Eulogy for Jessie Bross Lloyd, January 22, 1905

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Address by Miss Jane Addams:

I was very glad to come this afternoon and add a word, if I might, to the appreciation and affection which we have all had, and have long had for our dear friend, Mrs. Lloyd, although I find it very difficult to formulate the distinctive feeling which I am sure we all have in our hearts. I suppose the distinctive characteristic, perhaps, of the last generation, is a desire and an ability – a new ability, as it were, to explore, and at the same time to reveal the possibilities of human nature. The great artists, whether in literature, or painting, or music, have almost all been those who were able to make us see something which we did not suspect before in our fellow-men; and something of the same quality, almost a genius, occasionally comes to people who are able to express this through their personal relationships, who are able to reveal in other people that which we ordinary folk cannot see for ourselves, and at the same time to reveal in ourselves, by a certain exploring process, capacities for appreciation which we did not have before. I suppose Mrs. Lloyd, perhaps more than any other citizen of Chicago or its vicinity, had obtained this freedom of the human city. She walked up and down its motley <our> streets, with a wise and tolerant affection. She saw things as they were, and as we would all be able to see them had we her power or even had we cultivated the powers which we might have in that direction.

Perhaps I can illustrate through my own experience and relation with Mrs. Lloyd. I constantly find people for whom I want help. I divide those who are willing to help them, almost unconsciously, into certain categories. There are always physicians who are so accustomed to [page 2] deal with the ills of the human race, with diseases of all sorts, that people who are in need make a certain claim upon them. They think of them quite irrespective of their outward appearance or surroundings, regard them almost impersonally, as it were, and they are willing to do what they can in any given case. I know perhaps four or five physicians, and one or two lawyers, who because they have had much to do with the wretched and the criminal, have obtained this view of life, and take care of the beaten and defeated as though they belonged to them.

But Mrs. Lloyd was almost the only woman I have ever known who had led a sheltered life, who had the sort of surroundings which one is accustomed to associate solely with the comfortable and respectable, and yet who had attained this attitude. There may be many more. I happen to know only Mrs. Lloyd. I recall, almost with remorse now, certain people whom I sent her, because it was so easy to enlist her sympathies, and because she was so eager to do what might be done even when the case (if one chooses to call it a case) seemed utterly worthless and helpless. I remember one woman – perhaps some of you knew about her – whom we sent last winter. We were quite at our wits' end as to what was to be done. She had been given to us by the police with the request that we should keep her until she should be needed as a witness on behalf of the city. We could not hold on to her in town. We thought of various possibilities, and appealed, of course, at last to the kindness of Mrs. Lloyd. This woman was not even repentant. She committed a theft, not against Mrs. Lloyd, but against a poor woman in the village to whose house she had gone and who had tried to befriend her. Perhaps the entire circumstance was as exasperating, as ungrateful, as any set of circumstances could well be imagined to be, and yet, in commenting upon the difficulty of the situation, and our apparent failure for the moment, there was not one word of blame in Mrs. Lloyd's mind – not only not a word of blame toward the woman, [page 3] but not a word of blame towards us, whose judgement had so sadly failed; no reproach because of our remissness in having sent this difficult person to one who was in such deep sorrow and suffering from nervous debility.

There are only a few people in the world to whom we do not need to apologize all of the time when we ask their help for wretched people. We get the feeling almost, as if we had created the wretched people – as if they belonged to us because we knew them – as if, when we asked some one outside of their natural entourage to help them, that we must explain and apologize all of the way. There was never a bit of that with Mrs. Lloyd. We felt that she belonged to all of us together; Mrs. Lloyd had a sheltered home where she could keep her; she was willing to watch her and to help her. If it turned out badly, or ungraciously, or even if it turned out ungratefully, why, then it did, and no one was to blame and no one was to be reproached. I give this little incident to show, perhaps better than I could tell in any other way, that quality, which I am sure we have all seen under less trying circumstances – her determination never to sink into the merely narrow and conventional relation with anyone, even the most wretched.

