The true legacy of social reformer, Jane Addams, is often overlooked today, but a century ago she was one of the nation’s most radical progressives. A new biography of the first American woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize.


  • Louise Knight Writer and consultant. Author of "Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy."


  • 11:06:55

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. 19th century social reformer Jane Addams has been called one of the most loved and hated women in America. Many regarded her as a secular saint for her work with the poor at Hull Settlement House in Chicago, but some dislike the influential progressive for her advocacy of women's rights, civil rights and world peace. A new biography explores these roles and the relevance of her work today.

  • 11:07:42

    MS. DIANE REHMThe book is titled, "Jane Addams: Spirit in Action" and the author, Louise Knight, joins me in the studio. Throughout the hour, I'll look forward to hearing your questions and comments. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to, send us a tweet or join us on Facebook. Good morning to you, Louise. It's good to have you here.

  • 11:08:20

    MS. LOUISE KNIGHTGood morning, it's nice to be here.

  • 11:08:22

    REHMJane Addams has such a compelling face which you -- a photograph of her you have put on the cover. This is a remarkable face in its strength, in the power of its eyes through which you can imagine an extraordinary vision.

  • 11:08:48

    KNIGHTYes. The face is a very compelling face and I think it's, as you're saying, it has many different pieces to what it communicates to us. In addition to its strength, which is definitely there, many people see some sadness in her eyes, even in this young photograph. She's about 30 in this photograph and that, too, is a piece of who she was. She had many early deaths in her childhood that I think left her with a sort of grief that never quite healed.

  • 11:09:25

    REHMYou wrote an earlier biography of her. Why another now?

  • 11:09:33

    KNIGHTYes. Well, I certainly ask myself that question. When I finished "Citizen" I had -- I did not expect to write this new book, which is the first full life biography of Addams in about 40 years, but what happened was, a little bit after that I realized that the 150th anniversary of her birth was coming up in 2010 and so I began to ask myself, what should be happening? What will happen? And at first I thought I would annotate the centennial edition of her famous memoir, "Twenty Years at Hull House" because it has also a centennial this year, and the publishers didn't seem interested in that.

  • 11:10:16

    KNIGHTAnd then it occurred to me that probably a shorter, shorter than my first book, biography of Addams was what was really needed. So -- and I knew I had a running start since I had already written about the first half of her life in "Citizen" and this time I was going to go crashing through to the end and get the whole story out.

  • 11:10:36

    REHMWhat is she most remembered for in addition to Hull House?

  • 11:10:42

    KNIGHTWell, of course, the -- being the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize is obviously the main thing people know, if they know anything, but of course, it depends on who you're asking. She is considered one of the founders of the field of social work and one of the founders of the field of sociology and so they remember her, not only the social workers remember her, not only for founding Hull House and leading in the outreach to people of different walks of life whose societal needs were being neglected, but also for her generously spirited approach to having social ties to people other than people of her own class.

  • 11:11:28

    REHMYou know, it is interesting, you say if they know anything at all about Jane Addams. A lot of people confuse her with Abigail Adams. A lot of people at this point, 100 years later, may not remember the establishment of Hull House, though I gather there is to be a big celebration of that founding, so it is as though you have to bring her back to life for people to know the importance of her work.

  • 11:12:12

    KNIGHTYes. Especially in the sense, as you were describing in your introduction, that she wasn't who people think she was, if they have heard of her. That she wasn't this compassionate saint who took care of poor children. She was a far more complicated woman who took a lot of political action in controversial ways and was controversial herself. Historians, but also people in her lifetime -- people like to take a powerful figure whose message is you know threatening to society and then repackage it as, oh, she was just, you know, someone who cared about the poor.

  • 11:12:54

    KNIGHTAnd not that she didn't care, but she was really most connected to the working class and the working class are not the same as the poor. And the people around her house, her settlement house, were mostly working class and that is a different group than what she is associated with. People don't even realize that she was an ally of trade unions.

  • 11:13:14

    REHMTrade unions. She inherited that house she lived in. Isn't that correct?

  • 11:13:21

    KNIGHTWell, she was given the house by the woman who owned it after they had rented it for a few years and the woman who owned it was a very wealthy philanthropist whose uncle had built the house in 1856.

