Other than her worry that her father might refuse to send her to Smith Collegeinthe fall, Jane Addams had reason to assume that the summerof1881 would be like most summers, a quiet time in which nothing in particular happened. Instead, as the summer unfolded, she found herself caught up in a series of epochal events, each of which plunged her deeper into crisis and confusion. Indeed, the summer's shocks were only the beginning. The next two years would be the most difficult of her young life.
The first event was the one she had feared. Her father decided that she would not go to Smith in September. She wrote her friends the news within a few weeks of graduation and, although her letters do not survive, her friends' replies mirror the gist of what she had written: that her “family”— she did not choose to single out her father—thought she had overworked herself at Rockford, though she did not think so, and that to protect her health she should wait a year to attend Smith.1
Jane Addams presents her father's decision as simply a practical one involving her health, but John Addams also believed that each question of behavior had a moral dimension. In addressing the subject of how Jane ought to spend the coming year, he had available to him the most powerful argument a father could make to a daughter against pursuing something she desired—that to do so would be selfish, would be caring more for her own happiness than for her family's. Did her father make this second argument?
It appears that he did. In the 1890s, after Jane Addams moved to Chicago, she gave a series of speeches at women's colleges about the woman graduate whose family opposed her future plans and who charged her with selfishness for wanting to pursue her dreams. These speeches, searing in their frank portrayal of the graduate's and her family's pain, are too vivid to leave much doubt that she was speaking from first-hand experience. The