as it were, to extinquish two biographies of myself,
one of which had been submitted to me in outline, that made life
in a Settlement all too smooth and charming.

The earlier chapters present influences and personal motives with
a detail which will be quite unpardonable if they fail to make
clear the personality upon whom various social and industrial
movements in Chicago reacted during a period of twenty years. No
effort is made in the recital to separate my own history from
that of Hull-House during the years in which I was "launched deep
into the stormy intercourse of human life" for, so far as a mind
is pliant under the pressure of events and experiences, it
becomes hard to detach it.

It has unfortunately been necessary to abandon [Page ix] the
chronological order in favor of the topical, for during the early
years at Hull-House, time seemed to afford a mere framework for
certain lines of activity and I have found in writing this book,
that after these activities have been recorded, I can scarcely
recall the scaffolding.

More than a third of the material in the book has appeared in The
American Magazine, one chapter of it in McClure's Magazine, and
earlier statements of the Settlement motive, published years ago,
have been utilized in chronological order because it seemed
impossible to reproduce their enthusiasm.

It is a matter of gratification to me that the book is
illustrated from drawings made by Miss Norah Hamilton of
Hull-House, and the cover designed by another resident, Mr. Frank
Hazenplug. I am indebted for the making of the index and for
many other services to Miss Clara Landsberg, also of Hull-House.

If the conclusions of the whole matter are similar to those I have
already published at intervals during the twenty years at
Hull-House, I can only make the defense that each of the earlier
books was an attempt to set forth a thesis supported by
experience, whereas this volume endeavors to trace the experiences
through which various conclusions were forced upon me.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

[A Celebration of Women Writers]

"Chapter I: Earliest Impressions." 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. 1-22.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]




On the theory that our genuine impulses may be connected with our
childish experiences, that one's bent may be tracked back to that
"No-Man's Land" where character is formless but nevertheless
settling into definite lines of future development, I begin this
record with some impressions of my childhood.

All of these are directly connected with my father, although of
course I recall many experiences apart from him. I was one of
the younger members of a large family and an eager participant in
the village life, but because my father was so distinctly the
dominant influence and because it is quite impossible to set
forth all of one's early impressions, it has seemed simpler to
string these first memories on that single cord. Moreover, it
was this cord which not only held fast my supreme affections, but
also first drew me into the moral concerns of life, and later
afforded a clew there to which I somewhat wistfully clung in the
intricacy of its mazes.

It must have been from a very early period that I recall "horrid
nights" when I tossed about in my bed because I had told a lie. I
was held in the grip of a miserable dread of death, a double
fear, first, that I myself should die in my sins and go straight
to that fiery Hell which was never mentioned at home, but which I
had heard all about from other children, and, second, that my
father--representing the entire adult world which I had basely
deceived--should himself die before I had time to tell him. My
only method of obtaining relief was to go downstairs to my
father's room and make full confession. The high resolve to do
this would push me out of bed and carry me down the stairs
without a touch of fear. But at the foot of the stairs I would
be faced by the awful necessity of passing the front door--which
my father, because of his Quaker tendencies, did not lock--and of
crossing the wide and black expanse of the living room in order
to reach his door. I would invariably cling to the newel post
while I contemplated the perils of the situation, complicated by
the fact that the literal first step meant putting my bare foot
upon a piece of oilcloth in front of the door, only a few inches
wide, but lying straight in my path. I would finally reach my
father's bedside perfectly breathless and having panted out the
history of my sin, invariable received the same assurance that if
he "had a little girl who told lies," he was very glad that she
"felt too bad to go to sleep afterward." No absolution was asked
for or received, but apparently the sense that the knowledge of
my wickedness was shared, or an obscure understanding of the
affection which underlay the grave statement, was sufficient, for
I always went back to bed as bold as a lion, and slept, if not
the sleep of the just, at least that of the comforted.

I recall an incident which must have occurred before I was seven
years old, for the mill in which my father transacted his business
that day was closed in 1867. The mill stood in the neighboring
town adjacent to its poorest quarter. Before then I had always
seen the little city of ten thousand people with the admiring eyes
of a country child, and it had never occurred to me that all its
streets were not as bewilderingly attractive as the one which
contained the glittering toyshop and the confectioner. On that day
I had my first sight of the poverty which implies squalor, and
felt the curious distinction between the ruddy poverty of the
country and that which even a small city presents in its shabbiest
streets. I remember launching at my father the pertinent inquiry
why people lived in such horrid little houses so close together,
and that after receiving his explanation I declared with much
firmness when I grew up I should, of course, have a large house,
but it would not be built among the other large houses, but right
in the midst of horrid little houses like those.

That curious sense of responsibility for carrying on the world's
affairs which little children often exhibit because "the old man
clogs our earliest years," I remember in myself in a very absurd
manifestation. I dreamed night after night that every one in the
world was dead excepting myself, and that upon me rested the
responsibility of making a wagon wheel. The village street
remained as usual, the village blacksmith shop was "all there,"
even a glowing fire upon the forge and the anvil in its customary
place near the door, but no human being was within sight. They
had all gone around the edge of the hill to the village cemetery,
and I alone remained alive in the deserted world. I always stood
in the same spot in the blacksmith shop, darkly pondering as to
how to begin, and never once did I know how, although I fully
realized that the affairs of the world could not be resumed until
at least one wheel should be made and something started. Every
victim of nightmare is, I imagine, overwhelmed by an excessive
sense of responsibility and the consciousness of a fearful
handicap in the effort to perform what is required; but perhaps
never were the odds more heavily against "a warder of the world"
than in these reiterated dreams of mine, doubtless compounded in
equal parts of a childish version of Robinson Crusoe and of the
end-of-the-world predictions of the Second Adventists, a few of
whom were found in the village. The next morning would often
find me, a delicate little girl of six, with the further
disability of a curved spine, standing in the doorway of the
village blacksmith shop, anxiously watching the burly,
red-shirted figure at work. I would store my mind with such
details of the process of making wheels as I could observe, and
sometimes I plucked up courage to ask for more. "Do you always
have to sizzle the iron in water?" I would ask, thinking how
horrid it would be to do. "Sure!" the good-natured blacksmith
would reply, "that makes the iron hard." I would sigh heavily and
walk away, bearing my responsibility as best I could, and this of
course I confided to no one, for there is something too
mysterious in the burden of "the winds that come from the fields
of sleep" to be communicated, although it is at the same time too
heavy a burden to be borne alone.

My great veneration and pride in my father manifested itself in
curious ways. On several Sundays, doubtless occurring in two or
three different years, the Union Sunday School of the village was
visited by strangers, some of those "strange people" who live
outside a child's realm, yet constantly thrill it by their close
approach. My father taught the large Bible class in the lefthand
corner of the church next to the pulpit, and to my eyes at least,
was a most imposing figure in his Sunday frock coat, his fine
head rising high above all the others. I imagined that the
strangers were filled with admiration for this dignified person,
and I prayed with all my heart that the ugly, pigeon-toed little
girl, whose crooked back obliged her to walk with her head held
very much upon one side, would never be pointed out to these
visitors as the daughter of this fine man. In order to lessen
the possibility of a connection being made, on these particular
Sundays I did not walk beside my father, although this walk was
the great event of the week, but attached myself firmly to the
side of my Uncle James Addams, in the hope that I should be
mistaken for his child, or at least that I should not remain so
conspicuously unattached that troublesome questions might
identify an Ugly Duckling with her imposing parent. My uncle,
who had many children of his own, must have been mildly surprised
at this unwonted attention, but he would look down kindly at me,
and say, "So you are going to walk with me to-day?" "Yes,
please, Uncle James," would be my meek reply. He fortunately
never explored my motives, nor do I remember that my father ever
did, so that in all probability my machinations have been safe
from public knowledge until this hour.

It is hard to account for the manifestations of a child's adoring
affection, so emotional, so irrational, so tangled with the
affairs of the imagination. I simply could not endure the
thought that "strange people" should know that my handsome father
owned this homely little girl. But even in my chivalric desire
to protect him from his fate, I was not quite easy in the
sacrifice of my uncle, although I quieted my scruples with the
reflection that the contrast was less marked and that, anyway,
his own little girl "was not so very pretty." I do not know that
I commonly dwelt much upon my personal appearance, save as it
thrust itself as an incongruity into my father's life, and in
spite of unending evidence to the contrary, there were even black
moments when I allowed myself to speculate as to whether he might
not share the feeling. Happily, however, this specter was laid
before it had time to grow into a morbid familiar by a very
trifling incident. One day I met my father coming out of his
bank on the main street of the neighboring city which seemed to
me a veritable whirlpool of society and commerce. With a playful
touch of exaggeration, he lifted his high and shining silk hat
and made me an imposing bow. This distinguished public
recognition, this totally unnecessary identification among a mass
of "strange people" who couldn't possibly know unless he himself
made the sign, suddenly filled me with a sense of the absurdity
of the entire feeling. It may not even then have seemed as
absurd as it really was, but at least it seemed enough so to
collapse or to pass into the limbo of forgotten specters.

I made still other almost equally grotesque attempts to express
this doglike affection. The house at the end of the village in
which I was born, and which was my home until I moved to
Hull-House, in my earliest childhood had opposite to it--only
across the road and then across a little stretch of
greensward--two mills belonging to my father; one flour mill, to
which the various grains were brought by the neighboring farmers,
and one sawmill, in which the logs of the native timber were
sawed into lumber. The latter offered the great excitement of
sitting on a log while it slowly approached the buzzing saw which
was cutting it into slabs, and of getting off just in time to
escape a sudden and gory death. But the flouring mill was much
more beloved. It was full of dusky, floury places which we
adored, of empty bins in which we might play house; it had a
basement, with piles of bran and shorts which were almost as good
as sand to play in, whenever the miller let us wet the edges of
the pile with water brought in his sprinkling pot from the

In addition to these fascinations was the association of the mill
with my father's activities, for doubtless at that time I
centered upon him all that careful imitation which a little girl
ordinarily gives to her mother's ways and habits. My mother had
died when I was a baby and my father's second marriage did not
occur until my eighth year.