  • 11:13:37

    REHMAnd then Hull House grew out of that property?

  • 11:13:43

    KNIGHTYes. It was -- it started as one building, this mansion that was a summer house on the edge of...

  • 11:13:49


  • 11:13:49

    KNIGHT...Chicago in the 1850s and it grew into 13 buildings and filled a full city block, which of course amounted to a great deal of fundraising.

  • 11:13:58

    REHMAnd a great deal of work on her part, but, you know, you talk about the fact that she wasn't this saint. She had her own ambition, which you write about in the book. Why don't you read for us from that portion?

  • 11:14:20

    KNIGHTOkay. Yes. This was one of the things that as I worked on Addams, both in "Citizen" and now in this book, "Jane Addams" that I needed -- I knew I needed to deal with because women of ambition are often -- have been treated as what – well, strange or arrogant or, you know, morally disreputable. And yet I've yet to see a man of ambition treated that way, so this seemed a disconnect to me and I wanted to see how to treat Addams in a way that was completely respectful of her ambition and not dismissive of it as morally flawed, for example. And that was one of the very fun things about writing the book, actually.

  • 11:15:07

    KNIGHTSo what I'm about to read here is the beginning of chapter four and I've -- up to this point, I've been talking about her work in Chicago and earlier about her struggle to decide what to do with her life, which was a very big challenge as it is for anyone. And then she had become quite prominent in Chicago, had established ties with trade unions, had begun to educate herself about how to be a political activist in the state and in the city, but she hadn't become active nationally yet and so this is the beginning of the chapter that is going to lay that out.

  • 11:15:42

    KNIGHT"As the new century loomed on the horizon, Jane Addams was not yet a leader of a broad national base of reform-minded citizens, but she was certainly famous. For almost 10 years, earning her living as she went, she had periodically traveled the country, giving speeches to women's and men's clubs, settlement house gatherings, women's colleges, universities, churches, trade unions, ethical societies and adult education classes and receiving extensive coverage by the local press. Her name circulated nationally because the Associated Press wire service often sent out a few paragraphs about something eye catching she did, like work as a city garbage inspector."

  • 11:16:29

    KNIGHT"Editors used them, these little items, to fill holes in their page layouts. The group she spoke to also had national publications that were eager to publish her writings, often as reprints or in excerpts, but she never served on the board of a national reform organization, let alone been president of one. The only legislature she had ever lobbied was the Illinois General Assembly and the only legislation for which she had ever lobbied was on child labor and sweat shop reform."

  • 11:17:02

    KNIGHT"She had met a president of the United States once in 1898 when she tried to persuade President McKinley to name Florence Kelley to a federal commission and she was unsuccessful, but she had never attended or addressed a national party convention or published a piece in a broadly popular magazine like the Ladies Home Journal or written a book. To be sure, her ambition, her burning desire to make a difference, to contribute her talents to the world and to attain public honor had flourished, but as she entered her 40s, it was stretching its wings and preparing to soar."

  • 11:17:39

    REHMYou know, it is fascinating, Louise Knight, as you read from your biography of Jane Addams to separate that notion of ambition from fame. It wasn't fame she was seeking. She wanted the opportunity to be able to do more and more for a population she saw as underserved.

  • 11:18:11

    KNIGHTExactly. And that's exactly what previous treatments of her often don't distinguish between, so they always speak of her hunger for fame, you know, and I'm thinking to myself, I think it was a little more complicated than that.

  • 11:18:25

    REHMYeah, exactly.

  • 11:18:27

    KNIGHTAnd I also have been -- since starting to work on her many years ago, I've listened always closely when I hear people interviewed about what makes them, you know, go forward in life and try harder to do more and I've listened to what they say and that's what they say.

  • 11:18:41

    REHM"Jane Addams" is the title of the new book "Spirit in Action." The biography of Jane Addams by Louise Knight. Short break. We'll be right back.

  • 11:20:03

    REHMAnd welcome back. Louise Knight is with me, she's the author of a brand-new biography of Jane Addams, whose portrait is on the front of the book. A really mesmerizing photograph of a face that has such character and such strength, but as you say, also with sadness. I'm going to open the phones a bit early because we have a very interesting caller in Rockford, Ill. Stuart, you're on the air.

