Twenty Years at Hull House; With Autobiographical Notes

Author: Jane Addams

Chapter XIV. Civic Cooperation

One of the first lessons we learned at Hull-House was that private beneficence is totally inadequate to deal with the vast numbers of the city’s disinherited. We also quickly came to realize that there are certain types of wretchedness from which every private philanthropy shrinks and which are cared for only in those wards of the county hospital provided for the wrecks of vicious living or in the city’s isolation hospital for smallpox patients.

I have heard a broken-hearted mother exclaim when her erring daughter came home at last too broken and diseased to be taken into the family she had disgraced, "There is no place for her but the top floor of the County Hospital; they will have to take her there," and this only after every possible expedient had been tried or suggested. This aspect of governmental responsibility was unforgettably borne in upon me during the smallpox epidemic following the World’s Fair, when one of the residents, Mrs. Kelley, as State Factory Inspector, was much concerned in discovering and destroying clothing which was being finished in houses containing unreported cases of smallpox. The deputy most successful in locating such cases lived at Hull-House during the epidemic because he did not wish to expose his own family. Another resident, Miss Lathrop, as a member of the State Board of Charities, went back and forth to the crowded pest house which had been hastily constructed on a stretch of prairie west of the city. As Hull-House was already so exposed, it seemed best for the special smallpox inspectors from the Board of Health to take their meals and change their clothing there before they went to their respective homes. All of these officials had accepted without question and as implicit in public office the obligation to carry on the dangerous and difficult undertakings for which private philanthropy is unfitted, as if the commonalty of compassion represented by the State was more comprehending than that of any individual group.

It was as early as our second winter on Halsted Street that one of the Hull-House residents received an appointment from the Cook County agent as a county visitor. She reported at the agency each morning, and all the cases within a radius of ten blocks from Hull-House were given to her for investigation. This gave her a legitimate opportunity for knowing the poorest people in the neighborhood and also for understanding the county method of outdoor relief. The commissioners were at first dubious of the value of such a visitor and predicted that a woman would be a perfect "coal chute" for giving away county supplies, but they gradually came to depend upon her suggestion and advice.

In 1893 this same resident, Miss Julia C. Lathrop, was appointed by the governor a member of the Illinois State Board of Charities. She served in this capacity for two consecutive terms and was later reappointed to a third term. Perhaps her most valuable contribution toward the enlargement and reorganization of the charitable institutions of the State came through her intimate knowledge of the beneficiaries, and her experience demonstrated that it is only through long residence among the poor that an official could have learned to view public institutions as she did, from the standpoint of the inmates rather than from that of the managers. Since that early day, residents of Hull-House have spent much time in working for the civil service methods of appointment for employees in the county and State institutions; for the establishment of State colonies for the care of epileptics; and for a dozen other enterprises which occupy that borderland between charitable effort and legislation. In this borderland we cooperate in many civic enterprises for I think we may claim that Hull-House has always held its activities lightly, ready to hand them over to whosoever would carry them on properly.

Miss Starr had early made a collection of framed photographs, largely of the paintings studied in her art class, which became the basis of a loan collection first used by the Hull-House students and later extended to the public schools. It may be fair to suggest that this effort was the nucleus of the Public School Art Society which was later formed in the city and of which Miss Starr was the first president.

In our first two summers we had maintained three baths in the basement of our own house for the use of the neighborhood, and they afforded some experience and argument for the erection of the first public bathhouse in Chicago, which was built on a neighboring street and opened under the city Board of Health. The lot upon which it was erected belonged to a friend of Hull-House who offered it to the city without rent, and this enabled the city to erect the first public bath from the small appropriation of ten thousand dollars. Great fear was expressed by the public authorities that the baths would not be used, and the old story of the bathtubs in model tenements which had been turned into coal bins was often quoted to us. We were supplied, however, with the incontrovertible argument that in our adjacent third square mile there were in 1892 but three bathtubs and that this fact was much complained of by many of the tenement-house dwellers. Our contention was justified by the immediate and overflowing use of the public baths, as we had before been sustained in the contention that an immigrant population would respond to opportunities for reading when the Public Library Board had established a branch reading room at Hull-House.