I had a consuming ambition to posses a miller's thumb, and would
sit contentedly for a long time rubbing between my thumb and
fingers the ground wheat as it fell from between the millstones,
before it was taken up on an endless chain of mysterious little
buckets to be bolted into flour. I believe I have never since
wanted anything more desperately than I wanted my right thumb to
be flattened, as my father's had become, during his earlier years
of a miller's life. Somewhat discouraged by the slow process of
structural modification, I also took measures to secure on the
backs of my hands the tiny purple and red spots which are always
found on the hands of the miller who dresses millstones. The
marks on my father's hands had grown faint, but were quite
visible when looked for, and seemed to me so desirable that they
must be procured at all costs. Even when playing in our house or
yard, I could always tell when the millstones were being dressed,
because the rumbling of the mill then stopped, and there were few
pleasures I would not instantly forego, rushing at once to the
mill, that I might spread out my hands near the mill-stones in
the hope that the little hard flints flying form the miller's
chisel would light upon their backs and make the longed-for
marks. I used hotly to accuse the German miller, my dear friend
Ferdinand, "of trying not to hit my hands," but he scornfully
replied that he could not hit them if he did try, and that they
were too little to be of use in a mill anyway. Although I hated
his teasing, I never had the courage to confess my real purpose.

This sincere tribute of imitation, which affection offers to its
adored object, had later, I hope, subtler manifestations, but
certainly these first ones were altogether genuine. In this
case, too, I doubtless contributed my share to that stream of
admiration which our generation so generously poured forth for
the self-made man. I was consumed by a wistful desire to
apprehend the hardships of my father's earlier life in that
faraway time when he had been a miller's apprentice. I knew that
he still woke up punctually at three o'clock because for so many
years he had taken his turn at the mill in the early morning, and
if by chance I awoke at the same hour, as curiously enough I
often did, I imagined him in the early dawn in my uncle's old
mill reading through the entire village library, book after book,
beginning with the lives of the signers of the Declaration of
Independence. Copies of the same books, mostly bound in
calfskin, were to be found in the library below, and I
courageously resolved that I too would read them all and try to
understand life as he did. I did in fact later begin a course of
reading in the early morning hours, but I was caught by some
fantastic notion of chronological order and early legendary form.
Pope's translation of the "Iliad," even followed by Dryden's
"Virgil," did not leave behind the residuum of wisdom for which I
longed, and I finally gave them up for a thick book entitled "The
History of the World" as affording a shorter and an easier path.

Although I constantly confided my sins and perplexities to my
father, there are only a few occasions on which I remember having
received direct advice or admonition; it may easily be true,
however, that I have forgotten the latter, in the manner of many
seekers after advice who enjoyably set forth their situation but
do not really listen to the advice itself. I can remember an
admonition on one occasion, however, when, as a little girl of
eight years, arrayed in a new cloak, gorgeous beyond anything I
had ever worn before, I stood before my father for his approval.
I was much chagrined by his remark that it was a very pretty
cloak--in fact so much prettier than any cloak the other little
girls in the Sunday School had, that he would advise me to wear
my old cloak, which would keep me quite as warm, with the added
advantage of not making the other little girls feel badly. I
complied with the request but I fear without inner consent, and I
certainly was quite without the joy of self-sacrifice as I walked
soberly through the village street by the side of my counselor.
My mind was busy, however, with the old question eternally
suggested by the inequalities of the human lot. Only as we
neared the church door did I venture to ask what could be done
about it, receiving the reply that it might never be righted so
far as clothes went, but that people might be equal in things
that mattered much more than clothes, the affairs of education
and religion, for instance, which we attended to when we went to
school and church, and that it was very stupid to wear the sort
of clothes that made it harder to have equality even there.

It must have been a little later when I held a conversation with
my father upon the doctrine of foreordination, which at one time
very much perplexed my childish mind. After setting the
difficulty before him and complaining that I could not make it
out, although my best friend "understood it perfectly," I settled
down to hear his argument, having no doubt that he could make it
quite clear. To my delighted surprise, for any intimation that
our minds were on an equality lifted me high indeed, he said that
he feared that he and I did not have the kind of mind that would
ever understand fore-ordination very well and advised me not to
give too much time to it; but he then proceeded to say other
things of which the final impression left upon my mind was, that
it did not matter much whether one understood foreordination or
not, but that it was very important not to pretend to understand
what you didn't understand and that you must always be honest
with yourself inside, whatever happened. Perhaps on the whole as
valuable a lesson as the shorter catechism itself contains.

My memory merges this early conversation on religious doctrine
into one which took place years later when I put before my father
the situation in which I found myself at boarding school when
under great evangelical pressure, and once again I heard his
testimony in favor of "mental integrity above everything else."

At the time we were driving through a piece of timber in which
the wood choppers had been at work during the winter, and so
earnestly were we talking that he suddenly drew up the horses to
find that he did not know where he was. We were both entertained
by the incident, I that my father had been "lost in his own
timber" so that various cords of wood must have escaped his
practiced eye, and he on his side that he should have become so
absorbed in this maze of youthful speculation. We were in high
spirits as we emerged from the tender green of the spring woods
into the clear light of day, and as we came back into the main
road I categorically asked him:-

"What are you? What do you say when people ask you?"

His eyes twinkled a little as he soberly replied:

"I am a Quaker."

"But that isn't enough to say," I urged.

"Very well," he added, "to people who insist upon details, as some
one is doing now, I add that I am a Hicksite Quaker"; and not
another word on the weighty subject could I induce him to utter.

These early recollections are set in a scene of rural beauty,
unusual at least for Illinois. The prairie around the village
was broken into hills, one of them crowned by pine woods, grown
up from a bag full of Norway pine seeds sown by my father in
1844, the very year he came to Illinois, a testimony perhaps that
the most vigorous pioneers gave at least an occasional thought to
beauty. The banks of the mill stream rose into high bluffs too
perpendicular to be climbed without skill, and containing caves
of which one at least was so black that it could not be explored
without the aid of a candle; and there was a deserted limekiln
which became associated in my mind with the unpardonable sin of
Hawthorne's "Lime-Burner." My stepbrother and I carried on games
and crusades which lasted week after week, and even summer after
summer, as only free-ranging country children can do. It may be
in contrast to this that one of the most piteous aspects in the
life of city children, as I have seen it in the neighborhood of
Hull-House, is the constant interruption to their play which is
inevitable on the streets, so that it can never have any
continuity--the most elaborate "plan or chart" or "fragment from
their dream of human life" is sure to be rudely destroyed by the
passing traffic. Although they start over and over again, even
the most vivacious become worn out at last and take to that
passive "standing 'round" varied by rude horseplay, which in time
becomes so characteristic of city children.

We had of course our favorite places and trees and birds and
flowers. It is hard to reproduce the companionship which
children establish with nature, but certainly it is much too
unconscious and intimate to come under the head of aesthetic
appreciation or anything of the sort. When we said that the
purple wind-flowers--the anemone patens--"looked as if the winds
had made them," we thought much more of the fact that they were
wind-born than that they were beautiful: we clapped our hands in
sudden joy over the soft radiance of the rainbow, but its
enchantment lay in our half belief that a pot of gold was to be
found at its farther end; we yielded to a soft melancholy when we
heard the whippoorwill in the early twilight, but while he
aroused in us vague longings of which we spoke solemnly, we felt
no beauty in his call.

We erected an altar beside the stream, to which for several years
we brought all the snakes we killed during our excursions, no
matter how long the toil--some journey which we had to make with
a limp snake dangling between two sticks. I remember rather
vaguely the ceremonial performed upon this altar one autumn day,
when we brought as further tribute one out of every hundred of
the black walnuts which we had gathered, and then poured over the
whole a pitcher full of cider, fresh from the cider mill on the
barn floor. I think we had also burned a favorite book or two
upon this pyre of stones. The entire affair carried on with such
solemnity was probably the result of one of those imperative
impulses under whose compulsion children seek a ceremonial which
shall express their sense of identification with man's primitive
life and their familiar kinship with the remotest past.

Long before we had begun the study of Latin at the village
school, my brother and I had learned the Lord's Prayer in Latin
out of an old copy of the Vulgate, and gravely repeated it every
night in an execrable pronunciation because it seemed to us more
religious than "plain English."

When, however, I really prayed, what I saw before my eyes was a
most outrageous picture which adorned a song-book used in Sunday
School, portraying the Lord upon his throne, surrounded by tiers
and tiers of saints and angels all in a blur of yellow. I am
ashamed to tell how old I was when that picture ceased to appear
before my eyes, especially when moments of terror compelled me to
ask protection from the heavenly powers.