  • 11:20:45

    STUARTGood morning.

  • 11:20:45

    REHMMorning, sir.

  • 11:20:48

    STUARTLongtime listener, first time on.

  • 11:20:49

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:20:52

    STUARTI just thought it was fascinating that I'm sitting here in front of Jane Addams' childhood home while you're talking about her.

  • 11:20:59

    REHMHow fascinating. Tell me where that is, what the home looks like.

  • 11:21:05

    STUARTIt's located in Cedarville, Ill., which is northwest of -- or yeah, northwest of Rockford. It's a three-story Victorian brick painted white. It's a beautiful home. The owners are very, very proud to have Jane Addams' home. In fact, there's a sign out front that says Jane Addams parking only.

  • 11:21:35

    REHMAnd Louise, I'm sure you've seen that home many times.

  • 11:21:40

    KNIGHTYes, I have. And in fact, I was recently visiting there because the owner came to a talk I gave in the nearby town of Freeport and invited me to come back. I had been inside the house when a previous owner kept it -- had it and she gave me a tour again.

  • 11:21:55


  • 11:21:55

    KNIGHTI always love going there. It is still pretty much the way it used to be, although the family kitchen is now a living room, but it's a place where Jane Addams, of course, formed her soul and her psyche. There's a set of stairs that I sat on, which goes from the first floor to the second floor. And I sat very close to the wall by the stairs because that's where she was terrified one day when she was age six. And her sister had died and the family went to the service at Rockford Seminary and they did not take Jane. And they left her with the housekeeper and she was terrified. She had been traumatized by death as a child because her mother died when she was two and I -- it's clear she was reliving that trauma on the stairs there and she describes how memory flashback to her later in life that she had been doing that, sitting at the stairs thinking that somehow leaning on the wall would give her courage.

  • 11:22:56

    REHMStuart, I wonder how much you've known about Jane Addams before you went to appraise the house?

  • 11:23:07

    STUARTNot a lot, I hate to admit, so I started doing a lot of research on her and a totally fascinating woman. I was just totally fascinated by her.

  • 11:23:16

    REHMAre you appraising the house in readiness for another sale?

  • 11:23:22

    STUARTNo, ma'am. But I really can't discuss that (laugh).

  • 11:23:25

    REHMOkay. Well, I thank you for calling. It's very interesting to have that first-hand look as we're talking about her. Thanks, Stuart.

  • 11:23:37

    STUART(unintelligible) yeah, it's a beautiful house. She showed me the foundations of the old mills that her father owned and I looked at the barn out back. It's just a beautiful property. It's beautiful property.

  • 11:23:49

    REHMStuart, thanks for calling.

  • 11:23:52

    STUARTThank you.

  • 11:23:52

    REHMBye. You talked about the fact that her mother died when she was two and then her sister. Was her sister older?

  • 11:24:05

    KNIGHTYes. She was the youngest of several girls and this was her second oldest sister who died and...

  • 11:24:11


  • 11:24:13

    KNIGHTWell, I think it was -- it was the typhoid or one of those contagious diseases.

  • 11:24:19

    REHMAnd what about her mother; how did she die?

  • 11:24:23

    KNIGHTShe -- it was very tragic. She was seven months pregnant and had gone that -- in the middle of the night just to take care of a neighbor who was giving birth and slipped and fell and it was January. The roads were probably icy. She was probably going up a hill 'cause their house was on a hill and she began to bleed internally. She fainted. They brought her home and she died several days later.

  • 11:24:50

    REHMOh, my goodness. And did Jane Addams stay in that house raised by her father?

  • 11:24:58

    KNIGHTYes, she did. It was the house she was born in and she lived there until she moved to Chicago at age 28. Her father remarried a stepmother, Anna, who was a very cultured and sophisticated woman, who probably did a great deal to make Jane Addams a sophisticated person. Although she also was -- had a feisty temper and was a little bit unpredictable emotionally.

  • 11:25:23

    REHMWhat does that mean?

  • 11:25:25

    KNIGHT(laugh) Well, it means that she could be totally charming and loving one moment and the next moment, she might be irate and in a fury. And I wonder sometimes about Jane Addams' uncomfortableness with anger, which was a very deep feeling on her part. And she, of course, had a more placid temperament, but I also wonder whether living with her stepmother, Anna, and having to endure this fierce temper made her think a lot about, what's the point of anger anyway?

