Escape to Duty

by The New Republic | May 15, 2006

is the Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton University. She is writing a history of feminism. Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy By Louise W. Knight (University of Chicago Press, 582 pp., $35) What psychic resources are required to make, and to sustain, American democracy? The question seems abstract and pallid, since the terms usually advanced to answer it--fortitude, valor, determination, courage, and other such virtues--have become platitudes that politicians and right-wing pundits now push around on the board of strategic advantage. But at the turn of the last century, and through World War I, fine minds ruminated long on the subject, nourishing their reflections with liberal dispositions and experiences soaked in the affairs of the world. One of the most important of those exceedingly active thinkers was Jane Addams. There is now a small revival of writing on Addams going on, after years of neglect. Despite her towering reputation in her own day, Addams has languished in the wings, historically speaking. She was too much a crossover act for women's history, too much an activist for intellectual history, and too much a woman for political history. She registered as a mildmannered, slightly drab subject: another kindly charity lady whose concern for the needy was genuine but ineffectual, an altruist who dispensed Band-Aids. Against the turn- of-the-century backdrop of massive strikes, lynchings of African Americans, class hatred, and government attacks on workers, Addams's commitment to mediation, conciliation, and cooperation looked wishy-washy, stemming from an investment in her own virtue rather than a realistic assessment of the bitter politics of the day. She appeared the exemplary Christian do-gooder, a figure from the Victorian past who offered little to the modern period: "Saint Jane" of social work. In the 1990s, however, historians grew more curious about the Progressive politics that supported Addams and others like her: the sprawling movement that mixed middle-class altruism and bourgeois anxieties, democratic commitments and elite control, redistributive social programs and economic rationalization. Once judged by New Left scholars to have been conservative, even reactionary, the Progressives and their considerable accomplishments--the fruits of steady, incremental change and practicality--began to look pretty good. It was no longer just the socialists and the anarchists who seemed interesting. The very different efforts of W.E.B. DuBois, Samuel Gompers, Louis Brandeis, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Jennings Bryan have come up for consideration as serious- -and sometimes successful-- attempts to address gargantuan problems of inequality, labor, race, and democracy in an era of heavy industrialism, white supremacy, intense class hostility, and corporate consolidation. Still, being a political creature who was a woman in a man's world, Addams continues to be treated as a footnote, or as window dressing; only Eleanor Roosevelt has cracked the old code of disinterest in women leaders in high places. Now Louise W. Knight's excellent book makes the case for Addams as a pre-eminent social thinker and a masterful politician. Knight will have none of Saint Jane; and her biography should forever dispel the lingering assumption that Addams was the church lady of progressivism. She gives us instead a woman who took up residence--quite literally, when she rented Hull House--in the life of her times, eschewing the limits (and the protections) of her sex and refusing to don the veil of Christian charity. Addams entered into the afflictions and aspirations of poor people, and from there she pushed, uninvited, into the back rooms where politicians made the decisions that pressed on poor people's lives. Jane Addams was born in 1860 in a small town in Illinois, the youngest daughter of a well-to-do family. Her father, John Addams, was a Republican state senator, a friend and devoted admirer of Abraham Lincoln: throughout her life, reverence for the two men would be the foundation of her ethic of service to the country. Her mother died when Addams was a toddler, and although a loving--while difficult--stepmother took her place, the child would always be her father's daughter, raised to a high calling in the spirit of the president and party that had led the nation through the war. For a girl, though, the nature of that calling was vague, even for a smart girl who learned about deep matters from her father. John Addams's belief in his daughter's abilities bequeathed her an insoluble cultural vexation: as Knight puts it, "whether heroism could only be pursued in the (male) public realm or whether women's private lot of suffering and self-sacrifice was also heroic." As a teenager setting out into the world, she would slam up hard against the dilemma, the same one that thwarted the passionate, disappointed heroines of the previous generation who