I recall with great distinctness my first direct contact with
death when I was fifteen years old: Polly was an old nurse who
had taken care of my mother and had followed her to frontier
Illinois to help rear a second generation of children. She had
always lived in our house, but made annual visits to her cousins
on a farm a few miles north of the village. During one of those
visits, word came to us one Sunday evening that Polly was dying,
and for a number of reasons I was the only person able to go to
her. I left the lamp-lit, warm house to be driven four miles
through a blinding storm which every minute added more snow to
the already high drifts, with a sense of starting upon a fateful
errand. An hour after my arrival all of the cousin's family went
downstairs to supper, and I was left alone to watch with Polly.
The square, old-fashioned chamber in the lonely farmhouse was
very cold and still, with nothing to be heard but the storm
outside. Suddenly the great change came. I heard a feeble call
of "Sarah," my mother's name, as the dying eyes were turned upon
me, followed by a curious breathing and in place of the face
familiar from my earliest childhood and associated with homely
household cares, there lay upon the pillow strange, august
features, stern and withdrawn from all the small affairs of life.
That sense of solitude, of being unsheltered in a wide world of
relentless and elemental forces which is at the basis of
childhood's timidity and which is far from outgrown at fifteen,
seized me irresistibly before I could reach the narrow stairs and
summon the family from below.

As I was driven home in the winter storm, the wind through the
trees seemed laden with a passing soul and the riddle of life and
death pressed hard; once to be young, to grow old and to die,
everything came to that, and then a mysterious journey out into
the Unknown. Did she mind faring forth alone? Would the journey
perhaps end in something as familiar and natural to the aged and
dying as life is to the young and living? Through all the drive
and indeed throughout the night these thoughts were pierced by
sharp worry, a sense of faithlessness because I had forgotten the
text Polly had confided to me long before as the one from which
she wished her funeral sermon to be preached. My comfort as
usual finally came from my father, who pointed out what was
essential and what was of little avail even in such a moment as
this, and while he was much too wise to grow dogmatic upon the
great theme of death, I felt a new fellowship with him because we
had discussed it together.

Perhaps I may record here my protest against the efforts, so
often made, to shield children and young people from all that has
to do with death and sorrow, to give them a good time at all
hazards on the assumption that the ills of life will come soon
enough. Young people themselves often resent this attitude on
the part of their elders; they feel set aside and belittled as if
they were denied the common human experiences. They too wish to
climb steep stairs and to eat their bread with tears, and they
imagine that the problems of existence which so press upon them
in pensive moments would be less insoluble in the light of these
great happenings.

An incident which stands out clearly in my mind as an exciting
suggestion of the great world of moral enterprise and serious
undertakings must have occurred earlier than this, for in 1872,
when I was not yet twelve years old, I came into my father's room
one morning to find him sitting beside the fire with a newspaper in
his hand, looking very solemn; and upon my eager inquiry what had
happened, he told me that Joseph Mazzini was dead. I had never
even heard Mazzini's name, and after being told about him I was
inclined to grow argumentative, asserting that my father did not
know him, that he was not an American, and that I could not
understand why we should be expected to feel badly about him. It
is impossible to recall the conversation with the complete
breakdown of my cheap arguments, but in the end I obtained that
which I have ever regarded as a valuable possession, a sense of the
genuine relationship which may exist between men who share large
hopes and like desires, even though they differ in nationality,
language, and creed; that those things count for absolutely nothing
between groups of men who are trying to abolish slavery in America
or to throw off Hapsburg oppression in Italy. At any rate, I was
heartily ashamed of my meager notion of patriotism, and I came out
of the room exhilarated with the consciousness that impersonal and
international relations are actual facts and not mere phrases. I
was filled with pride that I knew a man who held converse with
great minds and who really sorrowed and rejoiced over happenings
across the sea. I never recall those early conversations with my
father, nor a score of others like them, but there comes into my
mind a line from Mrs. Browning in which a daughter describes her
relations with her father:--

"He wrapt me in his large
Man's doublet, careless did it fit or no."

[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 David Cheezem.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

[A Celebration of Women Writers]

"Chapter II: Influence of Lincoln." 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. 23-43.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]



I suppose all the children who were born about the time of the
Civil War have recollections quite unlike those of the children
who are living now. Although I was but four and a half years old
when Lincoln died, I distinctly remember the day when I found on
our two white gateposts American flags companioned with black. I
tumbled down on the harsh gravel walk in my eager rush into the
house to inquire what they were "there for." To my amazement I
found my father in tears, something that I had never seen before,
having assumed, as all children do, that grown-up people never
cried. The two flags, my father's tears, and his impressive
statement that the greatest man in the world had died, constituted
my initiation, my baptism, as it were, into the thrilling and
solemn interests of a world lying quite outside the two white
gateposts. The great war touched children in many ways: I
remember an engraved roster of names, headed by the words "Addams'
Guard," and the whole surmounted by the insignia of the American
eagle clutching many flags, which always hung in the family
living-room. As children we used to read this list of names again
and again. We could reach it only by dint of putting the family
Bible on a chair and piling the dictionary on top of it; using the
Bible to stand on was always accompanied by a little thrill of
superstitious awe, although we carefully put the dictionary above
that our profane feet might touch it alone. Having brought the
roster within reach of our eager fingers,--fortunately it was
glazed,--we would pick out the names of those who "had fallen on
the field" from those who "had come back from the war," and from
among the latter those whose children were our schoolmates. When
drives were planned, we would say, "Let us take this road," that
we might pass the farm where a soldier had once lived; if flowers
from the garden were to be given away, we would want them to go to
the mother of one of those heroes whose names we knew from the
"Addams' Guard." If a guest should become interested in the roster
on the wall, he was at once led by the eager children to a small
picture of Colonel Davis which hung next the opposite window, that
he might see the brave Colonel of the Regiment. The introduction
to the picture of the one-armed man seemed to us a very solemn
ceremony, and long after the guest was tired of listening, we
would tell each other all about the local hero, who at the head of
his troops had suffered wounds unto death. We liked very much to
talk to a gentle old lady who lived in a white farmhouse a mile
north of the village. She was the mother of the village hero,
Tommy, and used to tell us of her long anxiety during the spring
of '62; how she waited day after day for the hospital to surrender
up her son, each morning airing the white homespun sheets and
holding the little bedroom in immaculate readiness. It was after
the battle of Fort Donelson that Tommy was wounded and had been
taken to the hospital at Springfield; his father went down to him
and saw him getting worse each week, until it was clear that he
was going to die; but there was so much red tape about the
department, and affairs were so confused, that his discharge could
not be procured. At last the hospital surgeon intimated to his
father that he should quietly take him away; a man as sick as
that, it would be all right; but when they told Tommy, weak as he
was, his eyes flashed, and he said, "No, sir; I will go out of the
front door or I'll die here." Of course after that every man in
the hospital worked for it, and in two weeks he was honorably
discharged. When he came home at last, his mother's heart was
broken to see him so wan and changed. She would tell us of the
long quiet days that followed his return, with the windows open so
that the dying eyes might look over the orchard slope to the
meadow beyond where the younger brothers were mowing the early
hay. She told us of those days when his school friends from the
Academy flocked in to see him, their old acknowledged leader, and
of the burning words of earnest patriotism spoken in the crowded
little room, so that in three months the Academy was almost
deserted and the new Company who marched away in the autumn took
as drummer boy Tommy's third brother, who was only seventeen and
too young for a regular. She remembered the still darker days
that followed, when the bright drummer boy was in Andersonville
prison, and little by little she learned to be reconciled that
Tommy was safe in the peaceful home graveyard.

However much we were given to talk of war heroes, we always fell
silent as we approached an isolated farmhouse in which two old
people lived alone. Five of their sons had enlisted in the Civil
War, and only the youngest had returned alive in the spring of
1865. In the autumn of the same year, when he was hunting for
wild ducks in a swamp on the rough little farm itself, he was
accidently shot and killed, and the old people were left alone to
struggle with the half-cleared land as best they might. When we
were driven past this forlorn little farm our childish voices
always dropped into speculative whisperings as to how the
accident could have happened to this remaining son out of all the
men in the world, to him who had escaped so many chances of
death! Our young hearts swelled in first rebellion against that
which Walter Pater calls "the inexplicable shortcoming or
misadventure on the part of life itself"; we were overwhelmingly
oppressed by that grief of things as they are, so much more
mysterious and intolerable than those griefs which we think dimly
to trace to man's own wrongdoing.

It was well perhaps that life thus early gave me a hint of one of
her most obstinate and insoluble riddles, for I have sorely
needed the sense of universality thus imparted to that mysterious
injustice, the burden of which we are all forced to bear and with
which I have become only too familiar.

My childish admiration for Lincoln is closely associated with a
visit made to the war eagle, Old Abe, who, as we children well
knew, lived in the state capital of Wisconsin, only sixty-five
miles north of our house, really no farther than an eagle could
easily fly! He had been carried by the Eighth Wisconsin Regiment
through the entire war, and now dwelt an honored pensioner in the
state building itself.

Many times, standing in the north end of our orchard, which was
only twelve miles from that mysterious line which divided
Illinois from Wisconsin, we anxiously scanned the deep sky,
hoping to see Old Abe fly southward right over our apple trees,
for it was clearly possible that he might at any moment escape
from his keeper, who, although he had been a soldier and a
sentinel, would have to sleep sometimes. We gazed with thrilled
interest at one speck after another in the flawless sky, but
although Old Abe never came to see us, a much more incredible
thing happened, for we were at last taken to see him.

We started one golden summer's day, two happy children in the
family carriage, with my father and mother and an older sister to
whom, because she was just home from boarding school, we
confidently appealed whenever we needed information. We were
driven northward hour after hour, past harvest fields in which
the stubble glinted from bronze to gold and the heavy-headed
grain rested luxuriously in rounded shocks, until we reached that
beautiful region of hills and lakes which surrounds the capital
city of Wisconsin.

