Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview

JANE ADDAMS
(1860-1935), champion of the poor, advocate for peace, suffragist

FRAN HASSENCAHL

Jane Addams was internationally known as the founder of Hull House and as a sociologist, educator, and spokesperson for and supporter of woman's rights, international peace, the labor movement, child welfare, and social reform generally. She wrote and spoke to legislators, heads of state, and the public about the problems of youth, uprooted immigrants, factory conditions for women and children, and the horrors of war. Prior to World War I, the U.S. public viewed her as a saint as well as the social worker of the century. In 1908, the Ladies' Home Journal named her "First American Woman"; other surveys ranked her ahead of Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and Helen Keller (see entry in volume 2). But her opposition to the war and her proposal to feed all the hungry without asking whether the parents of a hungry child were Italians, our allies, or Dalmatians, our enemies, made her suspect; she was under surveillance by the Department of Justice; and in 1920, she was included in the four-volume Lusk Report that linked peace and women's organizations and other reform efforts with communism, socialism, and bolshevism. Her popularity declined; only a few peace groups continued to invite her to speak.

However, admirers and supporters, especially from outside the country, remained faithful, and almost every year from 1920 until 1930, campaigns were launched to secure the Nobel Peace Prize for her. When the award finally came in 1930, she had to share it with conservative internationalist Nicholas Murray Butler, who had supported U.S. participation in the war. She gave her share of the prize money to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and to aid the unemployed in the Hull House neighborhood. Other honors followed. She was again in demand as a speaker and reappeared on lists of the greatest women of the century and, with Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, was seen as one of the seven greatest Americans of all time in popular polls.

As a rhetorician, the sheer volume of her work can but dismay any critic. Addams authored or edited twelve books and produced nearly 500 articles and speeches. There are many studies of her life and work, but she has received only limited attention as a rhetorician. As a result, following brief sections on her family and education and her work at Hull House, the major emphasis of this chapter will be on her suffragist and antiwar rhetoric.


FAMILY AND EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

Laura Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860, at Cedarville, Illinois. She was the eighth of nine children, but only she, two sisters, and an older brother survived infancy. Her mother Sarah Weber died when Addams was two,

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