thrilled her in the novels of Dickens and Eliot. But as a child she was still safe from censure, and she inhabited genderless dreams of heroic deeds in the service of humankind. The family, including the adored father, was utterly conventional in its ideas about women and men, parents and children. Some of this is known from Addams's memoir, Twenty Years at Hull-House, but Knight sees the workings of the family romance more clearly than Addams ever could. She sketches a portrait of a household that, by tacit consent, would not let anyone leave. Since it was a mixed family--"blended," we would call it, with children born of two sets of parents--the psychic drive to incestuous pairings could actually be socially realized. One son of Anna Haldeman, Jane's stepmother, married one of the three Addams girls. Jane, the youngest, was destined for George, the youngest Haldeman. The only Addams son also served the cause of family unity in his own way, through illness. He suffered bouts of mania--paranoid schizophrenia in our terms--and required everyone's attention to monitor his sanity and move him in and out of asylums. In 1887, toward the end of a breakdown that came after she graduated from college, Jane threw a wrench into this system by turning down George's marriage proposal. It was the first of a series of defiant acts by which she forced her way out. For spurning George, her stepmother would forever consider Addams selfish and willful, and the source of his subsequent problems, which turned out to be severe. George tried, in his own way, to get away, but failed miserably. Shortly after Jane rejected him, he went missing; found weeks later, on a roadside in Iowa, gaunt and bedraggled, he had no memory of how he got there. He was suffering, it turned out, from "fuguing," an extraordinary late- Victorian male affliction characterized by just such defections: the person experiencing it furtively bolted from home to walk mindlessly in a straight line for days at a time in a sort of trance, although he appeared normal to those he met, thus eluding detection. George lived with his mother the rest of his life, increasingly odd and reclusive. Since she was born female, Jane Addams would have known that there was no getting away by walking in a straight line. To extricate oneself required indiscernible maneuvers to escape the field of force--the "family claim," as she later termed it. In the early chapters of Twenty Years, she wrote movingly about the pull of duty to loved ones--their needs for you, their plans for you-- which she saw as especially dangerous for daughters. She first sensed the undertow at age sixteen, when she proposed that she attend Smith College, which was the Harvard of the day for brainy young women, the only women's college to grant a full-fledged bachelor of arts degree. Her parents had always encouraged her bookishness and her studies, but now they were adamant: Smith was too far away, and in any case she had no need for a fancy degree. The compromise was a nearby women's college, Rockford Seminary. Although Addams never quite got over her resentment at being there instead of at Smith, Rockford offered, under evangelical Christian auspices, a serious curriculum and rigorous teaching meant to prepare the girls to be missionaries. Away from her charismatic parents, Addams proved to be magnetic in her own right. Taught the discipline of essay-writing, she became a prolific writer. She learned to argue and to debate--a skill that would have atrophied had she attended a more conventional girls' school. She excelled at her studies and found an unsuspected talent for public speaking, which would take her far: in later life Addams was an immensely successful lecturer and writer, and for long stretches she kept Hull House afloat financially with her fees. Most important, living in a community of peers gave her four years of comparative freedom unstructured by family roles and duties. Those peers, moreover, were convinced that they were born for high purposes, a collective destiny out of the common track. Whether or not they intended to become missionaries, they saw themselves as heroines of the day, imbued with "enormous new power," as Addams wrote to a friend. They lived on the cusp of a cultural shift. The self-sacrificing Victorian matron--that figure Virginia Woolf mordantly characterized as "the angel in the house"--remained a lodestar, but sotto voce this first generation of college women was generating a different ideal. From her school friends Addams took the belief that Woman "wishes not to be a man or like a man," but would accomplish great tasks on her own. These Rockford girls were plainer, more serious, less wealthy versions of the endlessly hopeful, poignant American girls whose stories Henry James was beginning to write. Independent, brilliant, romantic, and infinitely helpful to the world, this figure of the cultural imagination was still inchoate, but it would coalesce in the popular culture of the 1890s into the New Woman. Of