We also quickly discovered that nothing brought us so absolutely into comradeship with our neighbors as mutual and sustained effort such as the paving of a street, the closing of a gambling house, or the restoration of a veteran police sergeant.

Several of these earlier attempts at civic cooperation were undertaken in connection with the Hull-House Men’s Club, which had been organized in the spring of 1893, had been incorporated under a State charter of its own, and had occupied a club room in the gymnasium building. This club obtained an early success in one of the political struggles in the ward and thus fastened upon itself a specious reputation for political power. It was at last so torn by the dissensions of two political factions which attempted to capture it that, although it is still an existing organization, it has never regained the prestige of its first five years. Its early political success came in a campaign Hull-House had instigated against a powerful alderman who has held office for more than twenty years in the nineteenth ward, and who, although notoriously corrupt, is still firmly intrenched among his constituents.

Hull-House has had to do with three campaigns organized against him. In the first one he was apparently only amused at our "Sunday School" effort and did little to oppose the election to the aldermanic office of a member of the Hull-House Men’s Club who thus became his colleague in the city council. When Hull-House, however, made an effort in the following spring against the re-election of the alderman himself, we encountered the most determined and skillful opposition. In these campaigns we doubtless depended too much upon the idealistic appeal for we did not yet comprehend the element of reality always brought into the political struggle in such a neighborhood where politics deal so directly with getting a job and earning a living.

We soon discovered that approximately one out of every five voters in the nineteenth ward at that time held a job dependent upon the good will of the alderman. There were no civil service rules to interfere, and the unskilled voter swept the street and dug the sewer, as secure in his position as the more sophisticated voter who tended a bridge or occupied an office chair in the city hall. The alderman was even more fortunate in finding places with the franchise-seeking corporations; it took us some time to understand why so large a proportion of our neighbors were street-car employees and why we had such a large club composed solely of telephone girls. Our powerful alderman had various methods of entrenching himself. Many people were indebted to him for his kindly services in the police station and the justice courts, for in those days Irish constituents easily broke the peace, and before the establishment of the Juvenile Court, boys were arrested for very trivial offenses; added to these were hundreds of constituents indebted to him for personal kindness, from the peddler who received a free license to the businessman who had a railroad pass to New York. Our third campaign against him, when we succeeded in making a serious impression upon his majority, evoked from his henchmen the same sort of hostility which a striker so inevitably feels against the man who would take his job, even sharpened by the sense that the movement for reform came from an alien source.

Another result of the campaign was an expectation on the part of our new political friends that Hull-House would perform like offices for them, and there resulted endless confusion and misunderstanding because in many cases we could not even attempt to do what the alderman constantly did with a right good will. When he protected a law breaker from the legal consequences of his act, his kindness appeared, not only to himself but to all beholders, like the deed of a powerful and kindly statesman. When Hull-House on the other hand insisted that a law must be enforced, it could but appear like the persecution of the offender. We were certainly not anxious for consistency nor for individual achievement, but in a desire to foster a higher political morality and not to lower our standards, we constantly clashed with the existing political code. We also unwittingly stumbled upon a powerful combination of which our alderman was the political head, with its banking, its ecclesiastical, and its journalistic representatives, and as we followed up the clue and naively told all we discovered, we of course laid the foundations for opposition which has manifested itself in many forms; the most striking expression of it was an attack upon Hull-House lasting through weeks and months by a Chicago daily newspaper which has since ceased publication.

During the third campaign I received many anonymous letters—those from the men often obscene, those from the women revealing that curious connection between prostitution and the lowest type of politics which every city tries in vain to hide. I had offers from the men in the city prison to vote properly if released; various communications from lodging-house keepers as to the prices of the vote they were ready to deliver; everywhere appeared that animosity which is evoked only when a man feels that his means of livelihood is threatened.