  • 11:26:04

    REHMDo you have specific examples of how she displayed that kind of temperament?

  • 11:26:13

    KNIGHTHow Anna displayed it?

  • 11:26:14


  • 11:26:15

    KNIGHTYes. She had a favorite niece, the daughter of Jane Addams' sister, who adored her grandmother and wrote a lot about her and so I trust her when she describes her grandmother this way. And it's also clear that in -- Jane Addams kept a diary for a little while when she was young and she says, you know, I thought my pie was perfectly fine (laugh), but Anna didn't, you know -- or Ma, Ma didn't and, you know, there're just hints that you can see that there were struggles.

  • 11:26:50

    REHMSo she had this saintly image, but she really was, in your view, a radical. Give me an idea of what you mean.

  • 11:27:01

    KNIGHTYes. I guess I would say she was a radical compared to people who were moderate. There is a -- radical has many meanings -- she was certainly on the left and she was radical from the point of view of people who are uncomfortable with the views of those on the left. And so she was called a radical, but, you know, one could argue that radicals are people like Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, you know. And Addams wasn't as far to the left as they were, but she was certainly on the left and she was a person who thought that unions sometimes needed to be able to strike to get what they needed. Not that it should be the first solution, she certainly was for women's rights, which was definitely a left-leaning issue then and now, though maybe slightly less now.

  • 11:27:51

    KNIGHTAnd she was very committed to restricting the power of corporations to do things that harmed workers, for example, employ children under the age of 16.

  • 11:28:03

    REHMI am fascinated to learn that because of both her passivism and her activism, the FBI kept files on her.

  • 11:28:15

    KNIGHTYeah and one of the very fun things was trying to figure out when that file began and it began when Mr. Hoover -- what's his first name?

  • 11:28:25

    REHMJ. Edgar.

  • 11:28:25

    KNIGHT...J. Edgar was first hired, the FBI didn't exist. He was, you know, an assistant something or other in some office and he opened the file himself and he sent copies over to the war department and this was in around, I'm going to have to guess, but I think it was around 1916. It was before the nation went into World War I.

  • 11:28:51

    REHMAnd there's a huge file on her.

  • 11:28:52

    KNIGHTNow it's a huge file, yeah.

  • 11:28:54

    REHMAnd at one point, apparently the FBI considered her one of the most dangerous women in America.

  • 11:29:04

    KNIGHTYes. That's a phrase that was certainly used about her, but it's interesting because that turns out -- I wanted to research who said that about her first and when and it turned out to be impossible to discover. I don't know how one would. Of course, I tried Google and it turns out that it was said about Emma Goldman, it was said about Mother Jones. It basically is said about any scary woman who's, you know, taking a strong position and I -- you know, Hoover was supposed to have said it first, then I found a source that said Teddy Roosevelt said it first and so I wasn't able to track it down definitively.

  • 11:29:45

    REHMAnd yet Teddy Roosevelt became a great fan of hers.

  • 11:29:49

    KNIGHTAt times. Teddy Roosevelt was a true politician, so when they agreed, he was a fan. When they disagreed, he was her implacable enemy.

  • 11:30:01

    REHMWhat was it, do you suppose, that transformed her from, you know, coming from this wealthier class, this privileged class, to taking up the causes, not only of unions, but of working class people? Why did that happen?

  • 11:30:23

    KNIGHTYou know, that was the first question I had when I started working on her. And it's really the reason I wrote "Citizen," which is about the first half of her life and is really the story of the answer to that question. I think it was obviously a combination of things. Part of it was that she -- you know, there's a tradition called Noblesse oblige. She was raised in a wealthy family, her father was very -- he was a politician, but he was also the leading industrialist in her small town. He had factories, he owned a bank. He was very caring about his community, so that was a piece. There was a tradition of that in her family. She had to translate that into a more modern viewpoint, obviously. She had to abandon her class condescension, which was a challenge that she overcame.

  • 11:31:12

    REHMClass condescension, so in other words, while she wanted to help, she felt she was helping from up here instead of a level playing field.