the species, Addams would come to serve as Exhibit A. But in the 1880s, the New Woman ideal held little power outside the sanctuary of the women's colleges. The crisis came in 1881, when Addams graduated. Again she wanted to go to Smith to get that degree, and again her father blocked her. After years of thrilling successes, she came home--to do nothing. It is impossible to exaggerate the bind that she and others of her generation faced. James's heroines forestalled the moment of truth by traveling to Europe and imagining (willfully, wrongly, fatally) that the Old World could give them greater scope for action than the New. For a young woman, even a brilliant one, there was still little that did not require the passport of marriage (even to be a missionary, a woman had to marry) or the protection of a family. In Britain, the Oxbridge women's colleges, which over the years would provide a haven for female intellectuals, had only just opened. "Many a young woman of [the 1880s] ... had [a] great ambition in which she was thwarted," Addams quietly noted much later. For the next eight years, she wrote in Twenty Years, "I was absolutely at sea so far as any moral purpose was concerned, clinging only to the desire to live in a really living world." To compound matters, her father died unexpectedly, throwing the family into grief and confusion. Anna, looking to consolidate the married and unmarried children, came up with the idea of moving some of them to Philadelphia, a center of medical education where the oldest Haldeman son, a physician, could enhance his training. Medicine was one of the few professions that had cracked open to women, and Jane was also allowed to study. Female medical education was associated with ministering to the poor, and backed up by a network of several hundred pioneering female "regular" physicians concentrated in special colleges for women. Jane could theoretically have become a doctor, but it is more likely that Anna had her in mind as a trained assistant to George, who was waiting in the wings. Jane acceded to the plan; but it was really for inability to do what she wanted, which was to go to Smith. Her medical career fizzled under the strain of back pain and what would now be diagnosed as depression. She slid into full- fledged neurasthenia, an infirmity that frequently overcame educated women at just such a turn with listlessness, fatigue, melancholy, headaches, and debilitating somatic pain. She endured long stretches of compulsory bed rest and horrible treatments at the hands of her physician stepbrother/ brother-in- law (involving spinal surgery and red-hot irons--don't ask), brooding all the while about her supposed selfishness. In the family scenario, she, too, slid into the patient's role that her older brother had carved out, which seems to have suited everyone fine. Depression dogged her, but she rallied in spurts, first by arranging a trip to Europe in 1883 with her stepmother and a group of female friends and relations. The Grand Tour, which took months (sometimes a year or two), followed a well-traveled road thronged with questing American girls and their fussy mothers. (Think of Daisy Miller, written five years earlier.) Addams trudged along the appointed way, but she turned the trip into her own psychic journey. For one, the Europe that she sought out was a cartography of literary shrines and settings that corresponded to tableaux of her inner life. For another, the glimpses of the wretched lives of the poor in the great cities touched off silent ruminations about the chasm between the classes. In the time- honored manner of girls forming plans around mothers who disapprove, she kept her thoughts to herself, making a show of will only when, on their return, she rejected George. On a second trip, which began in 1886 and lasted two years, she traveled without her stepmother and was bolder. She broached some ideas to her companion and old schoolmate Ellen Gates Starr and spent time at Toynbee Hall in London, a "settlement" of Oxford and Cambridge graduates in the poverty-stricken East End. Founded by well-to-do Anglicans and staffed by young men inspired by a resurgent moral philosophy, Toynbee Hall aimed to replace "doing good" with a sustained and more reciprocal relation with poor people, breaking down class barriers through talking and friendship. Addams was enthralled. Having formed a great purpose, she started to walk a straight line. In 1889, when she returned home, she went off to Chicago, joined up with Starr, and with her inheritance rented and set about refurbishing a moldering mansion, once lovely and grand, in a neighborhood of tenements on the West Side. In the late summer, they moved in. She would live in Hull House the rest of her life. Despite her protected upbringing, Addams possessed a strong instinct for egalitarian relationships with the poor people whose company she sought. Hull House was remarkable in the democratic genius of its tenets, which modified Toynbee Hall's program into a set of