As I look back, I am reminded of the state of mind of Kipling’s newspapermen who witnessed a volcanic eruption at sea, in which unbelievable deep-sea creatures were expelled to the surface, among them an enormous white serpent, blind and smelling of musk, whose death throes thrashed the sea into a fury. With professional instinct unimpaired, the journalists carefully observed the uncanny creature never designed for the eyes of men; but a few days later, when they found themselves in a comfortable second-class carriage, traveling from Southampton to London between trim hedgerows and smug English villages, they concluded that the experience was too sensational to be put before the British public, and it became improbable even to themselves.

Many subsequent years of living in kindly neighborhood fashion with the people of the nineteenth ward has produced upon my memory the soothing effect of the second-class railroad carriage and many of these political experiences have not only become remote but already seem improbable. On the other hand, these campaigns were not without their rewards; one of them was a quickened friendship both with the more substantial citizens in the ward and with a group of fine young voters whose devotion to Hull-House has never since failed; another was a sense of identification with public-spirited men throughout the city who contributed money and time to what they considered a gallant effort against political corruption. I remember a young professor from the University of Chicago who with his wife came to live at Hull-House, traveling the long distance every day throughout the autumn and winter that he might qualify as a nineteenth-ward voter in the spring campaign. He served as a watcher at the polls and it was but a poor reward for his devotion that he was literally set upon and beaten up, for in those good old days such things frequently occurred. Many another case of devotion to our standard so recklessly raised might be cited, but perhaps more valuable than any of these was the sense of identification we obtained with the rest of Chicago.

So far as a Settlement can discern and bring to local consciousness neighborhood needs which are common needs, and can give vigorous help to the municipal measures through which such needs shall be met, it fulfills its most valuable function. To illustrate from our first effort to improve the street paving in the vicinity, we found that when we had secured the consent of the majority of the property owners on a given street for a new paving, the alderman checked the entire plan through his kindly service to one man who had appealed to him to keep the assessments down. The street long remained a shocking mass of wet, dilapidated cedar blocks, where children were sometimes mired as they floated a surviving block in the water which speedily filled the holes whence other blocks had been extracted for fuel. And yet when we were able to demonstrate that the street paving had thus been reduced into cedar pulp by the heavily loaded wagons of an adjacent factory, that the expense of its repaving should be borne from a general fund and not by the poor property owners, we found that we could all unite in advocating reform in the method of repaving assessments, and the alderman himself was obliged to come into such a popular movement. The Nineteenth Ward Improvement Association which met at Hull-House during two winters, was the first body of citizens able to make a real impression upon the local paving situation. They secured an expert to watch the paving as it went down to be sure that their half of the paving money was well expended. In the belief that property values would be thus enhanced, the common aim brought together the more prosperous people of the vicinity, somewhat as the Hull-House Cooperative Coal Association brought together the poorer ones.

I remember that during the second campaign against our alderman, Governor Pingree of Michigan came to visit at Hull-House. He said that the stronghold of such a man was not the place in which to start municipal regeneration; that good aldermen should be elected from the promising wards first, until a majority of honest men in the city council should make politics unprofitable for corrupt men. We replied that it was difficult to divide Chicago into good and bad wards, but that a new organization called the Municipal Voters’ League was attempting to give to the well-meaning voter in each ward throughout the city accurate information concerning the candidates and their relation, past and present, to vital issues. One of our trustees who was most active in inaugurating this League always said that his nineteenth-ward experience had convinced him of the unity of city politics, and that he constantly used our campaign as a challenge to the unaroused citizens living in wards less conspicuously corrupt.

