Address to B'rith Kodesh Temple, March 18, 1902 (excerpt)





How the Poor of Chicago Are Helped in Social Ways. Methods Employed to Reach Them and the Resulting Benefits Described. 

A large audience gathered at Berith Kodesh Temple last night to hear Miss Jane Addams, founder and head of Hull House social settlement of Chicago, tell of settlement work. Miss Addams was presented very briefly by Mrs. W. C. Gannett, acting president of the Woman's Union, under whose auspices the lecture was given.  

Without entering closely into details of settlement work, Miss Addams placed the work in a personal light, as it were, and on the higher plane of giving and receiving benefit. She has a magnetic personality and is an easy and fluent speaker. One does not have to listen to her long to understand why she has been so successful in the line of work which she has chosen. 

She began with a brief reference to the history of settlement work, which had its origin in East London, by a clergyman, Cannon Barnett, who was elected to go among the tenements and live with their people to give of the richness of his own life to their needs. It was a professor of Oxford University, Arnold Toynbee, who assisted him, and who suggested to some of his students that they should follow the example of the clergyman, asking them why they did not go and live among the people of East London. Several of them decided they would do so. Miss Addams said anyone might have done the things they did. They lived comfortably in a large house, but the East Side felt the influence of their presence. From this small beginning the idea of settlement work spread, and was taken up by other university students. 

Hull House was opened thirteen years ago, in a very small way, by taking an old mansion in the nineteenth ward, which had been used for shops, and converting it into a place to live. The idea of all settlement work is to maintain the same standard of living, whether it be in the tenement districts or in one's natural environment.  

Miss Addams spoke of the difficulty of stirring the people to a thirst for knowledge. They have tried at Hull House a little labor museum to bring more closely home to the people the thought of the connection of their lives with the past and the present. 

"We are trying to connect the man in a historical way with the man who handles the machine," she said. "If you get at the history of facts you have a way of getting at these people to arouse their interest." 

Then Miss Addams told about the Shakespeare Club, and the interest which the drama and plays have for the people of the neighborhood. 

"Many of you know of the Chicago Commons," she said. "It is a settlement started later than Hull House, and between the two the greatest good feeling exist. Their activities have taken the lines of educational experiments. They are endeavoring to take the stress out of the industrial arts and to put more beauty into them. A man has a right to a knowledge of what he is making. He has a right to a complete knowledge of the completed thing and not one little part of it. Though he make only a rivet, he should have some conception of the finished product and its place in the greater world.  

"The thought carried out in teaching manual training, cooking, sewing, weaving, etc., is to relate the work to the general product. They want things on a large and generous [program]. We have taught the history of the world in a course of lectures. They want the large conception of life that reaches out beyond them.  

"In dealing with the physical side, one sees the need of constant recreation. Those who work long hours, having little leisure to enjoy social pleasures, prize that leisure the more keenly. People who insist that larger leisure for working people would simply mean that they would have more time to spend in the saloons, don't know what they are talking about. 

"We have a large piece of ground at Hull House which is used as a [playground], with athletic sports. In the winter it is flooded for skating and we hold ice carnivals in which the different nationalities compete with one another. In the gymnasium we have dances and sports, and the life of the workingman comes up at once when some rational recreation is provided for him. It makes the greatest difference when the children have been to the kindergarten, about planning organized play. This old tale about the saloons has been told again and again. Many hours are spent in the saloon halls because there is no other place available. There is nothing so bad about these saloon halls, except that those who use them are expected to patronize the saloons. A young man will have his wedding party there, and in the exuberance of his pleasure and social instinct he is tempted to spend money.  

"We have a concert hall which we rent for family festivities. If the young man who lives in the tenement house wants a wedding party he can have it. The people love banquets, even if they cost only 10 or 15 cents a plate, and why shouldn't they, and why shouldn't they have them?" 

Miss Addams spoke about girls who have been carefully trained who make the attempt to meet the masses, but find they cannot adjust themselves to the people. They meet them and attempt to exchange the familiar social signals, but find there is no response, and the girls begin to feel they cannot get on without them. "These girls have not learned that social culture means higher power of adaptability," said Miss Addams.  

Speaking of Hull House, Miss Addams said there are now six buildings belonging to the settlement, with an average attendance of between 5,000 and 6,000 weekly during the winter. 

'"If you ask if we have transformed the neighborhood," she said, "I would say there is little change to be observed; it looks much the same as it has. There are thirteen settlements in Chicago, all working in harmony, and there is room for a great deal of effort." 

Miss Addams asked her audience if there were any who wished to ask questions. This brought out information on many points of interest to various people. One asked about the Woman's Club, and the speaker said it was formed ten years ago of the more intelligent and better-cared-for women of the neighborhood. They began with self-culture, but growing tired of this they looked about for something to do. They found work in decorating the schools with pictures and they formed little parties to clean up the ward. They walked down the alleys and looked into back yards, and reported to the city hall. After three years the alleys were cleaned up, and now were cleaner than many of the streets, They also have fresh-air parties, and they find out the most forlorn women, Italians who perhaps have never been off their own streets, and take them for long drives on the omnibus. 

Miss Addams told briefly, in answer to questions, of the club for girls which includes the young men, for she thought it is in their social relations with the young men that they need help and advice; of the thirty girls' gymnasium club where they keep house together for $3 weekly. She told of dancing at Hull House which is conducted properly under a dancing master; of the Men's Club, a remarkable organization that gives a ball each month and where the highest standards of conduct are enforced. 

At the close of the lecture many were presented to Miss Addams. Mrs. Max Landsberg gave a luncheon of ten covers yesterday in honor of Miss Addams.