working principles brilliantly suited to the American scene. In London, the Anglicans offered Protestant instruction and encouraged conversion, which made them anathema to Irish Catholics. But Addams and Starr, who were determined from the beginning to work with a predominantly Jewish and Catholic immigrant population, left Jesus out of things. And in contrast to Toynbee Hall, which was all male, they counted on other women joining them and believed that women had a special gift for cross-class labors. Addams envisioned a nexus of reciprocal relationships that would benefit the privileged residents as well as the poor they served. Hull House would be "cooperative," eschewing the use of force and power--by which Addams meant the power of class--to impose solutions on the people whom she always called "the neighbors" rather than "the poor." Residents would instead search out and listen to others' needs, agendas, and solutions. An absolute standard of respect for the resources and the dignity of all people would permeate the settlement's dealings with the neighborhood. These were exacting precepts, and Knight notes that Addams could not have fathomed the measure of what they would require from her. Although she did not always live up to them, she never stopped trying, and she articulated her beliefs with force, persuasion, and exactitude to successive generations of the Hull House staffers, whose ranks quickly expanded beyond the initial pair. As a lecturer and magazine writer, she also made her ideas known to the growing public attentive to progressive reform. By 1910, there were some four hundred settlement houses in American cities. One reason why there were so many copies was that the original was a remarkable success. It would be a mistake, though, to see Addams as a solitary visionary. It was a propitious moment in Chicago politics to chart a third way out of the bitter class politics that lingered after the Haymarket Affair of 1886. From the moment they rented the house, Addams and Starr received enthusiastic help-- financial, political, and social--from the elite women's clubs of Chicago, which were imbued with progressive zeal. Nowhere in the country did well-to-do women, still without the vote, have the political influence that they did in Chicago, and major figures such as Bertha Honore Palmer (society doyenne and serious patron of the arts) backed them from the beginning. John Altgeld, a populist Democrat with strong labor support, won the governor's race in 1892 and immediately set to work implementing his campaign commitments to legislation banning child labor and improving health conditions in factories and sweatshops. Altgeld's victory, an earthquake in a state ruled by Republicans for two decades, galvanized the city's progressives. So Hull House benefited from the vibrant reform culture of Chicago, but what, exactly, did Hull House do? First, it was a place to visit. Having been raised in a household that kept everyone inside, psychologically speaking, Addams opened the windows and threw open the doors. People came and went as they pleased: anyone, at any time, up to 11 p.m., when the residents closed the doors for the night. It was a brilliant policy, because it replicated the flexible sociability of the tenements at a time when private space and ritualized "calls" were primary class markers of bourgeois domesticity. Initially, Addams and Starr themselves had to go around visiting, because the neighbors were convinced that the ladies were luring people to their house in order to proselytize for Christ. But they soon won acceptance by listening to their neighbors rather than talking at them. "What can we do to help?" was their mantra. In short order, Hull House bustled. The traffic was so heavy that critics judged the place chaotic and frenetic. An upper-class British visitor was shocked that people "wander here, there, everywhere." Children, who must have loved the fast pace, made up a game called "Hull House." One child pretended to knock at a door, and someone else ran to answer it, then ran back to answer a pretend phone call, then ran back to answer the door when someone else knocked. Reformers from Europe mingled with the needy from around the corner; policemen and novelists dropped by along with ministers and trade-union organizers; mothers with small children came in to take a break in the company of others. By 1893, six additional women had joined Starr and Addams to make Hull House their home. Some newcomers did bridle at the bedlam and went elsewhere to do their planning and writing; John Dewey, who loved both Addams and Hull House, thought that life there would drive people crazy. In the experimental mode they vaunted--in tune with the pragmatist ideas that Dewey and Addams liked to discuss--the residents fashioned programs and services in response to the needs that the neighbors voiced. They learned, more or less, to hold their middle-class certainties in check and, at least in theory, to follow the neighbors' lead. Immigrants