  • 11:31:25

    KNIGHTYes. And that was a tricky thing for me to sort out because from the beginning of Hull House, she spoke about seeking social equality, so her idea of social equality was there, but underneath it, there was a sense that she was superior in her education, in her knowledge of the world and it didn't come out explicitly in what she wrote. You had to read it backwards from what she said she learned. And when she wrote that she had learned that was not true, you know that she had once believed it.

  • 11:31:59

    REHMAnd believing it must have made it somewhat difficult for her to connect with the people she was trying to be of assistance to.

  • 11:32:12

    KNIGHTIt might have. She had -- because of her desire to practice social equality, she was less likely to behave in a condescending way. And she was a very good listener. And so she was thinking about them as equals when she interacted with them. And it made me think more about how deeply buried some forms of our own condescension are because I think most of us today are willing to treat each other as social equals, but whether we really know the depth of our own belief in that is another question.

  • 11:32:48

    REHMAnd in one sense, the same kinds of disparities between rich and poor that existed back then are absolutely repeating themselves today.

  • 11:33:04

    KNIGHTThey absolutely are. And when I think about the response that Americans like Addams had to that large gap -- they called it the gap between the rich and the poor, but it was really a gap between the working classes, the working people and the prosperous -- there was a movement in this country to do something about it and I don't see that happening, not that way.

  • 11:33:30

    REHMLouise Knight, she's written a brand-new biography of "Jane Addams: Spirit in Action." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We'll open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First, here is a message. A caller asks if you, Louise Knight, will talk about Jane Addams' relationship with Frances Perkins, FDR's secretary of Labor.

  • 11:34:11

    KNIGHTYes. Frances Perkins was one of many ambitious young women who had been to college in the early part of the 20th century, knew all about the settlement house movement and wanted to connect with what was going on in those settlement houses. They were cutting edge places, especially for women who had very few options, so she was -- she came and spent a portion of a year at Hull House, I think it was a summer. She, of course, got to know Jane Addams and other of the women there. She was already connected to the settlement movement and remained connected after she left Hull House, so it was more a question of what did the settlement movement do for Frances Perkins. The Hull House was simply a piece of it.

  • 11:35:00

    REHMDescribe for us what went on in this settlement house and others around the country.

  • 11:35:08

    KNIGHTYeah, that was another question I was dying to understand when I wrote "Citizen" and it was really fun to sort it out. It was everything. It was a community center, that is to say everyone in the community could come there, make it a place that treated as their home. It was open all the time. It didn't close its doors 'til midnight. It was a place you could get coffee, there was a coffee shop there, a snack. It was a place where unions could meet. It was a place where there were lectures, classes, clubs for kids and adults.

  • 11:35:41

    KNIGHTThere was – there were concerts, you could learn how to dance, you could learn how to sing. It was a magical place and it had an art gallery, so it was very multi-dimensional cultural center, as well as being a place of refuge if the neighbors were in trouble. If there was someone who needed help, they were -- maybe they were escaping an abusive husband or they were desperate for someone to deliver a baby because it was an illegitimate child that was being born and no doctor would come, then they would go to Hull House.

  • 11:36:18

    REHMPrimarily, then, a shelter for women.

  • 11:36:23

    KNIGHTWell, do you mean -- I haven't mentioned yet that there were residents and the residents of Hull House were the people who lived there. And they were more women than men because there were so few options for places where women could live in the city in a community that supported their own dreams and didn't try and restrict them. Men had many more options, so they tended to move through Hull House more quickly.

  • 11:36:52

    REHMOh, I see, but some women actually took long-term shelter there with their children?

  • 11:37:03

    KNIGHTYes. Florence Kelly had her children with her at times. Eventually, there was housing for couples and so, yes, there were children there increasingly whose parents were residents. I think I would not call it a shelter, though, so much as a home. It was their home.

  • 11:37:19

    REHMLouise Knight, she's written a brand-new biography of Jane Addams, which she titles "Spirit in Action." We'll take just a short break and read more of your e-mails, your messages on Facebook and take your phone calls when we come back.

  • 11:40:03

    REHMAnd as we talk about Jane Addams and the 100th anniversary of her birth as well as the 100th anniversary of Hull House.

  • 11:40:18

    KNIGHTNo, 20 years of Hull House.

  • 11:40:18

    REHMNo, 20 years at Hull House.

