Speech to the South Side League of Parents' Clubs Reunion, February 23, 1902 (excerpt)

School Halls to be Social Centers, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 24, 1902, p. 3..jpg




"Our Contempt for Human Nature Comes From Uncultivation," Declared One Speaker.

CHICAGO, Feb. 24. -- "Give the people of Chicago, or any other great city, a chance to bathe in community life and a revelation in the social conditions will be brought about," said Jane Addams last night at the reunion of South Side League of Parents' Clubs in the Normal Practice School hall in Stewart Avenue and Sixty-ninth Street.

"Neighborhood social centers will do much to reveal one neighbor to another," she went on. "In other words it means the pooling of lives. The contempt we have for human nature mainly comes from uncultivation. There is a vast amount of experience and knowledge floating about and it is the drawing out of this that is brought about in these gatherings brought for mutual benefit.

"The use of the school buildings as the headquarters for social centers cannot be too highly commended, and the bringing of people together will soon melt their reserve and cause them to exchange confidences to their mutual interests. Let out human nature in an exchange of ideas and confidences and you will have wonderful results."

"Let us throw the auditoriums and rooms of the school buildings in Chicago open to the people who own them for neighborhood social centers," said [Trustee] Gallagher of the school board. "These centers have great merit as bringing about sociological betterment. It means happy homes to many that are not happy, and knowledge and education to many more.

"In Chicago there are 122 schools with assembly halls that could be used as social centers for the elevation, social advancement, education and amusement of the people. The time is not far distant when this plan of neighborhood centers in every part of Chicago will be a reality."

Englewood was called the "educational hub of Chicago" by Mrs. William Heffron, president of the league, in her address of welcome to the large audience. She said that the league of school clubs was doing effective work in bringing about a [cooperation] between the home and the school, and in establishing closer relations between parents and teachers. She added that it was virtually an education trust that was already "paying dividends."

"The board of education this week has granted a concession in the free use of schoolrooms for boys' clubs after school hours," said Rev. R. A. White, who presided at the meeting, "and a minimum charge for the auditoriums when they do not have to be heated especially for the occasion. The day is not far distant, however, when the people will be allowed the free use of all school property under proper rules and restrictions. This condition will come when the revenues of the city are greater than at present."

Addresses were also made by Alderman Harry F. Eidmann, Dr. Arnold [Tompkins] and Walter A. Payne, secretary of the extension work of the University of Chicago, heartily [endorsing] the neighborhood center proposition.