loved societies, and there were clubs of many sorts: for sports, self-improvement, study, and ethnic unity. They offered kindergarten and nursery care for children; a labor bureau to help people find jobs; theater groups and art groups and reading groups and English classes. Hull House gave space to anyone with a hankering to organize something: women, along with the bored teenagers, were particular beneficiaries, since immigrant culture typically stressed workingmen's fraternal societies that excluded women and the young. It provided services that could be had nowhere else, from public toilets to a Working People's Social Science Club that brought together adepts from various political tendencies and sects-- anarchists, socialists, "pure and simple" unionists, Social Gospel Christians, and boosters of capitalism--to debate the issues of the day. Addams, no longer the invalid debilitated by headaches and lassitude, thrived. She achieved the commingling of classes for which she had longed; and she enjoyed it. Knight brings alive the sheer pleasure of the place: the exuberance of the young adults in their clubs, the racket the children made, the women's gossip about their loves and troubles. When certain of the intellectuals (residents, neighbors, or visitors) started up an argument, she claims, there would have been no better talk to be had anywhere in the country. Although men also became residents over the years, Hull House remained a predominantly female community. Addams never married. Her loves were always women, and had she been born later she almost certainly would have lived as a lesbian. Her romantic friendships were stable and long-lived: the first companion with whom she shared a bed was Starr, followed by a younger woman, Mary Rozet Smith, who remained with her the rest of her life. The transition between the two relationships was mostly calm and unruffled. An essentially composed person, Addams seems to have lived most ardently in her work. But the settlement certainly gave scope for intimacies between women that, even in this era of "Boston marriages," would have otherwise been subjected to cold scrutiny. In the 1890s, the general public and even most reformers viewed immigrants as an untutored vulgar mass, a huge impediment to the development of the nation and undeserving of full citizenship. Disenfranchisement campaigns in the North, driven by support from conservative elites along with some progressives, put in place property, literacy, and residency requirements that, in tandem with Jim Crow in the South, drastically reduced the size of the electorate. Addams was a voteless person herself by virtue of her sex; but she stayed clear of this aspect of the progressive enterprise. She was developing, on the ground, an approach that undercut and at moments directly challenged class superiority. She spoke movingly of Americans' need for one another. She could see past the seemingly irrefutable rhetoric of the deprivations of the poor because she herself had been deprived in the midst of a well-endowed and fully "American" family. She understood what could emerge from a polyglot society because she knew what it was to live inside a narrow homogeneous one. At the same time, there were limits. Addams's belief in the mutual benefits that accrued in class exchanges still put the burden of self-sacrifice and abnegation on the settlement residents: that is, it was unquestionably they who, having superior resources, sacrificed more--a covert way of introducing condescension into a supposedly mutual relationship. The standard uplift fare of Hull House classes, ennobling subjects that residents offered to theoretically hungry immigrants, must have sometimes fallen flat, though no one ever mentioned it. From her European travels, Addams had gained a faith in the resources of culture to join people together, but one wonders how strong the attendance was for the class on Dante, or who, exactly, was sticking with the group reading Felix Holt. Knight, though, stresses how broad the offerings were and how the gestalt changed over time. She judges the chief limitations of the early experiment to lie not in Addams's cultural agenda but in her lofty anti-materialism. Committed to repudiating the material comforts of her own upbringing, she tended to look on the neighbors' struggles for decent wages and living conditions as time taken away from the task of elevating the soul. Raised in the cluttered hothouse of Gilded Age culture, she had no truck with things and the money that purchased them. The problem was that her distaste for materialism made the chronic deprivations that depleted the neighbors' lives literally immaterial. For all her sympathy, Addams at first had difficulty understanding trade unions, and she initially believed that employers, once they really realized that they paid their workers too little, would voluntarily raise wages. In the early years, the political exercise of power in the service of justice lay beyond her comprehension. The