Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life

By Jean Bethke Elshtain | Go to book overview

2
ONE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS

LIFE IS NEVER SIMPLE for the earnest child, alert to the ebb and flow around her; curious to the point of fearful insight into solemn events; driven to make sense, even of the senseless; wanting simultaneously to stand out and to blend in; seeking the self within available norms and conventions but also determined to bring forth new forms, new ideas, daring possibilities. Such a child often feels, in Jane Addams's words, an "excessive sense of responsibility." Because she is a child, she must search for appropriate targets for her ardent concern. 1 Her responsibility is not given to her in any simple way; indeed, her conviction that she is responsible is likely to outstrip the available outlets and avenues in and through which that responsibility can be made manifest. The earnest child is fated to have a "strict conscience, which she patrols like a sentinel so that no evasions of Christian duty slip by." 2 So it was for little Jennie Addams, who, as an adult, was insistent that "our genuine impulses may be connected with our childish experiences ... where character is formless but nevertheless settling into definite lines of future development." 3

Addams's story is that of a little girl sighing heavily from a precocious sense of responsibility. She was a painfully self-conscious child, describing herself as "ugly, pigeon-toed" with a "crooked back" that "obliged her to walk with her head held very much upon one side," an "Ugly Duckling." She would wake herself at three o'clock because that was when her father awoke. She would use the time to read every book in the "entire village library, book after book, beginning with the lives of the signers of the Declaration of Independence," as she believed her

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Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Also by Jean Bethke Elshtain *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Credits xi
  • Chronology xiii
  • Books by Jane Addams xvii
  • Hull-House Firsts xix
  • Preface - Interpreting a Life xxi
  • Introduction - Looking for Jane Addams's America 1
  • 1 - The Snare of Preparation 15
  • 2 - One Pilgrim's Progress 33
  • 3 - Imagining Hull-House 65
  • 4 - The Family Claim and the Social Claim 89
  • 5 - Compassion without Condescension 119
  • 6 - Woman's Remembering Heart 149
  • 7 - Life Has Marked Us with Its Slow Stain 181
  • 8 - Solidarity Which Will Not Waver 211
  • Afterword 251
  • Notes 255
  • Index 319
  • About the Author 329
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