Interview with James Evans Crown, September, 1910

Jane Addams says: World Growing Better
Suffrage Aiding It

An interview


When I told Miss Jane [Addams] I wished to obtain her view on the question, "Is the world growing better?" and the part women are playing in the great uplift, she consented readily.

"The world is growing better," she said, "but the [millennium] is far off. It will take hundreds of years of endeavor, hard work and sacrifice to bring about ideal conditions.

"The poor will be with us always, but their condition will be greatly improved from what it is at present. America is the great melting pot of the universe, and upon this country will devolve the work of spreading civilization and aiding the weaker member of the human race. Our big cities are doing much toward solving the problems of curbing vice and aiding the unfortunate."

[image] Miss Jane Addams, of Hull House, Chicago, who appealed for a Woman's Suffrage Plank in the Republican Platform

Effect of Suffrage.

"Woman suffrage will go far toward bettering the nation and mankind in general. I hope I will live to see the day that women will exercise the right of suffrage in America and purify politics. The modern newspaper is playing a prominent part in the betterment of the world.

"Better tenement-house conditions in our cities will also aid in stamping out vice and bring health and happiness to the poor.

"Schools, free to all, churches, open to all, are also factors that will tend to improve conditions.

"The rich are growing more tolerant and more sympathetic toward their weaker brethren.

"The so-called 'muck-rakers' who have described the condition of labor and capital in America and exposed political corruption and vice have done much toward aiding the uplift movement."

Life Devoted to the Work.

Miss Addams has devoted her entire life since she graduated from a [page 2] girl's seminary in Rockford, Ill., toward trying to solve the social problems in Chicago.

Miss Addams' work has also been extended to the nation at large, and she has frequently been asked to aid in the uplift movements throughout America. She is regarded in Chicago as the "best citizen" in Illinois, and is the idol of the poor throughout the city. She is modest in the extreme, and seldom says anything for publication. When I asked her [today] to give me an interview for the Evening World it was with surprise that I received her consent.

"I still talk on anything that will aid in the betterment of mankind," said Miss Addams. "In the first place, I like to talk on woman suffrage. When women get the right to vote a right step will be taken toward solving all our civic and national problems."

It Means Inspiration.

"What does recognition mean for women?" I asked.

"It means an inspiration for women to achieve, and each achievement makes for further achievement."

"Do you believe that women as a whole want to vote?"

"No, women as a whole do not want to vote, but if they were granted the franchise they would exercise it whenever any question affecting their rights was at issue. It is not our aim to gain the ballot at a single stroke. It must come gradually, as it is coming. The municipal franchise should come first. The women should work for the vote in the cities and then broaden out to compass the State. The fact that women as a whole do not seem to want the ballot does not matter. It is only that those who want to vote can vote."

"Do you suppose if suffrage were granted the women would vote as largely as men?"

"No, not unless they were directly interested. We had an election of a Judge in Chicago a little while ago and only 11 [percent] of those eligible to vote exercised their rights while the others remained at home. In fact I think there would be more 'stay-at-homes' among the women than among the men."

Sentiment Is Growing.

"The sentiment for woman suffrage is growing. You can see it on all hands. I think the uneducated woman needs the ballot more than any one else. There is no argument that would convince me that women should not have the right to vote."

"Don't you think that the right to vote might tend to degrade women? Might not some of them become as 'undesirable' as certain of the ward heelers, henchmen and hangers-on after political graft such as many be found among politicians under the present system?" I asked.

"Undoubtedly gangs and cliques would follow, but that would be only a natural sequence and would not affect the greater body of women any more than the greater body of men are affected by the present day undesirable phase of politics. Suffrage is merely a tool, a method by which women can express their mind. The English movement is having a great effect on the movement in America. It has caused the question to be more widely discussed in public."

"Do you believe that women advocates of suffrage in this country would permit themselves to carry on such demonstrations as have ended by imprisonment for many in England?"

"I do not see any tendency in this country toward violent demonstrations such as have occurred in England. The conditions there are largely [page 3] due to the many open air meetings where the women come out in public and grow hysterical before the crowd."

A Woman for President.

"Suppose women were allowed to vote in this country and one should run for President, what would be her platform?"

"There would not be any specific platform for women to suit all conditions. Women would develop just as men have developed in the matter of politics. I don't claim that women can make the state over, but I do claim they can improve it, for they will represent a side of life that is not now represented."

"If women were elected don't you think that many of them would neglect their homes and add to the danger called 'race suicide?'"

"Nonsense! Why should we talk about race suicide? What right have we as individuals to advise one way or the other on the question of race suicide? That question should be left to families. It is a fact that immigration plays a part in the mysterious subject. Immigrants coming to this country raise smaller families than they would have raised had they remained in their native lands."

I called Miss Addams' attention to the fact that several women of New York's Four Hundred are joining the suffrage movement. I mentioned the names of some of the most prominent women in New York's society as having taken up the cause of suffrage. Miss Addams made no reply until the name of Mrs. Clarence Mackay was mentioned.

Praises Mrs. Mackay.

