Speech to the American League of Civic Improvement, September, 24, 1902 (excerpt)





Notable Men and Women in Work of Civic Improvement Gather in Club Parlor -- Prelate Praises Work of Organization -- Miss Addams Urges Use of Raw Material.

"In our schools so much stress is put upon the importance of teaching foreign children to speak the English language that they become ashamed of their parents because they can't speak English," said Miss Jane Addams, of Hull House, Chicago, at the reception tendered by the Commercial club last evening to the American League of Civic Improvement.

Archbishop Ireland, who spoke after Miss Addams, warmly commended the work of the league. Said the archbishop:

"You are, ladies and gentlemen, engaged [page 2] in a sublime work, and you are sure to succeed. Every human soul is susceptible to [beauty]. All you have to do is to touch those fibers that will respond and hold up the ideals steadily."

The spacious parlor of the commercial club never presented a more attractive appearance than it did upon this occasion. It was tastefully decorated with palms, sumach leaves, scarlet salvia and masses of hydrangeas and asters. The mirrors were trimmed with woodbine leaves and berries. The floral decorations were under the direction of Mrs. E. H. Bailey.

The guests began to arrive shortly after 8 o'clock. In less than an hour the parlor was well filled.

Notables in the Line.

Instead of forming the regulation line to receive the guests, the reception committee was divided into three groups. These groups comprised not only the members of the Woman's Civic league of St. Paul, but also included a number of the visiting delegates. Mrs. Russell R. Dorr, the chairman of the entertainment, was the busiest woman of all.

In the first reception group stood Mr. and Mrs. H. Stanley Wood, Archbishop Ireland, President H. A. Boardman, of the Commercial club, Prof. Charles [Zueblin], president of the American league; Miss Jane Addams and Mrs. Conde Hamlin.

In other groups were Mr. and Mrs. W. G. White, Mrs. W. E. Rogers, Mrs. [page 3] C. A. Clark, Frank C. Bray, Mrs. Archibald MacLaren and Mrs. J. N. Jackson, Mrs. J. H. Edgerton, Mrs. E. H. Bailey, Miss Ellen Wheelock, Mrs. Charles H. Clark, Judge and Mrs. Slabaugh, of Omaha; Mrs. Turner, of Dallas, Tex.; Mrs. Henry Nichols, Mrs. A. P. Moss, Mrs. H. C. Sachse, Mrs. D. A. Watson, Mrs. Ramaley, Mrs. V. J. Hawkins and Mrs. James Gilfillan.

After an hour of pleasant social intercourse, to the accompaniment of an orchestra stationed in the adjoining library, President Boardman stepped upon the rostrum in the corner of the room and formally welcomed the guests on behalf of the club, after which he introduced Prof. [Zueblin].

Prof. [Zueblin] said that he was impressed by the excess of the hospitality he had encountered in St. Paul, the hospitality of the men of this city and likewise the hospitality of the women composing the Woman's Civic league.

"Indeed," continued Prof. [Zueblin], "you have presented us with an embarrassment of hospitality. I heartily thank you on behalf of the league."

Utilize the Naturally Picturesque.

Miss Addams was greeted with applause as she stepped to the rostrum. She launched her subject without any circumlocution. "There is a splendid chance," said Miss Addams, "to make American cities much more picturesque than they are, and one of the means of accomplishing it is to utilize the foreign population."

Miss Addams then proceeded to entertain her hearers with a most instructive and interesting account of the work accomplished in Chicago among the Italian, Greek and Russian colonies in that city. She told of their native appreciation of the beautiful in nature and art. This was notably true of the Italians who, when allowed to express themselves, manifested a desire to beautify their homes. The trouble was they were cribbed. The same thing was true of the Greeks and Russians.

"The thing for us to do," continued Miss Addams, "is to rescue some of the industrial art of these peasant Greeks and Italians. If we could wake up our imagination we would see that we have a treasure at our feet. All that is needed is to illuminate the common things of life with the beauty that is inherent in them.

"In our schools so much stress is put upon the importance of teaching the foreign children to speak the English language that they become ashamed of their parents because they can't speak English."

Miss Addams said it was important to impress upon the immigrants to this country the necessity of bringing the best with them from their European homes.

"Among your Scandinavians I'm sure you could recover some of the beauties of Norway and Sweden. But when these European peasants land upon our shores we strip them of all their native charm. We should meet them half way."

Prof. [Zueblin] then called upon Mrs. Florence Kelley, secretary of the National Consumer's League of New York City.

"You'd better not," responded Mrs. Kelley, "for I have some disagreeable things to say."

They Go to the Sweat Shops.

But all insisted on hearing what Mrs. Kelley had to say and she yielded.

"In New York City," said Mrs. Kelley, "we get the immigrants first, and sift them for you. We keep the worst and they go live in the slums. There they become ill of infectious diseases, and the clothes they make are sold to you. I have heretofore begged the people of the Twin Cities to buy goods made here. We can't reform our tenement house conditions in the East."

Archbishop Ireland gallantly prefaced his remarks with the observation that if the fair ladies comprising the league would only remain in St. Paul the city would be beautiful.

"There is need of such a movement as you have inaugurated in America," said Archbishop Ireland. "This is a new country. We've had to carve our way through the forests, to build roofs over our heads, and we have had little time to lift ourselves into the ethereal and draw down inspiration to beautify our cities. But we are rapidly emerging from that primitive state. We are a new people, but nevertheless a people of ideals. Only give us a little time."

Mirror of the Divine.

"The beautiful is the mirror of the divine. Whatever is beautiful lifts us up and inspires the soul. It triumphs over the material body. It reveals to [page 4] the inhabitants something higher, better and elevating.

"Let us do our best to have our streets clean and to make our parks beauty spots. Let us encourage our people to make their little plots of ground beautiful.

"Ten years hence I am sure you will see a more beautiful city here, for nature has greatly favored us -- and we have a park board.

"You are, ladies and gentlemen, engaged in a sublime work and you are sure to succeed. Every human soul is susceptible to beauty. All you have to do is to touch those fibers that respond and hold up the ideals steadily.

"Too often our schools are mere places for the recital of the multiplication table. All our people should be given an opportunity to show forth a sense of the beautiful. Ladies and gentlemen, your mission is really beautiful."

C. M. Loring, the father of the Minneapolis park system, spoke briefly of the good work done there in inspiring the school children to beautify the public school yards. Eight or ten of them had already been improved by the children themselves, the incentive being prizes for the most effective work. Mr. Loring said that he had noted that in many schools the love of beauty had been crushed out of the child.

Prof. [Green], of the state agricultural school, was the last speaker. He said the institution was the most successful of its kind in the land. It had already graduated 650 bright young men and women.

At the conclusion of the [program] of addresses refreshments were served in the club's main dining room.

[Program] for Today.

The evening session was taken up with two papers, one by Col. James Kilbourne, president and general manager of the Kilbourne & Jacobs Manufacturing Company, of Columbus, Ohio, on "Some Phases of the Labor Problem," and the other by William H. Tolman, secretary of the League for Social Service, of New York.

Col. Kilbourne said that he had been an employer of labor for thirty years, and had avoided any labor troubles by applying the golden rule to his dealings with his men.

Charles Zueblin, associate professor of Sociology University of Chicago, will lecture at the morning session on "The Relation of the Public to Capital and Labor." W. W. McEwen, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota Federation of Labor, will speak on the "Future Relations of Labor and Capital." The evening session will be devoted to the formation of a permanent organization and the transaction of other business. [page 5]