"The first time I tried to read Addams's adult scrawl, I tearfully despaired of ever deciphering, much less analyzing, her correspondence. The strategy I settled upon for handling this problem was to start back with Addams's childhood writings (and her childhood penmanship) and simply learn to read her hand by sequentially mastering each new idiosyncrasy she acquired over the course of her adolescence and young womanhood. The method worked; by the time I read Addams's hasty notes from Hull-House, I could decode what she was saying. . . . Grasp of her handwriting became a metaphor for comprehending her life."
Victoria Bissell Brown, The Education of Jane Addams (2004), 7.
"Throughout her travels, she kept a writer's notebook, recording the many details caught by her eye, and planned to use the material, as she had done in college, to craft essays after she returned. Her handwriting, in this most private of literary places, is nearly impossible to read (her handwriting was quickly becoming less and less legible, no doubt the mark of a tired hand)."
Katherine Joslin, Jane Addams: A Writer's Life (2004), 38.
"A letter written by Jane Addams to her niece Marcet hangs on one wall, framed behind glass. [Tom] Ennenga tried heroically to transcribe it, but he discovered what every Addams scholar discovers: that her handwriting is atrociously difficult to decipher."
Jean Bethke Elshtain, Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy (2002), 252.
If you are reading this, you have probably already seen Jane Addams' handwriting and felt the same dismay. Believe me, every member of our staff, including the editors, felt the same way.
When designing the digital edition, we knew from the outset that we needed to provide transcriptions if we wanted Addams' writings to be truly accessible to a wide audience.
We have gathered examples of some of Addams' writing, organized alphabetically, to help you get to know her. While you won't necessarily find the exact word you are puzzling over, hopefully seeing a representative sample of her letter formations will help you decipher documents, whether you are a researcher, student transcriber, or volunteer.