  • 11:40:20

    KNIGHTHer book.

  • 11:40:21

    REHMAll right, here's an e-mail from Matt in Arlington, Va. who says, "I learned about Hull House while researching Benny Goodman. He played in the boys band there at age 13 about 1922 and took music lessons there from a James Sylvester who directed the band. Goodman was well known for having no patience with racial prejudice, especially when it came to picking musicians to work with. Several sources suggest that Hull House shaped his views on that subject." She was very strong on good race relations, was she not?

  • 11:41:12

    KNIGHTYes. Her father had been an abolitionist and had hidden escaped slaves in his house who were traveling the Underground Railroad north and so she did inherit a consciousness of that in her own family. But, of course, her generation was focused on social equality and she never doubted that it needed to be extended to African Americans.

  • 11:41:38

    REHMWhat was her involvement in the founding of the NAACP?

  • 11:41:45

    KNIGHTWell, that's a movement that started, actually, with settlement workers in New York City who were concerned about the numbers of lynchings that were happening around the country in -- this was 1909, so they decided to have a campaign on Lincoln's birthday to promote the goal of racial equality and Addams organized the celebration in Chicago and invited W.E.B. DuBois to speak at Symphony Hall. And after that, they decided there needed to be an organization. She was not able to attend the organizing meeting, but she sat on the committee that drew up the charter.

  • 11:42:25


  • 11:42:26

    KNIGHTAnd she was on its board until her death.

  • 11:42:29

    REHMAll right. Let's go to Sue in Indianapolis. Good morning to you.

  • 11:42:35

    SUEGood morning. I'm -- I'm really looking forward to reading this book.

  • 11:42:39


  • 11:42:40

    SUEAnd I was wondering if there's anything in it about her role in founding the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom because I -- we had a chapter here in the 1960s and I believe it's still in existence, but I understand that she was -- she worked with Woodrow Wilson on the charter for the League of Nations and that it was her opinion that the settlement reached after World War I was setting the stage for World War II. And I'm just wondering if you cover anything in the -- in your book about that?

  • 11:43:25

    KNIGHTYes. I absolutely do. The Women's International League of Peace and Freedom grew out of an amazing international meeting at -- in the beginning of World War I in Europe, which Addams attended, and suffragettes from around Europe, both the warring and the neutral nations, came. The American delegation was from the Women's Peace Party, which Addams was president of, which had just been founded in January of 1915. And they all gathered in Europe as the war suffered on to say to themselves, what should be the terms of peace and how can we get there? One of the things they did was send delegations around to the neutral and warring nations to see if there was any way they would come to the peace table -- negotiate terms.

  • 11:44:14

    KNIGHTThey failed, but it was a very bold move and I tell that story in the book. During the war, the Women's Peace Party struggled because once the United States entered the war, it became urgent that -- from the point of view of President Wilson, that everyone support the nation's fight. And Addams could not, so she became socially ostracized and that's a very painful part of her life that I write about. The Women's International League of Peace and Freedom met when the -- in 1919 when the nations met to draw up the Paris Peace Treaty. And they responded to it by saying that this -- these terms, which were very unfair to Germany and really brutal to Germany and set up the dynamic of German's economic failure, which partly contributed to World War II. They were very aware of that.

  • 11:45:05

    KNIGHTThey said that in their statements about the Paris Peace Treaty and then they said it again in the '20s and '30s. They actually will convene an emergency peace meeting in the 1920s to see if they could generate some political energy to renegotiate the Paris Peace Treaty, but of course, they failed. WILPF continues to this day. The U.S. section has its own website and it has its international headquarters in Geneva. It's a wonderful organization. I urge people to check it out and start a chapter in your community if there isn't one now.

  • 11:45:39

    REHMSue, thanks for your call. And speaking of website, now on our website are links to the historic photo of Addams' childhood home and for the Hull House Association. Let's go now to Chris who's in Roseland, Va. Good morning, Chris.

  • 11:46:07

    CHRISGood morning and thank you for such good work.