turning point came in 1893-1894. The worst depression the country had ever seen began in the fall and deepened over the course of a terrible winter. Millions everywhere lost work: in New York and Chicago, unemployment among adult men ran upward of 40 percent by December. City governments refused to implement relief programs like the public works measures used to good effect in New York during the Panic of 1857. In this era before the New Deal, federal and state aid was inconceivable. Chicago's civic culture was dense, and hundreds of associations, fraternal societies, clubs, and reform groups stepped in; but private charity could only ameliorate. Massive evictions and homelessness followed. Desperate people overwhelmed Hull House. While the settlement did what it could to set up cooperative workshops and free social services, the brutal hardship forced Addams to move away from her faith in the resources of the imagination and the spirit. She began to grapple with economic explanations of poverty and to gravitate toward some version of Christian socialism. In the spring, the workers in Pullman, the company town outside Chicago that made Pullman sleeper and dining cars for the railroads, went on strike in response to a series of drastic wage cuts. The owner-philanthropist George Pullman retaliated by locking out the entire workforce of three thousand men. The president of the railway-workers' union was Eugene V. Debs, the charismatic leader and orator who would run for president five times (first in 1900) as a Socialist. Pullman absolutely refused any mediation, though Chicago's Civic Federation of leaders and businessmen, recognizing the gravity of the situation, had formed a "Conciliation Board." A month into the stalemate, with Pullman intransigent, the union called a nationwide sympathy strike. In this age of railroads, the entire country was shut down, including urban streetcar systems. The Pullman strike accelerated Addams's education in the cruelties of laissez-faire capitalism, and in the positive role that unions played. Her faith that employers meant well was shaken by George Pullman's refusal to submit the dispute to arbitration. In contrast to the arrogant Pullman, Debs threw down the gauntlet (he declared the strike a contest between workers and the "money power") but nonetheless worked hard to keep his troops within the law. Backed by the powerful women's wing in the Civic Federation, Addams emerged as a major force, the one reformer who was patient and persevering enough to gain a hearing from the union. Aided by Debs's interest in settling, but almost single-handedly among reformers, she helped bring the union to the bargaining table. But Pullman would have none of it. To Addams, it became clear that it was Pullman, not the union, who was prolonging the strike and doing what he could to provoke the workers to violence. The Cleveland administration raised the stakes by sending in a thousand federal troops and acquiring an injunction against the union. Chicago turned into an armed camp, soldiers squaring off against strikers and thousands of other angry, hungry, jobless men. A railroad agent's shot into an angry crowd in the railroad yards touched off mayhem, and workers rioted. The crowd violence in turn justified more troops, and more soldiers poured into the city. The country was gridlocked, and the press charged that the strike was led by anarchists, a lethal accusation in light of Haymarket less than ten years earlier. Within a few weeks it was over, the union broken and labor taught the lesson that employers, with the law and the government on their side, could grind down the most powerful demonstration of national solidarity that the country had ever seen. Addams occupied a distinct position, vilified by the right and criticized by the left. For her pains, she lost major donors; Hull House, always short of funds, struggled to keep going. Some wealthy backers saw her as an ignorant woman who should have known better, and others branded her a class traitor. She reported to Dewey one businessman's charge "that like an idiot she had mixed herself in something which was none of her business and about which she knew nothing." From the other side, union men and their supporters blamed her for not taking a stronger pro-labor stance. In an intensely polarized city, the great sympathizer had almost no sympathizers herself. Was class antagonism inevitable? The lessons of Pullman would seem to have been clear, but Addams held onto her Tolstoyan faith that conflict was useless and harmful. Even Christ's eruption at the moneylenders in the temple could have been avoided, she thought, if he had thought more carefully. She and Dewey argued, amicably: he did not share her unshaken belief in ideal unities. But as she mulled over the puzzle of George Pullman, the philanthropist turned tyrant, she came to a new understanding of how idealism could harden into selfrighteousness and moral absolutism. Knight draws out the salience of the shift. For