Saturday, September 06, 2008

September 6: Jane Addams (1860-1935)

[Image description: Sepia portrait of an unsmiling Jane Addams, younger, seated, facing camera with her elbow on a table and an open book nearby]
I do not believe that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislatures, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance.

--Jane Addams, in a speech to the Chicago Political Equality League in 1897
Settlement movement leader, feminist, and Nobel laureate (Peace, 1931), Jane Addams was born on this date in 1860, in Cedarville IL. She was a major figure in the international women's suffrage and peace movements, and among the founders of the ACLU and the NAACP.

Addams had spinal curvature and other permanent effects of tuberculosis in childhood, effects which were treated with experimental surgery and injections in her twenties, and a back brace made of steel, whalebone, and leather. She experienced chronic back pain for much of her life, both from the disease and from the treatments available. She mentions her own disability (and uses that word) in her classic memoir Twenty Years at Hull House; she also writes about the "crippled children" she sometimes encountered in her work:
The first three crippled children we encountered in the neighborhood had all been injured while their mothers were at work: one had fallen out of a third-story window, another had been burned, and the third had a curved spine due to the fact that for three years he had been tied all day long to the leg of the kitchen table, only released at noon by his older brother who hastily ran in from a neighboring factory to share his lunch with him....Hull-House was thus committed to a day nursery which we sustained for sixteen years.... (88)

11 comments:

Terri said...

An astounding community organizer!

Penny L. Richards said...

Yeah, good point Terri! And for her troubles she was called "The Most Dangerous Woman in America" in the 1920s--sigh.

Tor Hershman said...

The biggest disability is our wretchedly ill human CULTure.

Stay on groovin' safari,
Tor

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