Jessie Goldner to Jane Addams, February 28, 1906

Preston Springs
Feb. 28th/06
Miss Jane Addams
Hull House Chicago.

Dear Miss Addams,

I have been reading your article on Fifteen years at Hull House in the Ladies' Home Journal and it has so interested me that I feel compelled to write you, and tell you something of myself, and what I would like to do with my life. I do not know just what your work is, but I gather that you are trying to help others socially & educationally and to my mind it seems to me that your method is the best I have heard [or] read of.

I have often said if I had money, I should found a home for the homeless where they could come in emergencies in convalescence when there would be no other place open, while trying to get [page 2] work or in any situation where a helping hand was needed.

All my life I have longed passionately to help. There are so many lovely lives lost because at a critical moment, there was no one's help, no money & no friends.

I have passed [through] an experience that has made ↑me↓ realize this even more intensely. I came to Toronto about eight years ago to make my living. I knew very few people, and was very deaf & not very strong, [though] I appeared to be.  Fortunately I had a little money and a dearly-loved and most generous uncle whom I have just lost in a most pathetic way. If it had not been for that I should have been a prey to discouragement many a time and might not have succeeded.

I have some good qualities but I also [page 3] have some very grave faults, one of which is lack of reserve. I am much too outspoken (naturally) and also too talkative & it has taken these eight years for one to learn to curb these faults. I am a dressmaker & also [sew] the [illegible]. I am now in a good position & have a number of very good customers but my life is empty. It is simply working earning sufficient for the day, and living on with nothing further than that to look forward to. If it were not that I am a great lover of books, I would be a very lonely woman, but that is the bright thing in an otherwise monotonous existence & when I read Browning Tennyson Dickens, Mrs Ward & all the other great ones, I live.

Now I do not mean that I am not happy, and am searching for happiness I mean that [though] I know I am useful [page 4]  to a certain number of people, that my book is satisfactory, and I am doing my best at it, yet I feel that I ought to be doing a more useful work. I have brains and originality and it would only be much modesty not to know that I am, more clever and have better business ability than the average woman. I have often been urged to become a Deaconess or a missionary, but I feel satisfied that I would be a failure as either one or the other, principally because I cannot subscribe to any of the various creeds or beliefs.

Religion to me is summed up in the words. Love, work, duty, usefulness, honesty, integrity. To me "Love is the fulfilling of the Law", and I believe that if one can help others through our love for humanity to a better opportunity of life in all the [page 5] deep meaning of that wonderful word. If we can teach someone to use her hands or mind to be independent of charity & help to train others to become useful citizens, we will be doing a high and noble duty, whatever line our instructions may take.

Now I am 40 years old so this is not a young girl's impulse, and I know what life means and its temptations and struggles and sorrows.

I am a good dressmaker, and I could train girls to be clever sewers and prepare them for the same work as I do myself, but I have not independent means, nor opportunity to try anything of my own. I am still deaf, but not as bad as I have been, and dressmaking is taught more by demonstration than speech.

Do you think I could be of any use at Hull house? Will you write soon [page 6] and let me know what you think of it, somehow I feel all of this were what I have so long waited & wished for. My friends have often urged me "go to the states to work, but I have steadily refused to think of it, as it would mean another fight for a connection, and I have not quite the courage enough for that. I have grown to feel that Toronto is my home and have made many friends there, also my three sisters live there. Just now I am at Preston Springs taking a ten days rest, to prepare for my spring work, which begins immediately on [my] return at the end of this week.

As I say I would not go away to start over again, but, if I went to such a place as Hull house I would have a home & my work would be straight & plain, and I should feel that I might now be really making a good use of my talents,
[page 7] and that I would not now an unprofitable servant.

My customers are all people who have plenty of means, and they have plenty of good clothes and it often makes my head ache when they talk of needing this, that, & the other, and I think of the multitude who are starving and scarcely covered, with ragged, wretched clothes, and of the many who with just a little help could become useful members of society, but for lack of it must sink down to pauperism or semi-pauperism or lives of sin and crime. Now you have a pretty good idea of my attitude of mind, and I will hope to hear from you, as to what you think, of course I am sure you are very busy, but do not think you will overlook me, Yours Sincerely

Jessie Goldner

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