Certainly the need for civic cooperation was obvious in many directions, and in none more strikingly than in that organized effort which must be carried on unceasingly if young people are to be protected from the darker and coarser dangers of the city. The cooperation between Hull-House and the Juvenile Protective Association came about gradually, and it seems now almost inevitably. From our earliest days we saw many boys constantly arrested, and I had a number of most enlightening experiences in the police station with an Irish lad whose mother upon her deathbed had begged me "to look after him." We were distressed by the gangs of very little boys who would sally forth with an enterprising leader in search of old brass and iron, sometimes breaking into empty houses for the sake of the faucets or lead pipe which they would sell for a good price to a junk dealer. With the money thus obtained they would buy cigarettes and beer or even candy, which could be conspicuously consumed in the alleys where they might enjoy the excitement of being seen and suspected by the "coppers." From the third year of Hull-House, one of the residents held a semiofficial position in the nearest police station; at least, the sergeant agreed to give her provisional charge of every boy and girl under arrest for a trivial offense.

Mrs. Stevens, who performed this work for several years, became the first probation officer of the Juvenile Court when it was established in Cook County in 1899. She was the sole probation officer at first, but at the time of her death, which occurred at Hull-House in 1900, she was the senior officer of a corps of six.
Her entire experience had fitted her to deal wisely with wayward children. She had gone into a New England cotton mill at the age of thirteen, where she had promptly lost the index finger of her right hand, through "carelessness" she was told, and no one then seemed to understand that freedom from care was the prerogative of childhood. Later she became a typesetter and was one of the first women in America to become a member of the typographical union, retaining her "card" through all the later years of editorial work. As the Juvenile Court developed, the committee of public-spirited citizens who first supplied only Mrs. Stevens’ salary later maintained a corps of twenty-two such officers; several of these were Hull-House residents who brought to the house for many years a sad little procession of children struggling against all sorts of handicaps. When legislation was secured which placed the probation officers upon the payroll of the county, it was a challenge to the efficiency of the civil service method of appointment to obtain by examination men and women fitted for this delicate human task. As one of five people asked by the civil service commission to conduct this first examination for probation officers, I became convinced that we were but at the beginning of the nonpolitical method of selecting public servants, but even stiff and unbending as the examination may be, it is still our hope of political salvation.

In 1907, the Juvenile Court was housed in a model court building of its own, containing a detention home and equipped with a competent staff. The committee of citizens largely responsible for this result thereupon turned their attention to the conditions which the records of the court indicated had led to the alarming amount of juvenile delinquency and crime. They organized the Juvenile Protective Association, whose twenty-two officers meet weekly at Hull-House with their executive committee to report what they have found and to discuss city conditions affecting the lives of children and young people.

The association discovers that there are certain temptations into which children so habitually fall that it is evident that the average child cannot withstand them. An overwhelming mass of data is accumulated showing the need of enforcing existing legislation and of securing new legislation, but it also indicates a hundred other directions in which the young people who so gaily walk our streets, often to their own destruction, need safeguarding and protection.

The effort of the association to treat the youth of the city with consideration and understanding has rallied the most unexpected forces to its standard. Quite as the basic needs of life are supplied solely by those who make money out of the business, so the modern city has assumed that the craving for pleasure must be ministered to only by the sordid. This assumption, however, in a large measure broke down as soon as the Juvenile Protective Association courageously put it to the test. After persistent prosecutions, but also after many friendly interviews, the Druggists’ Association itself prosecutes those of its members who sell indecent postal cards; the Saloon Keepers’ Protective Association not only declines to protect members who sell liquor to minors, but now takes drastic action to prevent such sales; the Retail Grocers’ Association forbids the selling of tobacco to minors; the Association of Department Store Managers not only increased the vigilance in their waiting rooms by supplying more matrons, but as a body they have become regular contributors to the association; the special watchmen in all the railroad yards agree not to arrest trespassing boys but to report them to the association; the firms manufacturing moving picture films not only submit their films to a volunteer inspection committee, but ask for suggestions in regard to new matter; and the Five-Cent Theaters arrange for "stunts" which shall deal with the subject of public health and morals, when the lecturers provided are entertaining as well as instructive.