  • 11:46:09

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:46:11

    CHRISThe thing I wanted to contribute to this conversation was my own personal experience of the outreach that Hull House had even into the generations of my own children, who are in their late 40s. My grandmother was a graduate of Vassar in '02 from a big wealthy family in Kentucky that did -- started Belknap Hardware. But like Hull people -- Addams' people, they were also very conscious of Noblesse oblige and the position of modeling better and doing better and making changes. They supported bureat (sp?) and a lot of other things, so this grandmother started a settlement house in Louisville, which I knew about in my childhood. I was born in '43 and in -- although much of my childhood was conditioned by many utopian projects that my families were involved with, I feel that when I hear Laura speak about the things that Addams was involved with, I feel that my grandmother was a tiny reflection of all those interests.

  • 11:47:12

    CHRISShe was that keen on changes in gender status and racial status and everything and so -- and I got to work with Martin Luther King doing -- in a giant church place in Louisville when I was in my young parenting years in the early '60s and Kentucky was chosen as a state to test the Accommodations Act by Johnson with King and I think partly that there's something in Kentucky that's a little more rebellious and it makes me proud that this grandmother would have cared so much to do things for blacks and poor people in Louisville in the early part of last century.

  • 11:47:54

    KNIGHTThat's a wonderful observation both because it reminds us that we're all embedded in history through our families. We have heritages that touch on historic events and it's good to know those heritages. It also reminds me of a larger point about the connection between the settlement movement and the civil rights movement of the '60s. And I'll just give one wonderful example of that. Miles Horton was a founder of the Highlander School, which is where Rosa Parks learned her nonviolent methods before she did her sit-down strike in the bus. And it's where Martin Luther King learned the song, "We Shall Overcome."

  • 11:48:35

    KNIGHTAnd it was an organizing school for workers and then civil rights leaders long before that issue was on the national agenda and he was very influenced by Jane Addams. He went and visited Hull House. He was a student at the University of Chicago. He was -- he turned her into a mentor of his. He had long conversations with her, which he writes about in his memoir. And he was very influenced by her -- the depth of her vision for what society should become.

  • 11:49:07

    REHMNice memories, Chris. Thanks for calling. Why is it called Hull House?

  • 11:49:14

    KNIGHTIt's called Hull House because the neighbors already called it that before Jane Addams and her friend, Ellen Gates Starr, moved in. Charles Hull was a real estate magnate who owned lots of land on the near west side of Chicago and this house was his summer family home. He-- his -- all of his family died. It was very tragic and so he moved out in 1889 just before -- no, he died in 1889. He had moved out some time before that and so his niece, who was managing his estate, was renting part of it to a school desk factory and Addams rented the other part. When they moved in, they found out that people said, Oh, you live -- live over in the Hull House.

  • 11:49:54


  • 11:49:55

    KNIGHTAnd they decided to name it that not only because it was known that, but also because the niece was beginning to be generous to them about reducing the rent and helping with the repairs and she was a very wealthy woman and it was a little bit of donor cultivation.

  • 11:50:10

    REHMAnd what happens there now?

  • 11:50:14

    KNIGHTIt is a museum called The Jane Addams Hull House Museum. What happened in the '60s was that urban renewal arrived and federal funds created two major highways that intersect in front of the door of Hull House. And the University of Illinois decided to build its campus around Hull House. In fact, they wanted to tear it down.

  • 11:50:35

    REHMOh, my gosh.

  • 11:50:36

    KNIGHTIn fact, they tore most of it down. They tore down 11 of the 13 buildings.

  • 11:50:42


  • 11:50:43

    KNIGHTFiercely against -- against the fierce opposition of the neighbors and the neighbors managed to save the original house, plus the -- the residence dining hall and those two remain. And they're, of course, on the UIC campus and so now it is definitely the oldest building on campus.

  • 11:51:00

    REHMHmm. To Bill, who's in Indianapolis. Good morning to you.

  • 11:51:06

    BILLGood morning, Diane. That's a wonderful show.

  • 11:51:09

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:51:09

    BILLI always enjoy -- I always enjoy listening to the DR Show when you discuss books.

  • 11:51:13

    REHMI'm so glad.

  • 11:51:15

    BILLWhen I was -- when I was 15, I learned about Jane Hull -- Jane Addams and Hull House by reading Irving Stone's biography of Clarence Darrow. And it seemed like at that time in Chicago -- the wonderful time, that -- that Jane Addams' place acted as a salon for political dissidents and people that were in, you know, interesting literary movements. I wanted to know if she could enlighten about her friendship with Clarence Darrow. Did she know Debs or Bill Haywood? And the one thing I wanted to emphasize was that a lot of the people in the more radical movements saw the social improvement and mutual obligation societies as a way to avoid class struggle. How did she deal with that?

