The place of democracy in Jane Addams's thought during her early years on Halsted Street was, in one sense, constant. She had been referring to the idea in her speeches since 1890—and had always done so in a way that showed it was centrally important to her. But this constancy was not the whole story. During the same period her thinking about democracy became more complex. At the beginning she had stressed its social side and called Christian fellowship the “true democracy”; in 1895, without abandoning her commitment to social democracy, she started to give equal stress to democracy's political side. Although she did not use the word in “A Modern Lear,” she spoke there of the need for the leader to “insist upon consent” and “move with the people” and called for “the emancipation of the worker.”1 These observations confirm that her concept of democracy now included the workers' understanding of the meaning of social justice and their belief that their political power, both in the workplace and more broadly, was key to its achievement.
Still, there were two gaping holes in her political résumé and, concomitantly, in her understanding of political democracy. One was that she had not been deeply immersed in an election campaign. Although she may have had something to do with the Nineteenth Ward Improvement Club's effort to elect Frank Lawler in the aldermanic campaign of 1895, her efforts left no trace in the historical record.2 The other was her silence about her own right to vote. She had not spoken a public word in favor of women's suffrage since writing her college editorials. She may have never lost her sympathy for the cause, but the feeling had not translated itself into advocacy.
Circumstances, what she liked to call “the spirit of the times,” would now push her to become fully political. She was one among many who felt the pressure. Popular enthusiasm for broad-based, politically generated reform, which had been on the rise in the United States through