It is not difficult to arouse the impulse of protection for the young, which would doubtless dictate the daily acts of many a bartender and poolroom keeper if they could only indulge it without giving their rivals an advantage. When this difficulty is removed by an even-handed enforcement of the law, that simple kindliness which the innocent always evoke goes from one to another like a slowly spreading flame of good will. Doubtless the most rewarding experience in any such undertaking as that of the Juvenile Protective Association is the warm and intelligent cooperation coming from unexpected sources—official and commercial as well as philanthropic. Upon the suggestion of the association, social centers have been opened in various parts of the city, disused buildings turned into recreation rooms, vacant lots made into gardens, hiking parties organized for country excursions, bathing beaches established on the lake front, and public schools opened for social purposes. Through the efforts of public-spirited citizens a medical clinic and a Psychopathic Institute have become associated with the Juvenile Court of Chicago, in addition to which an exhaustive study of court-records has been completed. To this carefully collected data concerning the abnormal child, the Juvenile Protective Association hopes in time to add knowledge of the normal child who lives under the most adverse city conditions.

It was not without hope that I might be able to forward in the public school system the solution of some of these problems of delinquency so dependent upon truancy and ill-adapted education that I became a member of the Chicago Board of Education in July, 1905. It is impossible to write of the situation as it became dramatized in half a dozen strong personalities, but the entire experience was so illuminating as to the difficulties and limitations of democratic government that it would be unfair in a chapter on Civic Cooperation not to attempt an outline.

Even the briefest statement, however, necessitates a review of the preceding few years. For a decade the Chicago school teachers, or rather a majority of them who were organized into the Teachers’ Federation, had been engaged in a conflict with the Board of Education both for more adequate salaries and for more self-direction in the conduct of the schools. In pursuance of the first object, they had attacked the tax dodger along the entire line of his defense, from the curbstone to the Supreme Court. They began with an intricate investigation which uncovered the fact that in 1899, $235,000,000 of value of public utility corporations paid nothing in taxes. The Teachers’ Federation brought a suit which was prosecuted through the Supreme Court of Illinois and resulted in an order entered against the State Board of Equalization, demanding that it tax the corporations mentioned in the bill. In spite of the fact that the defendant companies sought federal aid and obtained an order which restrained the payment of a portion of the tax, each year since 1900, the Chicago Board of Education has benefited to the extent of more than a quarter of a million dollars. Although this result had been attained through the unaided efforts of the teachers, to their surprise and indignation their salaries were not increased. The Teachers’ Federation, therefore, brought a suit against the Board of Education for the advance which had been promised them three years earlier but never paid. The decision of the lower court was in their favor, but the Board of Education appealed the case, and this was the situation when the seven new members appointed by Mayor Dunne in 1905 took their seats. The conservative public suspected that these new members were merely representatives of the Teachers’ Federation. This opinion was founded upon the fact that Judge Dunne had rendered a favorable decision in the teachers’ suit and that the teachers had been very active in the campaign which had resulted in his election as mayor of the city. It seemed obvious that the teachers had entered into politics for the sake of securing their own representatives on the Board of Education. These suspicions were, of course, only confirmed when the new board voted to withdraw the suit of their predecessors from the Appellate Court and to act upon the decision of the lower court. The teachers, on the other hand, defended their long effort in the courts, the State Board of Equalization, and the Legislature against the charge of "dragging the schools into politics," and declared that the exposure of the indifference and cupidity of the politicians was a well-deserved rebuke, and that it was the politicians who had brought the schools to the verge of financial ruin; they further insisted that the levy and collection of taxes, tenure of office, and pensions to civil servants in Chicago were all entangled with the traction situation, which in their minds at least had come to be an example of the struggle between the democratic and plutocratic administration of city affairs. The new appointees to the School Board represented no concerted policy of any kind, but were for the most part adherents to the new education. The teachers, confident that their cause was identical with the principles advocated by such educators as Colonel Parker, were therefore sure that the plans of the "new education" members would of necessity coincide with the plans of the Teachers’ Federation. In one sense the situation was an epitome of Mayor Dunne’s entire administration, which was founded upon the belief that if those citizens representing social ideals and reform principles were but appointed to office, public welfare must be established.