But although Old Abe, sitting sedately upon his high perch, was
sufficiently like an uplifted ensign to remind us of a Roman
eagle, and although his veteran keeper, clad in an old army coat,
was ready to answer all our questions and to tell us of the
thirty-six battles and skirmishes which Old Abe had passed
unscathed, the crowning moment of the impressive journey came to
me later, illustrating once more that children are as quick to
catch the meaning of a symbol as they are unaccountably slow to
understand the real world about them.

The entire journey to the veteran war eagle had itself symbolized
that search for the heroic and perfect which so persistently
haunts the young; and as I stood under the great white dome of
Old Abe's stately home, for one brief moment the search was
rewarded. I dimly caught a hint of what men have tried to say in
their world-old effort to imprison a space in so divine a line
that it shall hold only yearning devotion and high-hearted hopes.
Certainly the utmost rim of my first dome was filled with the
tumultuous impression of soldiers marching to death for freedom's
sake, of pioneers streaming westward to establish self-government
in yet another sovereign state. Only the great dome of St.
Peter's itself has ever clutched my heart as did that modest
curve which had sequestered from infinitude in a place small
enough for my child's mind, the courage and endurance which I
could not comprehend so long as it was lost in "the void of
unresponsible space" under the vaulting sky itself. But through
all my vivid sensations there persisted the image of the eagle in
the corridor below and Lincoln himself as an epitome of all that
was great and good. I dimly caught the notion of the martyred
President as the standard bearer to the conscience of his
countrymen, as the eagle had been the ensign of courage to the
soldiers of the Wisconsin regiment.

Thirty-five years later, as I stood on the hill campus of the
University of Wisconsin with a commanding view of the capitol
building a mile directly across the city, I saw again the dome
which had so uplifted my childish spirit. The University, which
was celebrating it's fiftieth anniversary, had honored me with a
doctor's degree, and in the midst of the academic pomp and the
rejoicing, the dome again appeared to me as a fitting symbol of the
state's aspiration even in its high mission of universal education.

Thousands of children in the sixties and seventies, in the
simplicity which is given to the understanding of a child, caught a
notion of imperishable heroism when they were told that brave men
had lost their lives that the slaves might be free. At any moment
the conversation of our elders might turn upon these heroic events;
there were red-letter days, when a certain general came to see my
father, and again when Governor Oglesby, whom all Illinois children
called "Uncle Dick," spent a Sunday under the pine trees in our
front yard. We felt on those days a connection with the great
world so much more heroic than the village world which surrounded
us through all the other days. My father was a member of the state
senate for the sixteen years between 1854 and 1870, and even as a
little child I was dimly conscious of the grave march of public
affairs in his comings and goings at the state capital.

He was much too occupied to allow time for reminiscence, but I
remember overhearing a conversation between a visitor and himself
concerning the stirring days before the war, when it was by no
means certain that the Union men in the legislature would always
have enough votes to keep Illinois from seceding. I heard with
breathless interest my father's account of the trip a majority of
the legislators had made one dark day to St. Louis, that there
might not be enough men for a quorum, and so no vote could be
taken on the momentous question until the Union men could rally
their forces.

My father always spoke of the martyred President as Mr. Lincoln,
and I never heard the great name without a thrill. I remember
the day--it must have been one of comparative leisure, perhaps a
Sunday--when at my request my father took out of his desk a thin
packet marked "Mr. Lincoln's Letters," the shortest one of which
bore unmistakable traces of that remarkable personality. These
letters began, "My dear Double-D'ed Addams," and to the inquiry
as to how the person thus addressed was about to vote on a
certain measure then before the legislature, was added the
assurance that he knew that this Addams "would vote according to
his conscience," but he begged to know in which direction the
same conscience "was pointing." As my father folded up the bits
of paper I fairly held my breath in my desire that he should go
on with the reminiscence of this wonderful man, whom he had known
in his comparative obscurity, or better still, that he should be
moved to tell some of the exciting incidents of the
Lincoln-Douglas debates. There were at least two pictures of
Lincoln that always hung in my father's room, and one in our
old-fashioned upstairs parlor, of Lincoln with little Tad. For
one or all of these reasons I always tend to associate Lincoln
with the tenderest thoughts of my father.

I recall a time of great perplexity in the summer of 1894, when
Chicago was filled with federal troops sent there by the
President of the United States, and their presence was resented
by the governor of the state, that I walked the wearisome way
from Hull-House to Lincoln Park--for no cars were running
regularly at that moment of sympathetic strikes--in order to look
at and gain magnanimous counsel, if I might, from the marvelous
St. Gaudens statue which had been but recently been placed at the
entrance of the park. Some of Lincoln's immortal words were cut
into the stone at his feet, and never did a distracted town more
sorely need the healing of "with charity towards all" than did
Chicago at that moment, and the tolerance of the man who had won
charity for those on both sides of "an irrepressible conflict."

Of the many things written of my father in that sad August in
1881, when he died, the one I cared for most was written by an old
political friend of his who was then editor of a great Chicago
daily. He wrote that while there were doubtless many members of
the Illinois legislature who during the great contracts of the war
time and the demoralizing reconstruction days that followed, had
never accepted a bribe, he wished to bear testimony that he
personally had known but this one man who had never been offered a
bribe because bad men were instinctively afraid of him.

I feel now the hot chagrin with which I recalled this statement
during those early efforts of Illinois in which Hull- House
joined, to secure the passage of the first factory legislation. I
was told by the representatives of an informal association of
manufacturers that if the residents of Hull-House would drop this
nonsense about a sweatshop bill, of which they knew nothing,
certain business men would agree to give fifty thousand dollars
within two years to be used for any of the philanthropic
activities of the Settlement. As the fact broke upon me that I
was being offered a bribe, the shame was enormously increased by
the memory of this statement. What had befallen the daughter of
my father that such a thing could happen to her? The salutary
reflection that it could not have occurred unless a weakness in
myself had permitted it, withheld me at least from an historic
display of indignation before the two men making the offer, and I
explained as gently as I could that we had no ambition to make
Hull-House "the largest institution on the West Side," but that we
were much concerned that our neighbors should be protected from
untoward conditions of work, and--so much heroics, youth must
permit itself--if to accomplish this the destruction of Hull-House
was necessary, that we would cheerfully sing a Te Deum on its
ruins. The good friend who had invited me to lunch at the Union
League Club to meet two of his friends who wanted to talk over the
sweat shop bill here kindly intervened, and we all hastened to
cover the awkward situation by that scurrying away from ugly
morality which seems to be an obligation of social intercourse.

Of the many old friends of my father who kindly came to look up
his daughter in the first days of Hull-House, I recall none with
more pleasure than Lyman Trumbull, whom we used to point out to
members of the Young Citizen's Club as the man who had for days
held in his keeping the Proclamation of Emancipation until his
friend President Lincoln was ready to issue it. I remember the
talk he gave at Hull-House on one of our early celebrations of
Lincoln's birthday, his assertion that Lincoln was no cheap
popular hero, that the "common people" would have to make an
effort if they would understand his greatness, as Lincoln
painstakingly made a long effort to understand the greatness of
the people. There was something in the admiration of Lincoln's
contemporaries, or at least of those men who had known him
personally, which was quite unlike even the best of the devotion
and reverent understanding which has developed since. In the
first place, they had so large a fund of common experience; they
too had pioneered in a western country, and had urged the
development of canals and railroads in order that the raw prairie
crops might be transported to market; they too had realized that
if this last tremendous experiment in self-government failed here,
it would be the disappointment of the centuries and that upon
their ability to organize self-government in state, county, and
town depended the verdict of history. These men also knew, as
Lincoln himself did, that if this tremendous experiment was to
come to fruition, it must be brought about by the people
themselves; that there was no other capital fund upon which to
draw. I remember an incident occurring when I was about fifteen
years old, in which the conviction was driven into my mind that
the people themselves were the great resource of the country. My
father had made a little address of reminiscence at a meeting of
"the old settlers of Stephenson County," which was held every
summer in the grove beside the mill, relating his experiences in
inducing the farmers of the county to subscribe for stock in the
Northwestern Railroad, which was the first to penetrate the county
and make a connection with the Great Lakes at Chicago. Many of the
Pennsylvania German farmers doubted the value of "the whole
new-fangled business," and had no use for any railroad, much less
for one in which they were asked to risk their hard-earned
savings. My father told of his despair in one farmers' community
dominated by such prejudice which did not in the least give way
under his argument, but finally melted under the enthusiasm of a
high-spirited German matron who took a share to be paid for "out
of butter and egg money." As he related his admiration of her, an
old woman's piping voice in the audience called out: "I'm here
to-day, Mr. Addams, and I'd do it again if you asked me." The old
woman, bent and broken by her seventy years of toilsome life, was
brought to the platform and I was much impressed by my father's
grave presentation of her as "one of the public-spirited pioneers
to whose heroic fortitude we are indebted for the development of
this country." I remember that I was at that time reading with
great enthusiasm Carlyle's "Heroes and Hero Worship," but on the
evening of "Old Settlers' Day," to my surprise, I found it
difficult to go on. Its sonorous sentences and exaltation of the
man who "can" suddenly ceased to be convincing. I had already
written down in my commonplace book a resolution to give at least
twenty-five copies of this book each year to noble young people of
my acquaintance. It is perhaps fitting in this chapter that the
very first Christmas we spent at Hull-House, in spite of exigent
demands upon my slender purse for candy and shoes, I gave to a
club of boys twenty-five copies of the then new Carl Schurz's
"Appreciation of Abraham Lincoln."