the child of John Addams, "moral absolutism was the rock on which her confident upper-middle-class Anglo-American culture was grounded." "Tectonic plates were shifting," according to Knight's assessment of a seminal article Addams wrote about Pullman, comparing him to King Lear. "A new land mass of moral complexity was arising." In that new moral country, Addams could see the importance of politics--not just politics in the abstract, but politics down in the mud. Practicing politics meant defining problems that could be addressed, identifying allies, and acquiring and wielding power. She had seen George Pullman use political power for destructive, self-serving ends, and now she, an unenfranchised woman, would work to do something different. In a charming section of her book, Knight shows how Addams began with garbage, the stuff that was knee-deep in the streets of their ward. Addams tells the story in Twenty Years at Hull-House, but Knight brings out its full significance. Recall that in the 1890s, cities were still packed with animals--horses for transport, and pigs and cattle for meat--and that most tenements were not connected to the sewer system. Couple that with the fact that the contracts for garbage collection were plums in the system of graft and kickbacks, and you get some sense of the problem. In the city elections in 1895, municipal reformers seized a number of aldermen's seats from the Democratic bosses. Addams was appointed garbage inspector for her ward, and she was determined to clean up the trash. Three mornings a week she left Hull House at 5 o'clock, accompanied by her deputy, another female resident, and followed the contractors' wagons on their rounds. Predictably, the two women did much more than the job required. They persuaded the chief contractor to increase the number of wagons, hired special crews to clean up piles of waste (ashes, manure) that were not technically garbage, set up incinerators, and instituted a way to ensure that dead horses and cows were hauled away. "The position was no sinecure," she recalled dryly. Neighborhood improvements were one part of a broad-based effort to improve conditions for the city's workers in the aftermath of Pullman. In the late 1890s, Hull House expanded its reach to anti-sweatshop legislation, public health, and trade-union organizing. While preserving Addams's essential modesty, Knight is still able to show what a powerful operator she was becoming. The book stops in 1899, before Addams's national career was under way. She would go on to advise Theodore Roosevelt on child-labor legislation, and to become instrumental in the Progressive Party that backed him for president in 1912, and to lead citizens' relief and peacekeeping efforts during and after World War I, and to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. One hopes for a second volume of Knight's fine work. In the revisions of progressivism now under way, it would be good to know how Addams managed to establish herself as a major voice in this era before women were fully citizens; and to see how successfully her political philosophy and her Chicago experimental mode translated into federal initiatives. This first part of the biography is more intensely personal. It is the story of a young woman who spurned the claptrap of the Gilded Age--its certainties about the superiority of the few and the inferiority of the many, its obsession with possessions, its disgusting celebration of wealth--for a life devoted to sympathy with and service to people she deemed her fellow citizens. But curiously, for all its inherent interest, it could not be called a resonant story. Addams's affection for her fellow Americans and her pleasure in living among them strikes few chords today in our own Gilded Age. By 1900, a stay in a settlement house was de rigueur for new college graduates who wanted to make the world better. Now, few things could seem less appealing to the best of my college students; what Addams called "the subjective necessity of the settlement"--the need to be in contact with others different from oneself--is more likely to propel young idealists to go live with the poor in the barrios of Mexico City or the shantytowns of Johannesburg rather than Chicago, Boston, or New York. Cosmopolitanism now enchants imaginations the way that what could be called Americanism once captivated Addams. But something has been lost in translation: the faith that citizens, in consort with people drastically unlike themselves, could create something rich and endlessly pleasurable out of the stuff of a national polity. Addams, like her immigrant neighbors, was born to live one life and made her way into a very different one. In the process she, and the neighbors, created something that, for all its imperfections, was a model of how people might come to interest one another and, consequently, respect one another. That is one psychic resource of American democracy.

By Christine Stansell

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