Immigrant Woman As She Adjusts Herself to American Life, June 10, 1914 (excerpt)


Tells "Devil Child" Story

The devil child of Hull House, the mythical baby that upsets the West Side neighborhood a short time ago, was used [today] by Jane Addams as an example of the working of the minds of foreign women in this country. Her address before the Federation of Women's Clubs was on the adjustment of the immigrant woman to American life.

"The fairy tale has been declared the invention of woman back in the primitive days," said Miss Addams. "She concocted it that she might hold men to her as mate. In the fairy tales you find much of moral law. The ugly girl is more than apt to be at last the heroine. The beautiful girl often ofttimes had the vixenish temper.

Tells of Devil Child.

"Such a tale was the story of the devil child of Hull House. For two weeks we were bothered with questions regarding the devil child we were sheltering. Everybody knew it had hoofs, pointed ears and a tail. Hundreds and hundreds [asked] about the little one. The story started probably with the birth of a deformed child in the neighborhood. This is as close as the detectives we sent out ever got to a true solution.

"Then there sprang up a number of versions. The Italian version was that a pious girl had married an atheist, who tore down religious pictures in their home and said:

"'I would as soon have a devil in my home as such pictures.' The devil child was supposed to have come as his punishment.

"The Jewish version was that a father became angered at the arrival of seven daughters to his home and said, 'I would as soon have a devil here as another girl,' and the devil child was his punishment.

"There were other stories. Hundreds of girls called on us and wrote to us. They said they heard if they went to dance balls with strange young men or otherwise misbehaved they would become the mothers of devil children. They were anxious to learn, you see, but they have not been given the opportunity.

Immigrants Need Help.

The immigrant, even when they have risen to the point where they can move into more prosperous neighborhoods and find rest for their toll-hardened hands, does not receive her due amount of help from such women as compose this convention.

"They are allowed to associate with vulgar types. They are allowed to pick up vulgar notions of dress and deportment. Instead of simple and beautiful, they are led to the tawdry.

"The foreign woman comes here with a knowledge of the beautiful in music, in art, in literature, that is part of their heritage in their native countries. It is knowledge that we do not have except after the education such as we can get through our clubs. We should have the interests of the immigrant woman nearer our hearts."