In our early effort at Hull-House to hand on to our neighbors
whatever of help we had found for ourselves, we made much of
Lincoln. We were often distressed by the children of immigrant
parents who were ashamed of the pit whence they were digged, who
repudiated the language and customs of their elders, and counted
themselves successful as they were able to ignore the past.
Whenever I held up Lincoln for their admiration as the greatest
American, I invariably pointed out his marvelous power to retain
and utilize past experiences; that he never forgot how the plain
people in Sangamon County thought and felt when he himself had
moved to town; that this habit was the foundation for his
marvelous capacity for growth; that during those distracting
years in Washington it enabled him to make clear beyond denial to
the American people themselves, the goal towards which they were
moving. I was sometimes bold enough to add that proficiency in
the art of recognition and comprehension did not come without
effort, and that certainly its attainment was necessary for any
successful career in our conglomerate America.

An instance of the invigorating and clarifying power of Lincoln's
influence came to me many years ago in England. I had spent two
days in Oxford under the guidance of Arnold Toynbee's old friend
Sidney Ball of St. John's College, who was closely associated
with the group of scholars we all identify with the beginnings of
the Settlement movement. It was easy to claim the philosophy of
Thomas Hill Green, the road-building episode of Ruskin, the
experimental living in the east end by Frederick Maurice, the
London Workingman's College of Edward Dennison, as foundations
laid by university men for the establishment of Toynbee Hall. I
was naturally much interested in the beginnings of the movement
whose slogan was "Back to the People," and which could doubtless
claim the Settlement as one of its manifestations. Nevertheless
the processes by which so simple a conclusion as residence among
the poor in East London was reached, seemed to me very involved
and roundabout. However inevitable these processes might be for
class-conscious Englishmen, they could not but seem artificial to
a western American who had been born in a rural community where
the early pioneer life had made social distinctions impossible.
Always on the alert lest American Settlements should become mere
echoes and imitations of the English movement, I found myself
assenting to what was shown me only with that part of my
consciousness which had been formed by reading of English social
movements, while at the same time the rustic American looked on
in detached comment.

Why should an American be lost in admiration of a group of Oxford
students because they went out to mend a disused road, inspired
thereto by Ruskin's teaching for the bettering of the common
life, when all the country roads in America were mended each
spring by self-respecting citizens, who were thus carrying out
the simple method devised by a democratic government for
providing highways. No humor penetrated my high mood even as I
somewhat uneasily recalled certain spring thaws when I had been
mired in roads provided by the American citizen. I continued to
fumble for a synthesis which I was unable to make until I
developed that uncomfortable sense of playing two roles at once.
It was therefore almost with a dual consciousness that I was
ushered, during the last afternoon of my Oxford stay, into the
drawingroom of the Master of Balliol. Edward Caird's "Evolution
of Religion," which I had read but a year or two before, had been
of unspeakable comfort to me in the labyrinth of differing
ethical teachings and religious creeds which the many immigrant
colonies of our neighborhood presented. I remember that I wanted
very much to ask the author himself how far it was reasonable to
expect the same quality of virtue and a similar standard of
conduct from these divers people. I was timidly trying to apply
his method of study to those groups of homesick immigrants
huddled together in strange tenement houses, among whom I seemed
to detect the beginnings of a secular religion or at least of a
wide humanitarianism evolved out of the various exigencies of the
situation; somewhat as a household of children, whose mother is
dead, out of their sudden necessity perform unaccustomed offices
for each other and awkwardly exchange consolations, as children
in happier households never dream of doing. Perhaps Mr. Caird
could tell me whether there was any religious content in this

Faith to each other; this fidelity
Of fellow wanderers in a desert place.

But when tea was over and my opportunity came for a talk with my
host, I suddenly remembered, to the exclusion of all other
associations, only Mr. Caird's fine analysis of Abraham Lincoln,
delivered in a lecture two years before.

The memory of Lincoln, the mention of his name, came like a
refreshing breeze from off the prairie, blowing aside all the
scholarly implications in which I had become so reluctantly
involved, and as the philosopher spoke of the great American "who
was content merely to dig the channels through which the moral life
of his countrymen might flow," I was gradually able to make a
natural connection between this intellectual penetration at Oxford
and the moral perception which is always necessary for the
discovery of new methods by which to minister to human needs. In
the unceasing ebb and flow of justice and oppression we must all
dig channels as best we may, that at the propitious moment somewhat
of the swelling tide may be conducted to the barren places of life.

Gradually a healing sense of well-being enveloped me and a quick
remorse for my blindness, as I realized that no one among his own
countrymen had been able to interpret Lincoln's greatness more
nobly than this Oxford scholar had done, and that vision and
wisdom as well as high motives must lie behind every effective
stroke in the continuous labor for human equality; I remembered
that another Master of Balliol, Jowett himself, had said that it
was fortunate for society that every age possessed at least a few
minds, which, like Arnold Toynbee's, were "perpetually disturbed
over the apparent inequalities of mankind." Certainly both the
English and American settlements could unite in confessing to
that disturbance of mind.

Traces of this Oxford visit are curiously reflected in a paper I
wrote soon after my return at the request of the American Academy
of Political and Social Science. It begins as follows:--

The word "settlement," which we have borrowed from London,
is apt to grate a little upon American ears. It is not,
after all, so long ago that Americans who settled were
those who had adventured into a new country, where they
were pioneers in the midst of difficult surroundings. The
word still implies migrating from one condition of life to
another totally unlike it, and against this implication
the resident of an American settlement takes alarm.

We do not like to acknowledge that Americans are divided
into two nations, as her prime minister once admitted of
England. We are not willing, openly and professedly, to
assume that American citizens are broken up into classes,
even if we make that assumption the preface to a plea that
the superior class has duties to the inferior. Our
democracy is still our most precious possession, and we do
well to resent any inroads upon it, even though they may
be made in the name of philanthropy.

Is it not Abraham Lincoln who has cleared the title to our
democracy? He made plain, once for all, that democratic
government, associated as it is with all the mistakes and
shortcomings of the common people, still remains the most valuable
contribution America has made to the moral life of the world.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

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

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

[A Celebration of Women Writers]

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

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]



As my three older sisters had already attended the seminary at
Rockford, of which my father was trustee, without any question I
entered there at seventeen, with such meager preparation in Latin
and algebra as the village school had afforded. I was very
ambitious to go to Smith College, although I well knew that my
father's theory in regard to the education of his daughters
implied a school as near at home as possible, to be followed by
travel abroad in lieu of the wider advantages which the eastern
college is supposed to afford. I was much impressed by the
recent return of my sister from a year in Europe, yet I was
greatly disappointed at the moment of starting to humdrum
Rockford. After the first weeks of homesickness were over,
however, I became very much absorbed in the little world which
the boarding school in any form always offers to its students.

The school at Rockford in 1877 had not changed its name from
seminary to college, although it numbered, on its faculty and
among its alumnae, college women who were most eager that this
should be done, and who really accomplished it during the next
five years. The school was one of the earliest efforts for
women's higher education in the Mississippi Valley, and from the
beginning was called "The Mount Holyoke of the West."

It reflected much of the missionary spirit of that pioneer
institution, and the proportion of missionaries among its early
graduates was almost as large as Mount Holyoke's own. In
addition there had been thrown about the founders of the early
western school the glamour of frontier privations, and the first
students, conscious of the heroic self-sacrifice made in their
behalf, felt that each minute of the time thus dearly bought must
be conscientiously used. This inevitably fostered an atmosphere
of intensity, a fever of preparation which continued long after
the direct making of it had ceased, and which the later girls
accepted, as they did the campus and the buildings, without
knowing that it could have been otherwise.

There was, moreover, always present in the school a larger or
smaller group of girls who consciously accepted this heritage and
persistently endeavored to fulfill its obligation. We worked in
those early years as if we really believed the portentous
statement from Aristotle which we found quoted in Boswell's
Johnson and with which we illuminated the wall of the room
occupied by our Chess Club; it remained there for months, solely
out of reverence, let us hope, for the two ponderous names
associated with it; at least I have enough confidence in human
nature to assert that we never really believed that "There is the
same difference between the learned and the unlearned as there is
between the living and the dead." We were also too fond of quoting
Carlyle to the effect, "'Tis not to taste sweet things, but to do
noble and true things that the poorest son of Adam dimly longs."

As I attempt to reconstruct the spirit of my contemporary group
by looking over many documents, I find nothing more amusing than
a plaint registered against life's indistinctness, which I
imagine more or less reflected the sentiments of all of us. At
any rate here it is for the entertainment of the reader if not
for his edification: "So much of our time is spent in
preparation, so much in routine, and so much in sleep, we find it
difficult to have any experience at all." We did not, however,
tamely accept such a state of affairs, for we made various and
restless attempts to break through this dull obtuseness.

At one time five of us tried to understand De Quincey's marvelous
"Dreams" more sympathetically, by drugging ourselves with opium.
We solemnly consumed small white powders at intervals during an
entire long holiday, but no mental reorientation took place, and
the suspense and excitement did not even permit us to grow
sleepy. About four o'clock on the weird afternoon, the young
teacher whom we had been obliged to take into our confidence,
grew alarmed over the whole performance, took away our De Quincey
and all the remaining powders, administrated an emetic to each of
the five aspirants for sympathetic understanding of all human
experience, and sent us to our separate rooms with a stern
command to appear at family worship after supper "whether we were
able to or not."

Whenever we had a chance to write, we took, of course, large
themes, usually from the Greek because they were the most
stirring to the imagination. The Greek oration I gave at our
Junior Exhibition was written with infinite pains and taken to
the Greek professor in Beloit College that there might be no
mistakes, even after the Rockford College teacher and the most
scholarly clergyman in town had both passed upon it. The oration
upon Bellerophon and his successful fight with the Chimera
contended that social evils could only be overcome by him who
soared above them into idealism, as Bellerophon mounted upon the
winged horse Pegasus, had slain the earthy dragon.

