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Jane Addams: Champion of Democracy by Dennis…

Jane Addams: Champion of Democracy

by Dennis Brindell Fradin

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Richie's Picks: JANE ADDAMS: CHAMPION OF DEMOCRACY by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin, Clarion, 2006, ISBN: 0-618-50436-2

" 'Cause I know the biggest crime
is just to throw up your hands
Say this has nothing to do with me
I just want to live as comfortably as I can.
You got to look outside your eyes
You got to think outside your brain
You got to walk outside you life
to where the neighborhood changes" -- Ani Difranco, "Willing to Fight"

"Visitors often saw just one side of Chicago -- the lovely lakefront, the fabulous mansions of the wealthy merchants, the majestic skyscrapers, and the glittering night spots.
"There were entire neighborhoods where the residents lived packed together in filthy tenements and shacks. Many poor Chicagoans had no heat in the wintertime, no running water, and no neighborhood schools. Because the opportunity to bathe was rare for the poor, dirt sometimes accumulated on children until their skin resembled scales. In addition, the milk delivered to poor families was often spoiled.
"These unsanitary conditions claimed a large toll, particularly among the very young. In the city as a whole, half the children born in 1889 wouldn't live to celebrate their fifth birthdays. The death toll was even higher in poor neighborhoods, where families might have ten children in the hope that three or four would reach adulthood. Adults also suffered from outbreaks of disease, which included smallpox, cholera, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and dysentery. In 1885, for example, epidemics killed approximately one hundred thousand Chicagoans, or about one in every eight of the city's population."

Into this world of squalor and disease stepped the young woman who was determined to change things.

I like to think that I am doing my little bit to make the world a better place. I am always advocating loudly for peace and acceptance and equality, doing a lot of education-related volunteer work, drying my clothes in the sun, taking mass transit when practical, recycling and composting and planting trees. But then I read a book like JANE ADDAMS: CHAMPION OF DEMOCRACY and am again reminded of what it looks like to REALLY be serious about changing the world:

"By the early 1900s, Hull House had grown to thirteen buildings and was home to about forty staff residents, a quarter of them men. Among the residents were physicians, attorneys, journalists, businessmen, teachers, scientists, musicians, and artists. The Hull House settlement had become a vital part of the neighborhood. Of the 70,000 people who lived within six blocks of Hull House around the turn of the century, roughly 9,000 participated in the settlement's programs in any given week."

And to think that Jane Addams' work to create Hull House was but the platform from which she then worked -- in the forefront and with every expectation of achieving success -- for world peace, women's suffrage, racial equality, and an end to poverty and child labor.

"Jane Addams practiced what she preached. During her forty-six years as director of Hull House, she refused to accept even a penny in salary for herself. She also donated most of her personal funds to the settlement. She had a roof over her head, food, and some of her inheritance left, so why have a large bank account when the money could help the poor."

Some of the snapshots of her sharing behavior are truly delightful, being that she would barely have a gift open before immediately turning around and giving it away to somebody whose need, she felt, was greater than was her own.

Of course, Jane Addams did not accomplish her work single-handedly. Jane was an unstoppable organizer who -- over and over again -- lined up incredibly talented people and sought out significant financial and hands-on support from those well-off benefactors from Chicago and beyond who could readily afford to help support the amazing breadth of good works that she initiated.

Where did Jane Addams came from? How did she change the world? Why did she spend a decade being scorned for her views? How did she take on a crooked Chicago politician to literally clean up the city? And, most importantly, why would I would love for our children and our students to all know about this great woman? These are all questions to which Judith and Dennis Fradin provide answers in JANE ADDAMS: CHAMPION OF DEMOCRACY. A few years ago, I chatted with Dennis when he was up to his elbows in Jane's letters and other primary source material. The result of the Fradins' dedication to seeking out the truth about Jane Addams is a book that will help inspire a willingness in new generation to fight for change.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/
http://www.myspace.com/richiespicks ( )
  richiespicks | May 21, 2009 |
Fradin, Dennis Brindell, Judith Bloom Fradin. (2007). Jane Addams: Champion of Democracy. Boston: Clarion Books. 213 pp. ISBN 0-618-50436-2 (Hardcover); $21.00

Initially I was upset with the decision to have chapter one begin with Addams's work at Hull House with the garbage inspectors. It seems like a, no pun intended, spoiler of sorts. In retrospect, however, I wonder whether I would have finished this book if I had no sense of Addams' place in history from the start. By the end of the book, I was telling my wife, Ann that I wanted to visit the Hull House museum on our next Chicago trip. Addams is my newest hero. From her refusal to abandon Flora Guiteau, sister of the presidential assassin, to her hounding of Chicago's political bosses, to her absolute dedication to peace--we are in the presence of greatness. The fact that she managed to keep a personal life too is nothing short of astounding. Here is a woman who is the soul of kindness or the most dangerous woman in America! Addams gave a nominating speech for a presidential candidate at a time in which that just did not happen and then was vilified by most of the country for speaking out against WWI. After this Addams receives the Nobel Peace prize! The fact that we do not know absolutely whether she is or is not a Lesbian simply amazes me in today's over-exposed world, especially considering how much she wrote, professionally and personally. The prose of the book gathers momentum. By the time Addams travels to Europe, readers will not be able to put the book down.

  edspicer | Apr 26, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618504362, Hardcover)

Most people know Jane Addams (1860-1935) as the force behind Hull House, one of the first settlement houses in the United States. She was also an ardent suffragist and civil rights activist, co-founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union. But it was her work as a pacifist that put her in the international spotlight. Although many people labeled her “unpatriotic” for her pacifist activities, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 and, at the time of her death, Jane Addams was one of the most respected and admired women in the world. In this well-researched and inspiring account, acclaimed husband-and-wife team, Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin, draw upon hundreds of historical documents and archival photographs to create a revealing portrait of the woman whose very way of life made her an American icon.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:29 -0400)

A look at the life of the "pacifist" Jane Addams.

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