Address to the University Settlement of New York, December 7, 1911

REEL 47_0075.jpg
REEL 47_0076.jpg
REEL 47_0077.jpg

MISS ADDAMS. Ladies and Gentlemen: (Tremendous applause). It is a very great pleasure to come to New York to help celebrate the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the first settlement in America. We feel, of course, that we are all growing old together, and such is the unlovely trait in human nature, that if you must grow old, you like to grow old along with someone else.

The settlement in New York was the pioneer when Dr. Coit came from London full of the new hopes which were so stirring in England between 1880 and 1890, and reached America in their [fullness] perhaps between 1890 and 1900. From the first he found a very eager response among the college men and since that time troops of college men and women have applied at the doors of settlements, and a goodly number of them have given of their ability in such social work as the settlements were able to provide.

Some of us have felt, however, that during the last decade the settlements are not getting their full share of these eager young people who leave the colleges. During the early nineties they used to come and say, "We must do something at once in regard to the social disorder," although later in the nineties we thought they were not quite so eager. They came, early in the next decade, and said, "We want to investigate something," and they seemed to believe that a great deal had [page 2] been accomplished if an investigation were made, a proper monograph written and handed to somebody on their old college faculty. Later, two great movements entered the colleges: One was the missionary movement called the students volunteer movement, I believe, which took to itself a certain type of ardent young persons who formerly came to the Settlement; and the other was the organization among the young Socialists, who went systematically into the colleges and drew into their organization another type of young people who used to come to the Settlement, but who, after they joined the Socialist Part, used to call us "Rose Water for the Plague." So between these two movements, we lost some of our young people; and whereas, in the early nineties we felt as if we had been in the van, as it were, representing the study of social conditions in the newly congested cities of America, in 1910 it came to pass that we were beginning to be looked upon as among the conservative agencies in the community, at least some of the young people felt that we were slow, and were not keeping up with the procession.

As one reviews these twenty-five years, one wonders what it is which has sobered us, if indeed we have been sobered; whether it is only increasing years and weight of buildings and responsibilities, the sort of thing which recently induced a Socialist Mayor to say, "I can not talk of Socialism as easily as I could before I was Mayor" (laughter); or whether it is the sort of thing which inevitably comes when in the words of Dante: "We have learned of life."

When Arnold Toynbee went to live in East London because he was restive under the study of economics, as it was then conducted, one of the witty professors said: "Toynbee has undertaken an impossible task; he is trying to mediate between economics which treats of wealth and poverty itself." The somewhat flippant Oxfordian at least recognized the mediatory spirit of this first undertaking, and it has continued [page 3] with the successive waves of students, both in England and America, who have gone to live in settlements. Some of them have tried to mediate between what they considered the historic and universal cultivation, which civilization calls the best, and the people who have been deprived of it; some of them have tried to mediate between the people who had received too much of the good things of life and those who were deprived of them. In one sense a continuous effort has gone on through one generation of settlement people after another, to bring into the least desirable quarters of the city -- one always stumbles in describing this section -- some of the resources which the more favored quarters of the city possess. In the midst of this long effort at mediation, a new impulse, a new health, a new energy came into the life of the Settlement, when we began to discover in these crowded and less lovely portions of the city, a certain conservation of historic things, of good music, of artistic handicraft, of those subtle resources of settled society, superior, in Chicago at least, to those which the more prosperous quarters could display. When the mediatory mission became valuable in two directions; sometimes we had the pleasure of sending to a musical club in the other part of town, as the musical settlements here do, talented young people who represented not only a higher technique, but a better interpretation of the music they were performing than the young people in the more expensive schools had been able to attain. Sometimes we were able to send into the law schools, and into the universities, young people who held honest convictions as to the improvement of the social order more eagerly and consistently than the student who had dwelt only in pleasant places and had lived only in prosperous surroundings were able to do. So the Settlement, I think, came to regard itself less and less as a bridge across a "gulf," -- that old phrase which we used to use so solemnly twenty-five years ago -- and more and more as a mere [center] from [page 4] which various activities may radiate, to which people from all parts of town and of all classes of beliefs and traditions may come, and consider together this incongruous life of ours which the American city has developed. And we are, I think, much less self-conscious than we used to be. We take ourselves a little more simply. We see some of the social situations as a person born in them does not see them; but we also interpret social conditions as a person who has never lived in those conditions cannot interpret them. We fill, on the whole, a humbler role than we used to think we would attain, but in our age and increasing size we still say, as we did in the early days, that as it was the business of the universities to add to the sum of human knowledge, and the business of the college to preserve and pass on that knowledge, so it was the business of the Settlement to apply existing knowledge to the conditions of life where knowledge was needed most. If in this effort our books and monographs grow a-pace, -- and Mr. Woods has published an appalling list of them -- it may be that we are developing a certain technique of our own and establishing the beginnings of a new profession. Nevertheless, we do not wish the Settlement to become a permanent feature of American cities, unless we can justify it by the test of social efficiency. We beg you to forgive some of the fine phrases that we used in our youth and to judge us on the whole, during these twenty-five years of effort, by the social utility which we have been able to attain. We are, after all, a social institution. We are only secondarily educational, and we throw ourselves upon the judgment of the community solely upon our social achievements. (Applause.)

Item Relations