There were practically no Economics taught in women's colleges--at
least in the fresh-water ones--thirty years ago, although we
painstakingly studied "Mental" and "Moral" Philosophy, which,
though far from dry in the classroom, became the subject of more
spirited discussion outside, and gave us a clew for animated
rummaging in the little college library. Of course we read a
great deal of Ruskin and Browning, and liked the most abstruse
parts the best; but like the famous gentleman who talked prose
without knowing it, we never dreamed of connecting them with our
philosophy. My genuine interest was history, partly because of a
superior teacher, and partly because my father had always insisted
upon a certain amount of historic reading ever since he had paid
me, as a little girl, five cents a "Life" for each Plutarch hero I
could intelligently report to him and twenty-five cents for every
volume of Irving's "Life of Washington."

When we started for the long vacations, a little group of five
would vow that during the summer we would read all of Motley's
"Dutch Republic" or, more ambitious still, all of Gibbon's
"Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." When we returned at the
opening of school and three of us announced we had finished the
latter, each became skeptical of the other two. We fell upon
each other in a sort of rough-and-tumble examination, in which no
quarter was given or received; but the suspicion was finally
removed that anyone had skipped. We took for a class motto the
early Saxon word for lady, translated into breadgiver, and we
took for our class color the poppy, because poppies grow among
the wheat, as if Nature knew that wherever there was hunger that
needed food there would be pain that needed relief. We must have
found the sentiment in a book somewhere, but we used it so much
it finally seemed like an idea of our own, although of course
none of us had ever seen a European field, the only page upon
which Nature has written this particular message.

That this group of ardent girls, who discussed everything under
the sun with unabated interest, did not take it all out in talk
may be demonstrated by the fact that one of the class who married
a missionary founded a very successful school in Japan for the
children of the English and Americans living there; another of
the class became a medical missionary to Korea, and because of
her successful treatment of the Queen, was made court physician
at a time when the opening was considered of importance in the
diplomatic as well as in the missionary world; still another
became an unusually skilled teacher of the blind; and one of them
a pioneer librarian in that early effort to bring "books to the

Perhaps this early companionship showed me how essentially
similar are the various forms of social effort, and curiously
enough, the actual activities of a missionary school are not
unlike many that are carried on in a Settlement situated in a
foreign quarter. Certainly the most sympathetic and
comprehending visitors we have ever had at Hull-House have been
returned missionaries; among them two elderly ladies, who had
lived for years in India and who had been homesick and bewildered
since their return, declared that the fortnight at Hull-House had
been the happiest and most familiar they had had in America.

Of course in such an atmosphere a girl like myself, of serious
not to say priggish tendency, did not escape a concerted pressure
to push her into the "missionary field." During the four years it
was inevitable that every sort of evangelical appeal should have
been made to reach the comparatively few "unconverted" girls in
the school. We were the subject of prayer at the daily chapel
exercise and the weekly prayer meeting, attendance upon which was

I was singularly unresponsive to all these forms of emotional
appeal, although I became unspeakably embarrassed when they were
presented to me at close range by a teacher during the "silent
hour," which we were all required to observe every evening, and
which was never broken into, even by a member of the faculty,
unless the errand was one of grave import. I found these
occasional interviews on the part of one of the more serious
young teachers, of whom I was extremely fond, hard to endure, as
was a long series of conversations in my senior year conducted by
one of the most enthusiastic members of the faculty, in which the
desirability of Turkey as a field for missionary labor was
enticingly put before me. I suppose I held myself aloof from all
these influences, partly owing to the fact that my father was not
a communicant of any church, and I tremendously admired his
scrupulous morality and sense of honor in all matters of personal
and public conduct, and also because the little group to which I
have referred was much given to a sort of rationalism, doubtless
founded upon an early reading of Emerson. In this connection,
when Bronson Alcott came to lecture at the school, we all vied
with each other for a chance to do him a personal service because
he had been a friend of Emerson, and we were inexpressibly
scornful of our younger fellow-students who cared for him merely
on the basis of his grandfatherly relation to "Little Women." I
recall cleaning the clay of the unpaved streets off his heavy
cloth overshoes in a state of ecstatic energy.

But I think in my case there were other factors as well that
contributed to my unresponsiveness to the evangelical appeal. A
curious course of reading I had marked out for myself in medieval
history, seems to have left me fascinated by an ideal of mingled
learning, piety and physical labor, more nearly exemplified by
the Port Royalists than by any others.

The only moments in which I seem to have approximated in my own
experience to a faint realization of the "beauty of holiness," as
I conceived it, was each Sunday morning between the hours of nine
and ten, when I went into the exquisitely neat room of the
teacher of Greek and read with her from a Greek testament. We
did this every Sunday morning for two years. It was not exactly
a lesson, for I never prepared for it, and while I was held
within reasonable bounds of syntax, I was allowed much more
freedom in translation than was permitted the next morning when I
read Homer; neither did we discuss doctrines, for although it was
with this same teacher that in our junior year we studied Paul's
Epistle to the Hebrews, committing all of it to memory and
analyzing and reducing it to doctrines within an inch of our
lives, we never allowed an echo of this exercise to appear at
these blessed Sunday morning readings. It was as if the
disputations of Paul had not yet been, for we always read from
the Gospels. The regime of Rockford Seminary was still very
simple in the 70's. Each student made her own fire and kept her
own room in order. Sunday morning was a great clearing up day,
and the sense of having made immaculate my own immediate
surroundings, the consciousness of clean linen, said to be close
to the consciousness of a clean conscience, always mingles in my
mind with these early readings. I certainly bore away with me a
lifelong enthusiasm for reading the Gospels in bulk, a whole one
at a time, and an insurmountable distaste for having them cut up
into chapter and verse, or for hearing the incidents in that
wonderful Life thus referred to as if it were merely a record.

My copy of the Greek testament had been presented to me by the
brother of our Greek teacher, Professor Blaisdell of Beloit
College, a true scholar in "Christian Ethics," as his department
was called. I recall that one day in the summer after I left
college--one of the black days which followed the death of my
father--this kindly scholar came to see me in order to bring such
comfort as he might and to inquire how far I had found solace in
the little book he had given me so long before. When I suddenly
recall the village in which I was born, its steeples and roofs
look as they did that day from the hilltop where we talked
together, the familiar details smoothed out and merging, as it
were, into that wide conception of the universe, which for the
moment swallowed up my personal grief or at least assuaged it with
a realization that it was but a drop in that "torrent of sorrow
and aguish and terror which flows under all the footsteps of man."
This realization of sorrow as the common lot, of death as the
universal experience, was the first comfort which my bruised
spirit had received. In reply to my impatience with the Christian
doctrine of "resignation," that it implied that you thought of
your sorrow only in its effect upon you and were disloyal to the
affection itself, I remember how quietly the Christian scholar
changed his phraseology, saying that sometimes consolation came to
us better in the words of Plato, and, as nearly as I can remember,
that was the first time I had ever heard Plato's sonorous argument
for the permanence of the excellent.

When Professor Blaisdell returned to his college, he left in my
hands a small copy of "The Crito." The Greek was too hard for me,
and I was speedily driven to Jowett's translation. That
old-fashioned habit of presenting favorite books to eager young
people, although it degenerated into the absurdity of
"friendship's offerings," had much to be said for it, when it
indicated the wellsprings of literature from which the donor
himself had drawn waters of healing and inspiration.

Throughout our school years, we were always keenly conscious of
the growing development of Rockford Seminary into a college. The
opportunity for our Alma Mater to take her place in the new
movement of full college education for women filled us with
enthusiasm, and it became a driving ambition with the
undergraduates to share in this new and glorious undertaking. We
gravely decided that it was important that some of the students
should be ready to receive the bachelor's degree the very first
moment that the charter of the school should secure the right to
confer it. Two of us, therefore, took a course in mathematics,
advanced beyond anything previously given in the school, from one
of those early young women working for a Ph.D., who was
temporarily teaching in Rockford that she might study more
mathematics in Leipsic.

My companion in all these arduous labors has since accomplished
more than any of us in the effort to procure the franchise for
women, for even then we all took for granted the righteousness of
that cause into which I at least had merely followed my father's
conviction. In the old-fashioned spirit of that cause I might
cite the career of this companion as an illustration of the
efficacy of higher mathematics for women, for she possesses
singular ability to convince even the densest legislators of their
legal right to define their own electorate, even when they quote
against her the dustiest of state constitutions or city charters.

In line with this policy of placing a woman's college on an
equality with the other colleges of the state, we applied for an
opportunity to compete in the intercollegiate oratorical contest
of Illinois, and we succeeded in having Rockford admitted as the
first woman's college. When I was finally selected as the
orator, I was somewhat dismayed to find that, representing not
only one school but college women in general, I could not resent
the brutal frankness with which my oratorical possibilities were
discussed by the enthusiastic group who would allow no personal
feeling to stand in the way of progress, especially the progress
of Woman's Cause. I was told among other things that I had an
intolerable habit of dropping my voice at the end of a sentence
in the most feminine, apologetic and even deprecatory manner
which would probably lose Woman the first place.

Woman certainly did lose the first place and stood fifth, exactly
in the dreary middle, but the ignominious position may not have
been solely due to bad mannerisms, for a prior place was easily
accorded to William Jennings Bryan, who not only thrilled his
auditors with an almost prophetic anticipation of the cross of
gold, but with a moral earnestness which we had mistakenly
assumed would be the unique possession of the feminine orator.

