NO WOMAN IN AMERICA TODAY IS SO CLOSELY IN TOUCH WITH THOSE GREAT SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC MOVEMENTS THAT ARE OUTSIDE OF THE HOME AND YET VITALLY TOUCH THE HOME AS JANE ADDAMS, OF HULL-HOUSE, CHICAGO. THE HOME-SHELTERED WOMAN OFTEN HEARS ABOUT CHILD LABOR, THE WORKING-GIRL'S WAGE, LABOR STRIKES, CONVICT LABOR, THE EMIGRANT PROBLEM, ETC., BUT A COMPREHENSIVE, AUTHORITATIVE EXPLANATION OF WHAT THESE VITAL QUESTIONS REALLY MEAN HAS NOT OFTEN COME HER WAY. MISS ADDAMS WILL, MONTH BY MONTH, ON THIS PAGE EXPLAIN WHAT THEY MEAN AND IN WHAT DIRECTION LIE THEIR REMEDIES -- OFTEN IN THE HANDS OF THE AMERICAN WOMEN THEMSELVES.
IF ANY POINT IN THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT SEEM PERFECTLY CLEAR ANY QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED BY MAIL IF A STAMPED, ADDRESSED ENVELOPE IS [ENCLOSED]. ADDRESS MISS ADDAMS IN CARE OF THE LADIES' HOME JOURNAL.
WHEN I am asked why I identified myself with a political party the question almost always implies a regret that I should have weakened my "influence along philanthropic lines" by thus making a political alliance.
In reply I can only make the very sincere statement that in joining a political party I merely followed the various philanthropic undertakings which this party's platform had declared to be matters for political action.
The campaign last autumn contained many revelations. The old-time politicians were doubtless surprised to find that politics had to do with such things as accidents to workingmen, long hours of work for factory girls, the care of the aged, the support of prisoners' families, and many similar humane measures designed to lessen the burdens of the disinherited. On the other hand the philanthropic women learned, many of them for the first time, that they had been caring for orphans whose fathers had been needlessly killed by unprotected machinery; that they had rescued girls driven to desperation through long hours and overstrain who might have been protected by well-tried legislation; that they had founded homes for old people who quite reasonably objected to going to the poorhouse, but who in other countries would have been cared for by systems of old-age insurance; that they had supported the family of many a convict whose labor was adding to the profits of a prison contractor, while the convict's wife and children were dependent upon charity.
It was not strange that when a political party considered such matters in their first convention women were asked to participate; it would, on the other hand, have been very unnatural if they had been excluded.
In fact the line between philanthropy and politics is so constantly changing that it is very difficult to know when the step has been taken from the first sphere into the second. One can illustrate this by the Nationwide effort to secure clean milk, upon which the health of tenement-house babies so absolutely depends. When we consider that two hundred thousand babies under one year of age annually die in the United States, and that it is estimated that one hundred thousand of these deaths could be prevented by proper care, we realize how important such an effort is. At one time milk stations were established in all the poorer quarters of Chicago, where the mothers of sick children might buy pasteurized and modified milk, the United Charities of the city supplementing this by caring for ailing babies in hospital tents upon spaces and roofs.
Although the milk stations were useful it was found impossible to have a sufficient number of them. The nurses who visited the sick babies brought to these stations gradually gave more and more time to instructing the mothers in the tenement-house homes, telling them among other things that only one breastfed baby dies to fifteen bottle-fed babies. In the end the nurses often found themselves prescribing food for the mother and not for the child.
I cannot recall the month or year when these nurses passed from the pay of the philanthropic societies into the pay of the city Health Department, so gradually had the change come about; nor when the woman physician who was a resident of the University Settlement became a city official, although she did not thereby cease to be a "social worker." At the present moment this corps of nurses who go in and out of the tenement houses during all the hot summer months, to save the lives of helpless children, act as school nurses during the school year. They are protected by Civil Service examinations and have become a permanent part of the municipal activity of Chicago. Their ministrations, formerly called philanthropic, are now designated as "civic."
But the effort to secure clean milk demanded more. It was of no use to instruct mothers how to care for milk which had been already defiled and poisoned before it reached them. Only a few months ago the Chicago Health Department officially stated that ten thousand tubercular cows were supplying milk to Chicago, because clean milk demands an inspection of the dairy farms in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Iowa as well as in Illinois, and it has been almost impossible to secure it.
Only when men in political power place humane legislation above financial interest will a tuberculin test of cows be established in all of these States and the inspection of dairy farms be required by law. So simple a matter as milk for babies enters directly into politics, and interstate politics at that.
When I attended the first convention of the new political party I found among its delegates scores of people whom I had formerly known in connection with philanthropic associations of a National scope. The chairman of the convention was Senator Beveridge, with whom I had spoken at an annual meeting of the National Child Labor Committee, when his bill, designed to regulate child labor through the Interstate Commerce Acts, was before Congress. I had often been associated with Judge Lindsey in conferences upon juvenile courts and the care of dependent children, and so on with many another delegate. It did not seem any more strange to me that I should be asked to address this convention, which was considering the same economic and social questions I had often discussed, than it did that I should speak in the City Hall about clean milk, so gradually had philanthropy merged into politics in National affairs as well as municipal.