During my tenure of office I many times talked to the officers of the Teachers’ Federation, but I was seldom able to follow their suggestions and, although I gladly cooperated in their plans for a better pension system and other matters, only once did I try to influence the policy of the Federation. When the withheld salaries were finally paid to the representatives of the Federation who had brought suit and were divided among the members who had suffered both financially and professionally during this long legal struggle, I was most anxious that the division should voluntarily be extended to all of the teachers who had experienced a loss of salary although they were not members of the Federation. It seemed to me a striking opportunity to refute the charge that the Federation was self-seeking and to put the whole long effort in the minds of the public, exactly where it belonged, as one of devoted public service. But it was doubtless much easier for me to urge this altruistic policy than it was for those who had borne the heat and burden of the day to act upon it.

The second object of the Teachers’ Federation also entailed much stress and storm. At the time of the financial stringency, and largely as a result of it, the Board had made the first substantial advance in a teacher’s salary dependent upon a so-called promotional examination, half of which was upon academic subjects entailing a long and severe preparation. The teachers resented this upon two lines of argument: first, that the scheme was unprofessional in that the teacher was advanced on her capacity as a student rather than on her professional ability; and, second, that it added an intolerable and unnecessary burden to her already overfull day. The administration, on the other hand, contended with much justice that there was a constant danger in a great public school system that teachers lose pliancy and the open mind, and that many of them had obviously grown mechanical and indifferent. The conservative public approved the promotional examinations as the symbol of an advancing educational standard, and their sympathy with the superintendent was increased because they continually resented the affiliation of the Teachers’ Federation with the Chicago Federation of Labor, which had taken place several years before the election of Mayor Dunne on his traction platform.

This much talked of affiliation between the teachers and the trades-unionists had been, at least in the first instance, but one more tactic in the long struggle against the tax-dodging corporations. The Teachers’ Federation had won in their first skirmish against that public indifference which is generated in the accumulation of wealth and which has for its nucleus successful commercial men. When they found themselves in need of further legislation to keep the offending corporations under control, they naturally turned for political influence and votes to the organization representing workingmen. The affiliation had none of the sinister meaning so often attached to it. The Teachers’ Federation never obtained a charter from the American Federation of Labor, and its main interest always centered in the legislative committee.

And yet this statement of the difference between the majority of the grade-school teachers and the Chicago School Board is totally inadequate, for the difficulties were stubborn and lay far back in the long effort of public school administration in America to free itself from the rule and exploitation of politics. In every city for many years the politician had secured positions for his friends as teachers and janitors; he had received a rake-off in the contract for every new building or coal supply or adoption of school-books. In the long struggle against this political corruption, the one remedy continually advocated was the transfer of authority in all educational matters from the Board to the superintendent. The one cure for "pull" and corruption was the authority of the "expert." The rules and records of the Chicago Board of Education are full of relics of this long struggle honestly waged by honest men, who unfortunately became content with the ideals of an "efficient business administration." These businessmen established an able superintendent with a large salary, with his tenure of office secured by State law so that he would not be disturbed by the wrath of the balked politician. They instituted impersonal examinations for the teachers both as to entrance into the system and promotion, and they proceeded "to hold the superintendent responsible" for smooth-running schools. All this, however, dangerously approximated the commercialistic ideal of high salaries only for the management with the final test of a small expense account and a large output.

