Address to the Chicago Woman's Club, November 11, 1903



Members of Chicago Club Would Shun Her Last Week, but Now They Would Forgive Her.


Epigrammatic Definition of What a Reformer Must Be -- Men Declared to Be Unable to Do Rescue Work Among the Unfortunates.

The woman reformer must be an iconoclast, a radical, a fanatic, a worker, a meddler, something of a fool and a good deal of an angel, a stayer, obstinate, reasonable, unselfish, single minded, practical, visionary, persuasive, a student, a thinker, a lover, either possessing or able to influence money, and having time "to burn."

This is a definition given by Mrs. Mary R. Plummer at the Chicago Woman's club yesterday. Mrs. Plummer spoke on "Woman's Place in Reform," and other women of the club discussed the same subject, especially as to "Chicago reform" and its relation to Chicago women.

"The purity crusade now going on is only a city hall spasm," declared Miss Jane Addams, reformer. "The work of this crusade will die unless we women come forward and make this reform general. Who in Chicago is better fitted to make the investigations in regard to the women, to study their conditions, and to do it thoroughly, than the women of the clubs?

"Men cannot carry on this work among the unfortunate women of the city without the women, and it is only fair that the public spirited women should come to the aid of the repentant women who need them."

Women Change Their Minds.

Miss Addams' impromptu talk stirred the women as all of the essays and talks that preceded her had failed to do, and the women of the club, who last week were ready to draw in their skirts when passing an unfortunate [woman] "with a past," and who were ready to ignore Mrs. Leslie Carter and "Du Barry," were yesterday pledging themselves to go out among the women of the [underworld] to find them and clasp them to the bosoms.

The Woman's club had a fierce problem to struggle with, and it did it nobly. It was the problem that for centuries has agitated the minds of both sexes, philosophers, and society queens: Whether a woman who has sinned is to be forgiven. The general verdict of yesterday was that she should.

"Christ set the same standard of morals for women that he did for men," said Mrs. Paull, "and we will never have a virtuous world until we adopt a moral standard regardless of sex.

"As long as sin is not troublesome leave it alone. But when it interferes with our pleasure kill it," continued Mrs. Paull.

"On the question of forgiveness," said Mrs. [Catharine] Waugh McCullough, "we women should hold out a helping hand to every woman who is repentant. But for those who do not want to repent -- well, that is another question.

Only the Women Fined.

"This question of making raids in what the police call the "red light" district is criminal in that nearly always the men are allowed to go free and the women brought up in court and fined. If a man is arrested he should be booked under his own name and made an example of. As it is, he pays a little fine and departs, and the woman, who cannot afford to pay her fine, must pay for it by extra sin.

"Social sin should not be licensed, and both the man and the woman arrested should not be allowed to swell the treasury by fines, but both -- where the woman is unrepentant -- should be imprisoned."

"This question is forcing itself upon us nationally as well as locally," said Miss American. "We must show the men that we do not intend to stand for such outrages. The conservative women must go into the movement and stand up for those women who are unfortunate, for if it were not for the grace of God, and circumstances, we might be in their places."