Jane Addams

Topics: Equal Rights Amendment, Woman, Women's suffrage Pages: 5 (1926 words) Published: January 1, 2006
An American pragmatist and feminist, Hull-House founder Jane Addams (1860-1935) came of age in time of increasing tensions and division between segments of the American society, a division that was reflected in debates about educational reform. In the midst of this diversity, Addams saw the profoundly interdependent nature of all social and political interaction, and she aligned her efforts to support, emphasize and increase this interdependence. Education was one of the ways she relied on to overcome class disparity, as well as to increase interaction between classes. Her theories about the interdependent nature of living in a democracy provided a backdrop for her educational theory. Education, she thought, needed to produce people who were capable of living together and learning from each other (Addams 12-36). Jane Addams, a pragmatist and a utilitarian, spent her life educating others about social reform/care ethics and defending the rights of women in society. Nearly a century before the beginning of "multiculturalism," Jane Addams put forward her conception of the moral significance of diversity. Each member of a democracy, Addams believed was under a moral obligation to seek out diverse experiences, making a daily effort to confront others' perspectives. She believed that morality must be seen as a social rather than an individual endeavor and democracy as a way of life rather than merely a basis for laws. Failing this, both democracy and ethics remain sterile, empty concepts (www.semcoop.com).

"The sphere of morals is the sphere of action," Addams proclaims. It is not enough to believe passively in the innate dignity of all human beings. Rather, one must work daily to root out racial, gender, class, and other prejudices from personal relationships (Addams 44)."

Women who worked in the marketplace suffered from a number of injustices including socialization harmful to their development in the public arena. Trained to respond first to their "family claims," women had to respond instead to "social claims" in order to survive in the male-dominated business world. Women were taught to identify with their families to such an extent that they did not organize to defend their rights. Women weakened their fellow laborers when they limited their female vision to the immediate needs of their families. Addams strongly criticized this:

The maternal instinct and family affection is woman's most holy attribute, but if she enters industrial life, that is not enough. She must supplement her family conscience by a social and an industrial conscience. She must widen her family affection to embrace the children of the community. She is wrecking havoc in the sewing-trades, because with the meager equipment sufficient for family life she has entered industrial life (Addams 57).

Because Addams supported the labor movement and many unions were organized by men and banned women as equal participants, the women's labor unions in Chicago were organized primarily through Hull-House. In 1892, the cloak makers were organized there, and in 1891, the shirt makers (Addams 58). The Chicago Women's Trade Union League was also organized there (Addams 59). Union organizing required more than simply providing a setting. The women workers needed to define themselves in relation to the conflicting family and social demands. The residents, according to Addams, could assist this change in consciousness. They could also help working-class men and women to communicate with one another. The residents felt that between these men and girls was a deeper gap than the much-talked of "chasm" between the favored and unfavored classes . . .. There was much less difference of any sort between the residents and working-class than between the men and girls of the same trade (Addams 60). Addams' approach to the methods of settling labor disputes was a dramatic illustration of her belief in feminine values. She felt that strikes and violence associated...
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