In this long struggle for a quarter of a century to free the public schools from political interference, in Chicago at least, the high wall of defense erected around the school system in order "to keep the rascals out" unfortunately so restricted the teachers inside the system that they had no space in which to move about freely and the more adventurous of them fairly panted for light and air. Any attempt to lower the wall for the sake of the teachers within was regarded as giving an opportunity to the politicians without, and they were often openly accused, with a show of truth, of being in league with each other. Whenever the Dunne members of the Board attempted to secure more liberty for the teachers, we were warned by tales of former difficulties with the politicians, and it seemed impossible that the struggle so long the focus of attention should recede into the dullness of the achieved and allow the energy of the Board to be free for new effort.

The whole situation between the superintendent supported by a majority of the Board and the Teachers’ Federation had become an epitome of the struggle between efficiency and democracy; on one side a well-intentioned expression of the bureaucracy necessary in a large system but which under pressure had become unnecessarily self-assertive, and on the other side a fairly militant demand for self-government made in the name of freedom. Both sides inevitably exaggerated the difficulties of the situation, and both felt that they were standing by important principles.

I certainly played a most inglorious part in this unnecessary conflict; I was chairman of the School Management Committee during one year when a majority of the members seemed to me exasperatingly conservative, and during another year when they were frustratingly radical, and I was of course highly unsatisfactory to both. Certainly a plan to retain the undoubted benefit of required study for teachers in such wise as to lessen its burden, and various schemes devised to shift the emphasis from scholarship to professional work, were mostly impatiently repudiated by the Teachers’ Federation, and when one badly mutilated plan finally passed the Board, it was most reluctantly administered by the superintendent.

I at least became convinced that partisans would never tolerate the use of stepping-stones. They are much too impatient to look on while their beloved scheme is unstably balanced, and they would rather see it tumble into the stream at once than to have it brought to dry land in any such half-hearted fashion. Before my School Board experience, I thought that life had taught me at least one hard-earned lesson, that existing arrangements and the hoped for improvements must be mediated and reconciled to each other, that the new must be dovetailed into the old as it were, if it were to endure; but on the School Board I discerned that all such efforts were looked upon as compromising and unworthy, by both partisans. In the general disorder and public excitement resulting from the illegal dismissal of a majority of the "Dunne" board and their reinstatement by a court decision, I found myself belonging to neither party. During the months following the upheaval and the loss of my most vigorous colleagues, under the regime of men representing the leading Commercial Club of the city who honestly believed that they were rescuing the schools from a condition of chaos, I saw one beloved measure after another withdrawn. Although the new president scrupulously gave me the floor in the defense of each, it was impossible to consider them upon their merits in the lurid light which at the moment enveloped all the plans of the "uplifters." Thus the building of smaller schoolrooms, such as in New York mechanically avoid overcrowding, the extension of the truant rooms so successfully inaugurated, the multiplication of school playgrounds, and many another cherished plan was thrown out or at least indefinitely postponed.

The final discrediting of Mayor Dunne’s appointees to the School Board affords a very interesting study in social psychology; the newspapers had so constantly reflected and intensified the ideals of a business Board, and had so persistently ridiculed various administration plans for the municipal ownership of street railways, that from the beginning any attempt the new Board made to discuss educational matters only excited their derision and contempt. Some of these discussions were lengthy and disorderly and deserved the discipline of ridicule, but others which were well conducted and in which educational problems were seriously set forth by men of authority were ridiculed quite as sharply. I recall the surprise and indignation of a University professor who had consented to speak at a meeting arranged in the Board rooms, when next morning his nonpartisan and careful disquisition had been twisted into the most arrant uplift nonsense and so connected with a fake newspaper report of a trial marriage address delivered, not by himself, but by a colleague, that a leading clergyman of the city, having read the newspaper account, felt impelled to preach a sermon, calling upon all decent people to rally against the doctrines which were being taught to the children by an immoral School Board. As the bewildered professor had lectured in response to my invitation, I endeavored to find the animus of the complication, but neither from editor in chief nor from the reporter could I discover anything more sinister than that the public expected a good story out of these School Board "talk fests," and that any man who even momentarily allied himself with a radical administration must expect to be ridiculed by those papers which considered the traction policy of the administration both foolish and dangerous.

