The Jane Addams Reader(amazon)
Jean Bethke Elshtain (View Bio)
Hardcover: Basic Books; Paperback: Basic Books, 2001.
Jane Addams was a prolific and elegant writer. Her twelve books consist largely of published essays, but to appreciate her life work one must also read her previously uncollected speeches and editorials. This artfully compiled collection begins with Addams's youthful Junior Class Oration on women as "breadgivers," features thoughtful examinations of topics as diverse as "Tolstoy and Gandhi" and "The Public School and the Immigrant Child," and even includes popular essays on "The Subtle Problems of Charity," from The Atlantic Monthly and "Need a Woman After Fifty Feel Old?" from Ladies' Home Journal. Along with the writings themselves, Elshtain's insightful commentary offers powerful evidence of Addams's remarkable ability to frame social problems in an ethical context, her unwillingness to succumb to ideological dogma, her political courage, and her lifelong devotion to civic and moral life.
"Elshtain's innovation is to treat Addams like the protofeminist intellectual she was, a thinker whose "vision of generosity and hopefulness ... made the American democracy more decent and more welcoming today than it would otherwise be." Hull-House, for instance, was not merely a poorhouse for immigrants struggling to become citizens; it was a major cultural center that hosted speeches and debates. Because of the many books Addams wrote (including the classic Twenty Years at Hull-House) and her political activism, "her name is attached to every major social reform between 1890 and 1925," writes Elshtain. Addams has deserved a book of this caliber for quite some time; readers drawn to her are fortunate that an intellectual figure of Elshtain's stature took up the project. As the author says of her subject near the end of Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: "Such a tremendous force."" — John Miller, Editorial Review, Amazon.com