But while there is often a necessity for political action of a sort which aims to increase the usefulness of a given philanthropic project by turning it over to the Government, political action of another kind is often required in order to hold fast to good things which are already being managed by the Government.
On many occasions women see their former undertakings which have been a part of Governmental administration languish and fail of their highest usefulness. They find their most cherished schemes are balked by politicians who either do not understand what the originals promoters were trying to do or who use them for their own self-seeking ends.
The present situation in the Juvenile Court of Chicago is a good illustration of this. Years ago the residents of Hull-House were much distressed over the boys and girls who were brought into the police stations for petty offenses, and gradually one of the residents gave all of her time to these unfortunate children. The police justices in the two nearest stations regularly telephoned her in regard to the first-offense cases, and, whenever practicable, paroled the children to her care. When the Juvenile Court was established in Chicago she was engaged as the first probation officer with twenty-one other persons.
For six years this voluntary association, called the "Juvenile Court Committee," paid the probation officers, with a well-known educator as chief, and supported the detention home through which passed each year twenty-six hundred children who would otherwise have been in the police stations.
In connection with this home the Children's Hospital Society supported a medical clinic through which it was discovered that ninety [percent] of the sad little procession were in need of medical attention. Gradually all of these things have been taken over by the county, and now the probation officers, teachers, nurses and doctors have become public officials, while the Juvenile Court, with the detention home and quarters for medical and psychopathic clinics and for a school under the Chicago Board of Education, is housed in the building erected for its special use out of the public taxes.
All went well through various administrations, but recently a president of the Board of County Commissioners, realizing that this developed apparatus of the Juvenile Court would be most valuable in building up party patronage, began a series of attacks upon the administration of the Court which, it is evident, will eventually destroy its usefulness.
The positions of probation officers, formerly occupied by those who had passed a careful Civil Service examination, were filled by sixty-day appointees, one of whom had been a sewer contractor, another a saloon-keeper. The Chief Probation Officer, after a long and wearisome trial, was dismissed, having been found guilty for not doing those things which under the law he had no authority to do; the physician in charge resigned because a so-called trained nurse, on a sixty-day appointment, defied his authority, showing her ignorance of nursing by wrapping up the infected leg of a boy in a piece of old newspaper; the Funds to Parents Act, popularly called the "mothers' pensions," by which the Judge is allowed to give ten dollars a month for the care of a child in his own home instead of in an institution, offered, of course, a splendid opportunity for building up a political following among the poorest people, and only through the action of the wise Judge, in cooperation with various philanthropic societies, was this beneficent law saved from disaster.
When an aroused public sentiment finally demanded an investigation of the Juvenile Court, and the report of the committee proved favorable to the Court, the president of the County Board refused to have it published; and philanthropy, again appearing upon the scene, paid for its publication from private funds.
It was not to be wondered at that a great many public-spirited women of Chicago, through their clubs and other organizations, gave of their time and best efforts last autumn to promote the election of a wiser man as president of the County Board. They would have been stupid indeed to sit quietly while their faithful work of years was being demolished. Of course they were obliged to enter partisan politics because there is no other way, owing to the American system of party nominations, to secure the election of any official, good or bad.
Because some of the women who have been interested in the development of the Juvenile Court were heads of philanthropic societies, because I myself, for instance, was president of Hull-House, could scarcely have furnished a sufficient reason for refusing to help in such a crisis.
Institutions can perhaps more easily fall into self-righteousness than even individuals can; an institution may think so much of its reputation and its future usefulness as to forget the cause it is serving and for which it was founded, and this may happen quite aside from the question of alienating subscribers. It is easy to forget that "influence," whether of persons or of institutions, ceases to be of real value when it is consciously cherished as a possession. Influence must be "a wayside flower," as our old copy-books used to say about happiness.
One can think of no greater travesty on worship than a whole churchful of people who had all gone there for the sake of their example upon other people, nor of a more dreary spirit of philanthropy than that a group of so-called social workers should allow the most highly developed Juvenile Court in the world to go to pieces under their very eyes, because they were afraid of injuring their personal influence. In fact an institution may easily become detached from the life of its community and fall into a position similar to that occupied by many women in relation to their own family circles.
The head of an institution which stands in the minds of the community for "good works" is in danger of depending upon the integrity of its motive, to substitute the unreal activity of being "good to people," for the sterner task of ascertaining the real needs of her locality and of ministering to those in need in all humility of spirit. The larger plans for meeting these genuine needs can only be carried out with the consent of all the people, and the wisdom of such plans must be submitted to them during a political campaign.
Certainly woman's role of non-partisanship needs to be examined afresh when a multitude of men and women have come to challenge the sincerity and moral value of that combination of reverence and disregard which does not permit a woman to fulfill her traditional obligations to the community simply because to do this she must participate in political life.
If women would bear their share in those great social problems which no nation has yet solved, but which every nation must reduce to political action if it would hold its place in advancing civilization, they are fairly forced to choose between standing for an impossible ideal, quite outside of the political field, or upholding moral standards within political life itself.
- Written by (1)
- Published in (1)
- Mentions (17)
- Draft of (1)
- Related to (12)
- Mentions (4)
- Comments (0)