As I myself was treated with uniform courtesy by the leading papers, I may perhaps here record my discouragement over this complicated difficulty of open discussion, for democratic government is founded upon the assumption that differing policies shall be freely discussed and that each party shall have an opportunity for at least a partisan presentation of its contentions. This attitude of the newspapers was doubtless intensified because the Dunne School Board had instituted a lawsuit challenging the validity of the lease for the school ground occupied by a newspaper building. This suit has since been decided in favor of the newspaper, and it may be that in their resentment they felt justified in doing everything possible to minimize the prosecuting School Board. I am, however, inclined to think that the newspapers but reflected an opinion honestly held by many people, and that their constant and partisan presentation of this opinion clearly demonstrates one of the greatest difficulties of governmental administration in a city grown too large for verbal discussions of public affairs.

It is difficult to close this chapter without a reference to the efforts made in Chicago to secure the municipal franchise for women. During two long periods of agitation for a new city charter, a representative body of women appealed to the public, to the charter convention, and to the Illinois legislature for this very reasonable provision. During the campaign when I acted as chairman of the federation of a hundred women’s organizations, nothing impressed me so forcibly as the fact that the response came from bodies of women representing the most varied traditions.
We were joined by a church society of hundreds of Lutheran women, because Scandinavian women had exercised the municipal franchise since the seventeenth century and had found American cities strangely conservative; by organizations of working women who had keenly felt the need of the municipal franchise in order to secure for their workshops the most rudimentary sanitation and the consideration which the vote alone obtains for workingmen; by federations of mothers’ meetings, who were interested in clean milk and the extension of kindergartens; by property-owning women, who had been powerless to protest against unjust taxation; by organizations of professional women, of university students, and of collegiate alumnae; and by women’s clubs interested in municipal reforms. There was a complete absence of the traditional women’s rights clamor, but much impressive testimony from busy and useful women that they had reached the place where they needed the franchise in order to carry on their own affairs. A striking witness as to the need of the ballot, even for the women who are restricted to the most primitive and traditional activities, occurred when some Russian women waited upon me to ask whether under the new charter they could vote for covered markets and so get rid of the shocking Chicago grime upon all their food; and when some neighboring Italian women sent me word that they would certainly vote for public washhouses if they ever had the chance to vote at all. It was all so human, so spontaneous, and so direct that it really seemed as if the time must be ripe for political expression of that public concern on the part of women which had so long been forced to seek indirection. None of these busy women wished to take the place of men nor to influence them in the direction of men’s affairs, but they did seek an opportunity to cooperate directly in civic life through the use of the ballot in regard to their own affairs.

A Municipal Museum which was established in the Chicago public library building several years ago, largely through the activity of a group of women who had served as jurors in the departments of social economy, of education, and of sanitation in the World’s Fair at St. Louis, showed nothing more clearly than that it is impossible to divide any of these departments from the political life of the modern city which is constantly forced to enlarge the boundary of its activity.


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Title: Twenty Years at Hull House; With Autobiographical Notes

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Chicago: Jane Addams, "Chapter XIV. Civic Cooperation," Twenty Years at Hull House; With Autobiographical Notes, trans. Macaulay, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron, 1800-1859 in Twenty Years at Hull House; With Autobiographical Notes (London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1831), Original Sources, accessed November 28, 2023,

MLA: Addams, Jane. "Chapter XIV. Civic Cooperation." Twenty Years at Hull House; With Autobiographical Notes, translted by Macaulay, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron, 1800-1859, in Twenty Years at Hull House; With Autobiographical Notes, London, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1831, Original Sources. 28 Nov. 2023.

Harvard: Addams, J, 'Chapter XIV. Civic Cooperation' in Twenty Years at Hull House; With Autobiographical Notes, trans. . cited in 1831, Twenty Years at Hull House; With Autobiographical Notes, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, London. Original Sources, retrieved 28 November 2023, from