Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy

By Louise W. Knight | Go to book overview

This book, however, is not simply about a person. It is also about the idea of democracy, the engine of our nation's political, economic, and social life. Democracy's eighteenth-century meanings were destabilized by many nineteenth-century developments. These included rapid industrialization, the concentration of wealth, the rise of labor unions, the arrival of millions of immigrants from non–northern European countries, and the expansion of the suffrage to working-class and some African American men but not to women. As a result, union workers, small farmers, and women joined with members of the populist, or radical, wing of the middle class in a struggle to increase democracy in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the 1890s their influence was felt in the city councils and state legislatures. After 1900 they emerged on the national scene as spokespersons, leaders, and foot soldiers for various voluntary organizations that constituted the democratic wing of the progressive movement. Despite their many defeats, their efforts reshaped the nation's political agenda and the distribution of political power.

Jane Addams was in a good position to become involved with white workers' and white women's issues in the 1890s (African Americans would not arrive in Chicago in substantial numbers until after 1900) because she was a woman and someone living in a working-class neighborhood. But that did not mean that her involvement was inevitable. It was because of her willingness to work cooperatively with others and because of the care with which she listened to and learned from others that her story and the story of the struggle for democracy became deeply intertwined.

Addams's given life, which began in the small town of Cedarville, Illinois, was one of wealth, books, a solemn morality of conscience and unselfishness, dreams of heroism, and expectations of public service. Her father, an agricultural businessman, a state senator, and a person of intense moral rectitude, was the center of her emotional life, her mother having died when she was two. The youngest of five surviving children, she was raised first by her oldest sister and later by her stepmother, whom her father married when she was eight. Jane was ambitious and idealistic when young; she dreamed of becoming a medical doctor and serving the poor, and at first she seemed likely to accomplish her dream. She earned a college degree when women rarely did so and then entered medical school. But she did not complete her studies. Instead, she floundered in her twenties, depressed by her father's sudden death, the burden of ill health, and her deep confusion about how best to meet family and societal expectations.

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Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations x
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One - The Given Life 1860–88 7
  • Chapter 1 - Self-Reliance 1822–60 9
  • Chapter 2 - Three Mothers 1860–73 34
  • Chapter 3 - Dreams 1873–77 56
  • Chapter 4 - Ambition 1877–81 80
  • Chapter 5 - Failure 1881–83 109
  • Chapter 6 - Culture 1883–86 130
  • Chapter 7 - Crisis 1886–88 158
  • Part Two - The Chosen Life 1889–99 177
  • Chapter 8 - Chicago 1889 179
  • Chapter 9 - Halsted Street 1889–91 199
  • Chapter 10 - Fellowship 1892 229
  • Chapter 11 - Baptism 1893 260
  • Chapter 12 - Cooperation 1893–94 282
  • Chapter 13 - Claims 1894 306
  • Chapter 14 - Justice 1895 334
  • Chapter 15 - Democracy 1896–98 363
  • Chapter 16 - Ethics 1898–99 384
  • Afterword : Scholarship and Jane Addams 405
  • Abbreviations 413
  • Notes 417
  • Bibliography 523
  • Index 565
  • Captions 583
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