Anonymous to Jane Addams, March 13, 1911


Chicago March 18 1911.

Miss Jane Addams

Respected Madam.

Will you kindly bear with me for again addressing you about the child actor I am very anxious to see and know that no child shall be allowed to appear on the Stage. Owing to circumstances I have nearly all my life known theatrical people and think I can enlighten you on some causes that why parents send [their] children on the stage. So shall tell some of my own personal knowledge. About twenty five years ago we knew a family. (And still know them.) Man and Wife and two children. The man got $35.00 a week. Fair wages in those days. The eldest child a girl was eight years old. The other a boy two years younger. In those days people could send [their] children where and when they liked to work. And there was great demand for children for the Stage. [page 2] The little girl was a very bright child. Then came the old story of the crafty theatrical managers flattery. Picturing a great future for these children. And weak ambitious greedy parents. They were told what a star the girl would become and the boy a genius. We shall see. The eight year old girl went with, I think, [Modjeska]. I am not sure. Her mother traveled with her the first season. I was told the child got $25.00 a week. The next season the mother did not go along. Then the child was to get $15.00 a week. The boy was then 7 years old. He was started out at $12.00 a week. They learned to read and write the best they could. In about three years they were prematurely old.

The airs and self importance of them children showed was enough <to> cause anyone to condemn that model of life for any young person. Children to know how to order and [for] bell boys and maids and be up to date in hotel life and dressing room talk seems like throwing them to destruction. It makes no difference how legitimate the play. The danger is great and destroys the innocence of childhood. [page 3] At the time the child labor law was introduced, this young girl was the legal age. Her health began to give way. Almost constant travel <and> irregular living was wrecking the nerves of both. So they were kept home awhile. That did not pay. [Their] ambitious greedy parents missed the money. So engagements were secured again for them. Again the girl had to go home owing to worn out nerves. So the rosy future for them did not materialize. They still are on the stage earning a very poor living. The girls several times told me she wished she could work at something else. I offered to give her a home while learning anything else. And also was willing to pay 6 months tuition at clerical work & she said I could not get up and go out to work in the morning. There is many more sad things that I shall leave untold. Except the father had built such high hopes on the ability of his children making a fortune that he has the worst disease of all ([Laziness]) and [page 4] both he and his wife are likely to become Charges of the County. This is only one of the many cases I know of. Is it not offensive to hear managers like Will J Davis arguing for the Child Actor to uplift the drama. How about uplifting the child. Not on the stage. All the manager  <interest> has lies in the receipts at the box office. The child actor's life is an unnatural life. Bad has the factory is it cannot equal the stage in danger. What class of people allow [their] children to go on the stage. The very poor. No. It is the fairly well to do middle class. The indifferent mothers who reek with vain ambition and are willing to sacrifice innocent childhood to gain it. Add to that the wonders of these promising youngsters uttered by suave theatrical managers and you <have> the sequel. It is [deceit] and money all through. Are we to allow such people to do as they please with children. No. [page 5] Let every true man and woman lift a voice to down this evil close the stage door to the child actor. It would be well if the front door of [theaters] was closed to many who go. I personally never liked a play in which a child took part. The unnaturalness always grated me. What method is used with the child actor. [I'll] tell you. They are petted and [coted?] and cajoled. If that don't work they are [threatened] and often shaken till they leave [their] part and get the correct pose.

Slavery was no worse.

Is the allowing of children on the stage the teaching of Christ. We do not read that He ever said they should go there or be hired out. He said suffer the little one to come unto me. And forbid them not. [Of] such is the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet [page 6] recently I was told of an Episcopal Clergyman in an adjoining State boasting of allowing his young children to go on the stage. Is this [spirit] to be fostered are children to be marketed to the highest bidder. It has been done in the past. Let us see that it is not allowed in the present or future. I sincerely believe God has appointed you with the aid of your C. workers to suppress this great evil. Have the child labor bill amended that the money grabbing theatrical managers must find other ways to fill [their] houses. Compel them to close the stage door to the child actor. If a child must work there are many ways and things open for them which leads to a honest living in the future. The present wage will not be as much, but the prospect is much safer.

Let this child actor <law> be fought to a finish all over this fair land. That in the future we shall <not> look on prematurely old painted young women.

May God give you Courage and Strength to Win.

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