  • 11:52:16

    KNIGHTThat's a very interesting question. First, to Darrow and Debs, she absolutely did. She was one of the people who, I think, helped Darrow build the career he had. He didn't always fight on the legal side that she would have agreed with, but he was definitely happy to have a good fight. And she would draw him into certain legal situations where she thought they might need a lawyer. And so he was -- he was an admirer of hers and he was a very loyal supporter of the positions that she took that were very unpopular. She knew Eugene Debs because he, of course, was the leader of the Pullman Strike in 1894 and he was trying to get his trade union to be a party at the negotiating table with George Pullman.

  • 11:53:09

    KNIGHTAnd Addams was actually -- came close to pulling that off. She was on a conciliation board that was trying to arrange that and so I know that she had conversations with Debs about how to proceed and could she meet with his union leaders and things like that. I don't know about Bill Haywood. That was a little bit later. In terms of the fact that the settlement movement was seen as a alternative to class conflict, that's certainly true. And what's interesting to me about Addams is that on the one hand, she definitely was not in favor of class conflict and on the other hand, she got quickly educated to come to understand there was a real class issue here.

  • 11:53:48

    REHMLouise Knight, her book is titled, "Jane Addams." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Finally to Hannibal, Mo., good morning Little Eagle, you're on the air.

  • 11:54:03

    LITTLE EAGLEHi, Diane, I -- I'm going to cherish this moment for the rest of my life saying hello to you on the radio. It -- you -- I listen to you and I just feel like I know you and you definitely are just one of the greatest Americans who -- whoever lived.

  • 11:54:20

    REHMThank you so much, sir. Go right ahead.

  • 11:54:25

    EAGLEWell, you know, my great, great grandfather -- Jane Addams was a great inspiration to him. He owned -- his father owned some coal mines in West Virginia up -- his name was Ludgewick and well, he married my great, great grandmother and she was Sioux Indian and they -- because of the social stigma there in West Virginia at the time, they went to India and bought a huge tea garden there and lived there for most of their lives before they came back, but, you know, he changed -- he talked -- all, you know, the stories that come around, he talked constantly about how inspirational she was to him and I believe that she was -- he was sending her -- sending the -- something she had, he was -- he was supporting it financially and I wanted to know if there was any record of this in the lady's research that she might have done from somebody called Ludgewick.

  • 11:55:33

    KNIGHTWell, I often receive questions like this of people that have family relations who had ties to Hull House and would it be possible to know more about what the records hold. Amazingly, tragically, when those 11 buildings were torn down, they contained many of the original records that had been...

  • 11:55:50


  • 11:55:51 the Hull House files. Somebody came by and saved -- pulled them out of the wreck. Some of them were saved that way. Addams papers had been given to Swarthmore, so they were saved in that sense, but it was a great loss in terms of the history of Hull House. So I doubt -- I highly doubt there's any record there. But you mentioned that your grandfather went to live in...

  • 11:56:12

    REHMGreat grandfather.

  • 11:56:13

    KNIGHTGreat grandfather went to live in India?

  • 11:56:15


  • 11:56:15

    KNIGHTIs that right?

  • 11:56:16


  • 11:56:16

    KNIGHTAre -- I don't know if you know that Addams was a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and he a great admirer of her. And, in fact, she went to India in 1923 and hoped to meet him, but he was in jail. And she was -- and in the hospital, I think -- and both -- and I think, she was -- she was unable to meet him, but they were both huge admirers of Leo Tolstoy, the nonviolence thinker.

  • 11:56:43

    REHMLittle Eagle, thank you for your call this morning. Louise Knight and the book is titled, "Jane Addams." One final word. Once after meeting with Jane Addams, F.D.R. told Labor Secretary Frances Perkins he thought Addams understands more about the real people of the United States than anybody else does. That's from your book. Thank you so much for joining us.

  • 11:57:21

    KNIGHTMy pleasure, thank you.

  • 11:57:23

    REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

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