"I believe Mrs. Mackay is sincere," she said, but as to the other names she made no comment.

"Of course," she added, "there are some women in the movement who take it for a smart fad. I do not think the faddist hurts the movement. The sensible woman who is going into politics must understand that she will be compelled to mix with all sorts of people. New York is leading in the suffrage movement. There is more enthusiasm there. While we have a very healthy condition here, our national officers are there, which makes for greater interests, and again more prominent women are joining the fight in New York than in any place else. I don't mean the faddists."

"Why are the majority of men opposed to women suffrage?" I asked.

"I don't think men are against it for any other reason than for the sake of tradition. It is their ideas that the feminine voice was not intended to be heard in the affairs of state. On the other hand, there are a great many men who are broad enough to see the good that would result for the people as a whole. What proportion of men is for or against suffrage there is no way of telling. We have a man's equal suffrage league here in Chicago and there are others all over the country."

Uplifting the World.

Then Miss Addams turned again to the question, "Is the world growing better?"

"You have no idea," she said, "what sanitary and clean tenements mean toward uplifting the poor and vicious. Give people clean homes, pure air, well cooked food, and they will have pure minds and bodies. They will become interested in educating themselves, and in providing for themselves.

"Here in Chicago's Ghetto we have taught the mothers how to keep house and cook. The result has been that they have raised healthy children [page 4] and that these children are growing into healthy men and women. They are strong enough to work, and they get real wages for doing so. This adds to the prosperity of the community, creates ambition in the individual and tends toward making vice loathsome.

"New York is setting an example to the world with its tenement house awakening. What New York needs now is more and better parks, where the poor can get fresh air and find innocent amusement. New York's rich men are beginning to see this, and they are seeing it intelligently.

"The agitation carried on through the newspapers of the conditions under which the poor have been forced to live has awakened the rich to their obligations. I know of several wealthy men in New York who are taking an interest in this phase of the case, and their interest will arouse the same feeling in others."

Labor Conditions Better.

"Don't you think present labor conditions are tending toward the betterment of the world?" I asked Miss Addams.

"I most assuredly do," she replied. "The hours of work are growing shorter, and the time will soon come when no one will be compelled to labor more than eight hours a day. This is enough. All of our employers are beginning to see this fact and realize that it works toward mutual benefit. Our public schools are doing much toward stamping out vice and increasing the earning capacity of those who attend them. An intelligent man in any position, no matter how menial, is better than one who is not.

"You educate a child and vice becomes repulsive. The good becomes beautiful. All of our big cities, more especially New York and Chicago, are seeing to it that children are being given the opportunity of attending school.

"Then, again, the Church seems to be growing more liberal. What we need is a religion that will be attractive, one that will extend to all mankind. We are gradually becoming more tolerant. We are having more sympathy for the unfortunate."

Those Who Aid the Work.

"What are the settlement workers and sociologists doing for the poor?" I suggested.

"More than you think. These settlement [centers] radiate good cheer and extend a helping hand to the poor. We teach them how to help themselves. After all, this is the real keynote of the uplift movement -- teach the poor to help themselves. The rich men of the country are aiding in doing this.

"One of the elements that is doing as much as any other factor in bettering the world is the modern newspaper. The newspapers are exposing rotten conditions in high places. They are making politics purer by exposing the corrupt political boss and showing the people what is to their interest in the selection of public officers.

"The newspapers also expose the financial criminal, and by so doing place our business affairs on a better financial basis. The newspapers also aid in bettering labor conditions, and thereby aid the workers. Every little human-interest story that is published makes the world better, makes it happier. It brings the classes and the masses closer together and creates a sympathy between all. The real newspaper also makes vice hideous and helps to stamp it out."

Other Agencies for Good.

I then suggested to Miss Addams that perhaps modern inventions were doing much toward bettering the world. [page 5] "So they are," she replied. "But I hardly thought of that. You know that the railroads, the telegraph, the telephone lines are bringing communities closer together, and by so doing the people have learned more of the good than the bad. Modern means of communication have extended civilization and afforded a means of carrying the light into dark places. Inventions have also made work easier and aided in the happiness of all classes by giving them more time in which to enjoy themselves.

"I almost forgot to say that modern forms of amusement are tending to make for improvement. Of course we have the bad play and other improper forms of amusement, but these are in the minority. People are more and more coming to love the out of doors. Education in our schools is teaching them to appreciate only the cleaner forms of amusement and sport."

I then asked Miss Addams if she didn't think it advisable to encourage the poor of the cities in migrating to the country, a sort of "back to the farm" movement, as it were.

Cities Must Have Workers.

"This is a condition that will quickly adjust itself," she replied. "The cities have got to have workers as well as the country, and when our [centers] of trade become overcrowded those who are compelled to work quickly find an outlet for their energies."

Here Miss Addams looked at the clock and declared that she had already talked longer than she had expected and that she was then due at the commencement exercises of one of her [settlement] schools.

"You may say to your kind readers," she said, in parting, "that I believe the world is growing better, that it will continue to grow better, and that many elements beside those I have enumerated are aiding in the stamping out of vice and the advance of civilization."

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