Between 1892, when she first emerged on the national stage, and 1898, Jane Addams would become increasingly engaged in shaping governmental policy. In retrospect, Addams saw this broadening of her agenda as an inevitable consequence of the times. In Twenty Years at Hull-House she presents herself as “the personality upon whom various social and industrial movements in Chicago reacted.” When she was sixty-nine she recalled the urgency she and others felt. “There was something in "those years",” she wrote, “that was very overwhelming. I am sure if it caught us again it would make us do what we could moment by moment because we felt under pressure to do something.”1
But Addams did not only react. She also made choices. And in late 1892 she faced a choice. During her first three years on Halsted Street she had been busy living the settlement life—conducting clubs, teaching classes, making neighborly visits, responding to the neighbors' immediate difficulties, managing the settlement, and fundraising. At the same time, the issue of sweatshops had been moving gradually to the center of her attention. She could see clearly now the ways in which the unregulated system created terrible conditions—particularly the long hours that left the adults with no time or energy to learn and prevented the children from going to school. Still, her settlement house methods were not intended to change those conditions. The methods adopted by Kelley, the trade unions, the Illinois Woman's Alliance, and the Chicago Woman's Club, on the other hand, were. What should she do? Should she cooperate with them in sweatshop reform? Should she enter the policy arena?
Returning from New York City to Chicago in September 1892, Addams and Lathrop found the city swept up in a governor's race whose outcome