I remembered the first time she invited the girls from Marshall Field's to her house. I ask her how she came to do it. She said, quite simply, "Because I know many of the girls, having shopped at Field's for so long, and I am unwilling to buy goods from people and not establish some kind of relation with them." She had that attitude, as we know, towards all the people with whom she came in contact, and it is perhaps a new creative force in human affairs – this unwillingness to clip our relations – this determination that they shall contain within themselves all that is possible; that they shall unfold to us something of the beauty and power of human nature, even when it is housed in a narrow form, or possibly in a diseased and [page 4] hideous form. I imagine that if we could all cultivate this capacity, the world would very quickly have a new interest for us, we would developed new capacities, and the little lines upon which we are so apt to divide our human intercourse, would fall away, and we would find ourselves going up and down the path of life with renewed pleasure and renewed interests. Mrs. Lloyd, perhaps more than any one whom those of us in this room have ever known, used that power. She used to talk of the early days and her enthusiasms in the anti-slavery period and those wonderful discussions preceding the civil war; the excitement that she felt when the condition of slavery, which was as old as the recorded acts of the human race, was about to fall, was about to give way in its last stronghold among civilized people. Her attitude toward that typified her keen interest in world-wide events. But she did not drop that interest – as many other people did who participated in the same great struggle, when the immediate object had been attained. During the period of reconstruction and in the midst of the difficulties which followed reconstruction, it was easy for the heroic mood to pass away. I remember that Mrs. Lloyd told me – I can almost hear her now – that she tried to buckle on that heroic armor, and to keep it in her relations with people who represented the enslaved race, to transfer it to people who, to her mind, represented the newer slavery – not so harsh, not so wretched – but the conditions which many of her husband's friends called the "economic slavery." She held to the determination that if that old evil had been met by the men of her time, and if they had won out because of their ideals, then when we recognized a new evil growing up in our midst, that it lay with us to be alert in regard to it. Let us not prejudge it; but let us know about it, let us find out how far it is true. And we can only find out through personal acquaintance; through conversation, through every sympathetic source of information, and through a spreading out of our relationships among the class who are supposed to represent less of [page 5] privilege and less of social advantage. It is said that the heroes of the present century are yet unborn, because we do not even yet know what we must be heroic about. The evil, whatever it is, which may later prove to be the matter with this century, is so inter-dependent and as yet intangible, that it is hard to perceive it; and to try and right an evil before one has perceived it is perhaps to commit the greatest of social blunders. And so, with all our hearts, let us give Mrs. Lloyd the credit for this: that she constantly tried to see wherein lay the social wrong, that she tried to understand it, as one human being only through affection can understand another human being; that she used her hospitality, that she used her sympathies, that she used this power of friendship, to reveal the wrongs in the social order, and, so far as her personal relation went, to set them right. It is often said that there is at present a world-wide attempt to understand social mal-adjustment and the underlying causes of poverty – an attempt which take various forms. One form is the determination to do away with disease; the belief is springing up everywhere that certain types of diseases are the result of underfeeding and bad housing, and can be permanently abolished. Another form is the protecting of children, so that they may have their chance of growth and education and power. Another attempt is to do away at least with those primal causes of social mal-adjustment which arise when certain men of the community are habitually underpaid, and therefore underfed. Let us with all generosity and sincerity say, that anyone who possessed the genius for social intercourse and the sympathetic understanding which Mrs. Lloyd possessed, gave to the social situation the very thing which it most needs in these lines of contemporaneous effort. She simply put at the service of all her fellow men with whom she came in contact – this great power. She made a persistent effort to understand and to help people, not merely because she was of kindly nature, not because it was easier to be pleasant than not to be pleasant, but because she had a [page 6] conscience as to the direction in which she used this power; because she knew that this revealing capacity of hers might add something to a direct and sympathetic understanding of the situation under which we are all, at least at times, uncomfortable.

I am afraid I have not clearly said what I meant to say. I always find it difficult to speak of Mrs. Lloyd and to formulate the thing for which she stood to my mind. I could perhaps illustrate it more by personal experience, but I am sure you, her old neighbors, can fill out better than I can. I can only hope that what I have said may formulate for some of us an appreciation of her dominating characteristics.

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