As a progressive, Jane Addams committed herself as a social servant to the community in an attempt to fulfill the promise of democracy to everyone rather than a small elite group. Addams’s dedication to communitarian purposes as opposed to individualist gains can be attributed to her upbringing and her remarkable respect for her father, John Huy Addams. Although John Addams was extremely wealthy, his neighbors appreciated and respected him because of the benefits he brought to their community, such as a reliable mill, a railroad, a bank, and an insurance company (5). Remembering the respect her father earned from their community, Jane Addams did not see her father “as an overbearing capitalist dictator from the Gilded Age but as a self-made steward from an era when leaders put the community's interest alongside their own” (5). Jane Addams’s father did, in fact, influence her way of thinking, regarding the devotion to community service. She looked to her father for guidance and support (7) and after he died (the patriarch), Addams was left with a $60,000 inheritance, which she decided to use to establish the settlement house in Chicago, Hull-House (10).
At the beginning of the chapter, the author raises questions that were prevalent a century ago and that are still important today. The one question I found most interesting is, “Can white, native-born, economically secure Americans ever really understand, much less help, those who are struggling to survive?” (1). Much of the prevalent political culture emphasized Aryan superiority, as well as the concern a changing society would suffer from massive immigration. Even authors, such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, recognized the oppression she suffered from as a woman. However, she did not recognize the oppression others suffered in her embracing of anti-immigration as well as racist beliefs. Reactionary to the massive immigration of this time, Charlotte Perkins Gilman also supported eugenics to improve the...
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