I so heartily concurred with the decision of the judges of the
contest that it was with a care-free mind that I induced my
colleague and alternate to remain long enough in "The Athens of
Illinois," in which the successful college was situated, to visit
the state institutions, one for the Blind and one for the Deaf and
Dumb. Dr Gillette was at that time head of the latter
institution; his scholarly explanation of the method of teaching,
his concern for his charges, this sudden demonstration of the care
the state bestowed upon its most unfortunate children, filled me
with grave speculations in which the first, the fifth, or the
ninth place in the oratorical contest seemed of little moment.

However, this brief delay between our field of Waterloo and our
arrival at our aspiring college turned out to be most
unfortunate, for we found the ardent group not only exhausted by
the premature preparations for the return of a successful orator,
but naturally much irritated as they contemplated their garlands
drooping disconsolately in tubs and bowls of water. They did not
fail to make me realize that I had dealt the cause of woman's
advancement a staggering blow, and all my explanations of the
fifth place were haughtily considered insufficient before that
golden Bar of Youth, so absurdly inflexible!

To return to my last year of school, it was inevitable that the
pressure toward religious profession should increase as
graduating day approached. So curious, however, are the paths of
moral development that several times during subsequent
experiences have I felt that this passive resistance of mine,
this clinging to an individual conviction, was the best moral
training I received at Rockford College. During the first decade
of Hull-House, it was felt by propagandists of diverse social
theories that the new Settlement would be a fine coign of vantage
from which to propagate social faiths, and that a mere
preliminary step would be the conversion of the founders; hence I
have been reasoned with hours at a time, and I recall at least
three occasions when this was followed by actual prayer. In the
first instance, the honest exhorter who fell upon his knees
before my astonished eyes, was an advocate of single tax upon
land values. He begged, in that phraseology which is deemed
appropriate for prayer, that "the sister might see the beneficent
results it would bring to the poor who live in the awful
congested districts around this very house."

The early socialists used every method of attack,--a favorite one
being the statement, doubtless sometimes honestly made, that I
really was a socialist, but "too much of a coward to say so." I
remember one socialist who habitually opened a very telling
address he was in the habit of giving upon the street corners, by
holding me up as an awful example to his fellow socialists, as
one of their number "who had been caught in the toils of
capitalism." He always added as a final clinching of the
statement that he knew what he was talking about because he was a
member of the Hull-House Men's Club. When I ventured to say to
him that not all of the thousands of people who belong to a class
or club at Hull-House could possibly know my personal opinions,
and to mildly inquire upon what he founded his assertions, he
triumphantly replied that I had once admitted to him that I had
read Sombart and Loria, and that anyone of sound mind must see
the inevitable conclusions of such master reasonings.

I could multiply these two instances a hundredfold, and possibly
nothing aided me to stand on my own feet and to select what
seemed reasonable from this wilderness of dogma, so much as my
early encounter with genuine zeal and affectionate solicitude,
associated with what I could not accept as the whole truth.

I do not wish to take callow writing too seriously, but I reproduce
from an oratorical contest the following bit of premature
pragmatism, doubtless due much more to temperament than to
perception, because I am still ready to subscribe to it, although
the grandiloquent style is, I hope, a thing of the past: "Those who
believe that Justice is but a poetical longing within us, the
enthusiast who thinks it will come in the form of a millennium,
those who see it established by the strong arm of a hero, are not
those who have comprehended the vast truths of life. The actual
Justice must come by trained intelligence, by broadened sympathies
toward the individual man or woman who crosses our path; one item
added to another is the only method by which to build up a
conception lofty enough to be of use in the world."

This schoolgirl recipe has been tested in many later experiences,
the most dramatic of which came when I was called upon by a
manufacturing company to act as one of three arbitrators in a
perplexing struggle between themselves, a group of
trade-unionists and a non-union employee of their establishment.
The non-union man who was the cause of the difficulty had ten
years before sided with his employers in a prolonged strike and
had bitterly fought the union. He had been so badly injured at
that time, that in spite of long months of hospital care he had
never afterward been able to do a full day's work, although his
employers had retained him for a decade at full pay in
recognition of his loyalty. At the end of ten years the once
defeated union was strong enough to enforce its demands for a
union shop and in spite of the distaste of the firm for the
arrangement, no obstacle to harmonious relations with the union
remained but for the refusal of the trade-unionists to receive as
one of their members the old crippled employee, whose spirit was
broken as last and who was now willing to join the union and to
stand with his old enemies for the sake of retaining his place.

But the union men would not receive "a traitor," the firm flatly
refused to dismiss so faithful an employee, the busy season was
upon them, and everyone concerned had finally agreed to abide
without appeal by the decision of the arbitrators. The chairman
of our little arbitration committee, a venerable judge, quickly
demonstrated that it was impossible to collect trustworthy
evidence in regards to the events already ten years old which lay
at the bottom of this bitterness, and we soon therefore ceased to
interview the conflicting witnesses; the second member of the
committee sternly bade the men remember that the most ancient
Hebraic authority gave no sanction for holding even a just
resentment for more than seven years, and at last we all settled
down to that wearisome effort to secure the inner consent of all
concerned, upon which alone the "mystery of justice" as
Maeterlinck has told us, ultimately depends. I am not quite sure
that in the end we administered justice, but certainly employers,
trade-unionists, and arbitrators were all convinced that justice
will have to be established in industrial affairs with the same
care and patience which has been necessary for centuries in order
to institute it in men's civic relationships, although as the
judge remarked the search must be conducted without much help
from precedent. The conviction remained with me, that however
long a time might be required to establish justice in the new
relationships of our raw industrialism, it would never be stable
until it had received the sanction of those upon whom the present
situation presses so harshly.

Towards the end of our four years' course we debated much as to
what we were to be, and long before the end of my school days it
was quite settled in my mind that I should study medicine and
"live with the poor." This conclusion of course was the result of
many things, perhaps epitomized in my graduating essay on
"Cassandra" and her tragic fate "always to be in the right, and
always to be disbelieved and rejected."

This state of affairs, it may readily be guessed, the essay held
to be an example of the feminine trait of mind called intuition,
"an accurate perception of Truth and Justice, which rests
contented in itself and will make no effort to confirm itself or
to organize through existing knowledge." The essay then
proceeds--I am forced to admit, with overmuch conviction--with
the statement that women can only "grow accurate and intelligible
by the thorough study of at least one branch of physical science,
for only with eyes thus accustomed to the search for truth can
she detect all self-deceit and fancy in herself and learn to
express herself without dogmatism." So much for the first part of
the thesis. Having thus "gained accuracy, would woman bring this
force to bear throughout morals and justice, then she must find
in active labor the promptings and inspirations that come from
growing insight." I was quite certain that by following these
directions carefully, in the end the contemporary woman would
find "her faculties clear and acute from the study of science,
and her hand upon the magnetic chain of humanity."

This veneration for science portrayed in my final essay was
doubtless the result of the statements the textbooks were then
making of what was called the theory of evolution, the acceptance
of which even thirty years after the publication of Darwin's
"Origin of Species" had about it a touch of intellectual
adventure. We knew, for instance, that our science teacher had
accepted this theory, but we had a strong suspicion that the
teacher of Butler's "Analogy" had not. We chafed at the
meagerness of the college library in this direction, and I used
to bring back in my handbag books belonging to an advanced
brother-in-law who had studied medicine in Germany and who
therefore was quite emancipated. The first gift I made when I
came into possession of my small estate the year after I left
school, was a thousand dollars to the library of Rockford
College, with the stipulation that it be spent for scientific
books. In the long vacations I pressed plants, stuffed birds and
pounded rocks in some vague belief that I was approximating the
new method, and yet when my stepbrother who was becoming a real
scientist, tried to carry me along with him to the merest outskirts
of the methods of research, it at once became evident that I had
no aptitude and was unable to follow intelligently Darwin's
careful observations on the earthworm. I made a heroic effort,
although candor compels me to state that I never would have
finished if I had not been pulled and pushed by my really ardent
companion, who in addition to a multitude of earthworms and a fine
microscope, possessed untiring tact with one of flagging zeal.

As our boarding-school days neared the end, in the consciousness
of approaching separation we vowed eternal allegiance to our
"early ideals," and promised each other we would "never abandon
them without conscious justification," and we often warned each
other of "the perils of self-tradition."

We believed, in our sublime self-conceit, that the difficulty of
life would lie solely in the direction of losing these precious
ideals of ours, of failing to follow the way of martyrdom and
high purpose we had marked out for ourselves, and we had no
notion of the obscure paths of tolerance, just allowance, and
self-blame wherein, if we held our minds open, we might learn
something of the mystery and complexity of life's purposes.

The year after I had left college I came back, with a classmate,
to receive the degree we had so eagerly anticipated. Two of the
graduating class were also ready and four of us were dubbed B.A.
on the very day that Rockford Seminary was declared a college in
the midst of tumultuous anticipations. Having had a year outside
of college walls in that trying land between vague hope and
definite attainment, I had become very much sobered in my desire
for a degree, and was already beginning to emerge from that
rose-colored mist with which the dream of youth so readily
envelops the future.

Whatever may have been the perils of self-tradition, I certainly
did not escape them, for it required eight years--from the time I
left Rockford in the summer of 1881 until Hull-House was opened
in the the autumn of 1889--to formulate my convictions even in
the least satisfactory manner, much less to reduce them to a plan
for action. During most of that time I was absolutely at sea so
far as any moral purpose was concerned, clinging only to the
desire to live in a really living world and refusing to be content
with a shadowy intellectual or aesthetic reflection of it.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

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

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]

[A Celebration of Women Writers]

"Chapter IV: The Snare of Preparation." 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. 65-88.

[Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom]



The winter after I left school was spent in the Woman's Medical
College of Philadelphia, but the development of the spinal
difficulty which had shadowed me from childhood forced me into Dr.
Weir Mitchell's hospital for the late spring, and the next winter I
was literally bound to a bed in my sister's house for six months.
In spite of its tedium, the long winter had its mitigations, for
after the first few weeks I was able to read with a luxurious
consciousness of leisure, and I remember opening the first volume
of Carlyle's "Frederick the Great" with a lively sense of gratitude
that it was not Gray's "Anatomy," having found, like many another,
that general culture is a much easier undertaking than professional
study. The long illness inevitably put aside the immediate
prosecution of a medical course, and although I had passed my
examinations creditably enough in the required subjects for the
first year, I was very glad to have a physician's sanction for
giving up clinics and dissecting rooms and to follow his
prescription of spending the next two years in Europe.

Before I returned to America I had discovered that there were
other genuine reasons for living among the poor than that of
practicing medicine upon them, and my brief foray into the
profession was never resumed.

The long illness left me in a state of nervous exhaustion with
which I struggled for years, traces of it remaining long after
Hull-House was opened in 1889. At the best it allowed me but a
limited amount of energy, so that doubtless there was much
nervous depression at the foundation of the spiritual struggles
which this chapter is forced to record. However, it could not
have been all due to my health, for as my wise little notebook
sententiously remarked, "In his own way each man must struggle,
lest the moral law become a far-off abstraction utterly separated
from his active life."

It would, of course, be impossible to remember that some of these
struggles ever took place at all, were it not for these selfsame
notebooks, in which, however, I no longer wrote in moments of
high resolve, but judging from the internal evidence afforded by
the books themselves, only in moments of deep depression when
overwhelmed by a sense of failure.

One of the most poignant of these experiences, which occurred
during the first few months after our landing upon the other side
of the Atlantic, was on a Saturday night, when I received an
ineradicable impression of the wretchedness of East London, and
also saw for the first time the overcrowded quarters of a great
city at midnight. A small party of tourists were taken to the
East End by a city missionary to witness the Saturday night sale
of decaying vegetables and fruit, which, owing to the Sunday laws
in London, could not be sold until Monday, and, as they were
beyond safe keeping, were disposed of at auction as late as
possible on Saturday night. On Mile End Road, from the top of an
omnibus which paused at the end of a dingy street lighted by only
occasional flares of gas, we saw two huge masses of ill-clad
people clamoring around two hucksters' carts. They were bidding
their farthings and ha'pennies for a vegetable held up by the
auctioneer, which he at last scornfully flung, with a gibe for
its cheapness, to the successful bidder. In the momentary pause
only one man detached himself from the groups. He had bidden in
a cabbage, and when it struck his hand, he instantly sat down on
the curb, tore it with his teeth, and hastily devoured it,
unwashed and uncooked as it was. He and his fellows were types
of the "submerged tenth," as our missionary guide told us, with
some little satisfaction in the then new phrase, and he further
added that so many of them could scarcely be seen in one spot
save at this Saturday night auction, the desire for cheap food
being apparently the one thing which could move them
simultaneously. They were huddled into ill-fitting, cast-off
clothing, the ragged finery which one sees only in East London.
Their pale faces were dominated by that most unlovely of human
expressions, the cunning and shrewdness of the bargain-hunter who
starves if he cannot make a successful trade, and yet the final
impression was not of ragged, tawdry clothing nor of pinched and
sallow faces, but of myriads of hands, empty, pathetic, nerveless
and workworn, showing white in the uncertain light of the street,
and clutching forward for food which was already unfit to eat.

Perhaps nothing is so fraught with significance as the human
hand, this oldest tool with which man has dug his way from
savagery, and with which he is constantly groping forward. I
have never since been able to see a number of hands held upward,
even when they are moving rhythmically in a calisthenic exercise,
or when they belong to a class of chubby children who wave them
in eager response to a teacher's query, without a certain revival
of this memory, a clutching at the heart reminiscent of the
despair and resentment which seized me then.

For the following weeks I went about London almost furtively,
afraid to look down narrow streets and alleys lest they disclose
again this hideous human need and suffering. I carried with me
for days at a time that curious surprise we experience when we
first come back into the streets after days given over to sorrow
and death; we are bewildered that the world should be going on as
usual and unable to determine which is real, the inner pang or the
outward seeming. In time all huge London came to seem unreal save
the poverty in its East End. During the following two years on
the continent, while I was irresistibly drawn to the poorer
quarters of each city, nothing among the beggars of South Italy
nor among the salt miners of Austria carried with it the same
conviction of human wretchedness which was conveyed by this
momentary glimpse of an East London street. It was, of course, a
most fragmentary and lurid view of the poverty of East London, and
quite unfair. I should have been shown either less or more, for I
went away with no notion of the hundreds of men and women who had
gallantly identified their fortunes with these empty-handed
people, and who, in church and chapel, "relief works," and
charities, were at least making an effort towards its mitigation.

Our visit was made in November, 1883, the very year when the Pall
Mall Gazette exposure started "The Bitter Cry of Outcast London,"
and the conscience of England was stirred as never before over
this joyless city in the East End of its capital. Even then,
vigorous and drastic plans were being discussed, and a splendid
program of municipal reforms was already dimly outlined. Of all
these, however, I had heard nothing but the vaguest rumor.

No comfort came to me then from any source, and the painful
impression was increased because at the very moment of looking
down the East London street from the top of the omnibus, I had
been sharply and painfully reminded of "The Vision of Sudden
Death" which had confronted De Quincey one summer's night as he
was being driven through rural England on a high mail coach. Two
absorbed lovers suddenly appear between the narrow, blossoming
hedgerows in the direct path of the huge vehicle which is sure to
crush them to their death. De Quincey tries to send them a
warning shout, but finds himself unable to make a sound because
his mind is hopelessly entangled in an endeavor to recall the
exact lines from the Iliad which describe the great cry with
which Achilles alarmed all Asia militant. Only after his memory
responds is his will released from its momentary paralysis, and
he rides on through the fragrant night with the horror of the
escaped calamity thick upon him, but he also bears with him the
consciousness that he had given himself over so many years to
classic learning--that when suddenly called upon for a quick
decision in the world of life and death, he had been able to act
only through a literary suggestion.

This is what we were all doing, lumbering our minds with
literature that only served to cloud the really vital situation
spread before our eyes. It seemed to me too preposterous that in
my first view of the horror of East London I should have recalled
De Quincey's literary description of the literary suggestion
which had once paralyzed him. In my disgust it all appeared a
hateful, vicious circle which even the apostles of culture
themselves admitted, for had not one of the greatest among the
moderns plainly said that "conduct, and not culture is three
fourths of human life."

For two years in the midst of my distress over the poverty which,
thus suddenly driven into my consciousness, had become to me the
"Weltschmerz," there was mingled a sense of futility, of
misdirected energy, the belief that the pursuit of cultivation
would not in the end bring either solace or relief. I gradually
reached a conviction that the first generation of college women
had taken their learning too quickly, had departed too suddenly
from the active, emotional life led by their grandmothers and
great-grandmothers; that the contemporary education of young
women had developed too exclusively the power of acquiring
knowledge and of merely receiving impressions; that somewhere in
the process of 'being educated' they had lost that simple and
almost automatic response to the human appeal, that old healthful
reaction resulting in activity from the mere presence of
suffering or of helplessness; that they are so sheltered and
pampered they have no chance even to make "the great refusal."

In the German and French pensions, which twenty-five years ago
were crowded with American mothers and their daughters who had
crossed the seas in search of culture, one often found the mother
making real connection with the life about her, using her
inadequate German with great fluency, gaily measuring the
enormous sheets or exchanging recipes with the German Hausfrau,
visiting impartially the nearest kindergarten and market, making
an atmosphere of her own, hearty and genuine as far as it went,
in the house and on the street. On the other hand, her daughter
was critical and uncertain of her linguistic acquirements, and
only at ease when in the familiar receptive attitude afforded by
the art gallery and opera house. In the latter she was swayed
and moved, appreciative of the power and charm of the music,
intelligent as to the legend and poetry of the plot, finding use
for her trained and developed powers as she sat "being
cultivated" in the familiar atmosphere of the classroom which
had, as it were, become sublimated and romanticized.

I remember a happy busy mother who, complacent with the knowledge
that her daughter daily devoted four hours to her music, looked up
from her knitting to say, "If I had had your opportunities when I
was young, my dear, I should have been a very happy girl. I always
had musical talent, but such training as I had, foolish little
songs and waltzes and not time for half an hour's practice a day."

The mother did not dream of the sting her words left and that the
sensitive girl appreciated only too well that her opportunities
were fine and unusual, but she also knew that in spite of some
facility and much good teaching she had no genuine talent and
never would fulfill the expectations of her friends. She looked
back upon her mother's girlhood with positive envy because it was
so full of happy industry and extenuating obstacles, with
undisturbed opportunity to believe that her talents were unusual.
The girl looked wistfully at her mother, but had not the courage
to cry out what was in her heart: "I might believe I had unusual
talent if I did not know what good music was; I might enjoy half
an hour's practice a day if I were busy and happy the rest of the
time. You do not know what life means when all the difficulties
are removed! I am simply smothered and sickened with advantages.
It is like eating a sweet dessert the first thing in the morning."

This, then, was the difficulty, this sweet dessert in the morning


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