jane addams
February 7, 2010, 1:38 am
Filed under: rants and such | Tags: , , , , , , ,

i am taking a class that is based upon an historical chicago site, this semester the jane addams house. i have learned about her in bits and pieces in the past few years, but never did i understand her incredible badassness. i am sure she was not perfect, but there is still  something really compelling and striking about her story. her essay about her reasoning behind opening Hull House blew my mind. it was written over one hundred years ago, and it is so contemporary. i felt myself reflected in her thoughts, and in her understanding of society.  it is depressing in a way that in a century the conditions of people are uncannily similar, and that the solution not more evolved. it also makes me feel strange that my understanding of the world is not new, nor original or revolutionary. i still have to come to grips with the fact that to everything there is a history. ideas are not new but come from a progression of theory from the past recent, and not so recent.

i am hopeful also, because it’s undeniable that there is something essentially altruistic about people and good, even amidst all the pain and selfishness.

it made me fantasize about what is possible to do with one’s life, and the impact it can have. 

i am including the speech i read that i found so compelling:  Addams,”Subjective Necessity”

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Dear BMS (I don’t find your name on the blog):

Your blog entry made my day. I have a Google Alert for Jane Addams and that’s why I found it. I am a biographer of Jane Addams (see the website above) and so I write partly to say that it sounds as if you will enjoy reading my book about the first half of her life (Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy is its title). I had the same reaction you did when I read some of Addams’s writings for the first time — exactly the same. And now that I’ve learned more about her, I still feel the same way.

By the way, the version of “Subjective Necessity” that you posted on this blog is not the complete essay. As Addams notes in the opening of that chapter, she only put excerpts into Twenty Years at Hull House.

If you would like to read the complete essay, find in Google books this book: PHILANTHROPY AND SOCIAL PROGRESS. Henry C. Adam is the editor. The first two essays are by Addams, and one is the complete version of “Subjective Necessity.”

I have just finished writing a full life biography (there has not been a biography about her whole life published in 37 years!), so now I know her whole story… That book is called Jane Addams: Spirit in Action and W. W. Norton will publish it this coming September. I’ll have a book launch in Chicago on Sept. 21st, 2010. If you send me an email at, I’ll let you know more details about the event once it is organized.

Louise W. Knight

Comment by Louise (Lucy) Knight

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