Friday, 24 May 2019

Jane Addams on Universal Brotherhood/Sisterhood

Jane Addams (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935), known as the mother of social work, was a pioneer American settlement activist/reformer, social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, public administrator, protester, author, and leader in women's suffrage and world peace. She co-founded Chicago's Hull House, one of America's most famous settlement houses. In 1920, she was a co-founder for the ACLU.  In 1931, she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States. She is increasingly being recognized as a member of the American pragmatist school of philosophy, and is known by many as the first woman "public philosopher in the history of the United States".

Fascinated by the early Christians and  Leo Tolstoy's book My Religion, she was baptized a Christian in the Cedarville Presbyterian Church, in the summer of 1886.  Reading Giuseppe Mazzini's Duties of Man, she began to be inspired by the idea of democracy as a social ideal. Yet she felt confused about her role as a woman. John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women made her question the social pressures on a woman to marry and devote her life to family. 

This paper is an attempt to analyze the motives which underlie a movement based, not only upon conviction, but upon genuine emotion, wherever educated young people are seeking an outlet for that sentiment for universal brotherhood, which the best spirit of our times is forcing from an emotion into a motive. These young people accomplish little toward the solution of this social problem, and bear the brunt of being cultivated into unnourished, oversensitive lives. They have been shut off from the common labor by which they live which is a great source of moral and physical health. They feel a fatal want of harmony between their theory and their lives, a lack of coordination between thought and action. I think it is hard for us to realize how seriously many of them are taking to the notion of human brotherhood, how eagerly they long to give tangible expression to the democratic ideal.

These young men and women, longing to socialize their democracy, are animated by certain hopes which may be thus loosely formulated; that if in a democratic country nothing can be permanently achieved save through the masses of the people, it will be impossible to establish a higher political life than the people themselves crave; that it is difficult to see how the notion of a higher civic life can be fostered save through common intercourse; that the blessings which we associate with a life of refinement and cultivation can be made universal and must be made universal if they are to be permanent; that the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in mid-air, until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life. It is easier to state these hopes than to formulate the line of motives, which I believe to constitute the trend of the subjective pressure toward the Settlement.

There is something primordial about these motives, but I am perhaps overbold in designating them as a great desire to share the race life. We all bear traces of the starvation struggle which for so long made up the life of the race. Our very organism holds memories and glimpses of that long life of our ancestors, which still goes on among so many of our contemporaries. Nothing so deadens the sympathies and shrivels the power of enjoyment as the persistent keeping away from the great opportunities for helpfulness and a continual ignoring of the starvation struggle which makes up the life of at least half the race. To shut one's self away from that half of the race life is to shut one's self away from the most vital part of it; it is to live out but half the humanity to which we have been born heir and to use but half our faculties. We have all had longings for a fuller life which should include the use of these faculties. These longings are the physical complement of the "Intimations of Immortality," on which no ode has yet been written. To portray these would be the work of a poet, and it is hazardous for any but a poet to attempt it. (Twenty Years at Hull-House with Autobiographical Notes. by Jane Addams. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1912 (c.1910) pp. 116-17)
New Ideals of Peace, aka Address to the Ethical Cultural Society (excerpt)
They are inspired with that enlarged morality that accepts all men as brothers and live up to an ideal that is both local and international. Most of us like to think of all little children as our brothers and sisters in the abstract, but when brought face to face with the knowledge that the educational facilities in our large cities are inadequate we too often evade our plain duty by speaking of high rates of taxation or the overburdened school boards. We know that helpless childhood and equally helpless old age are confined to unsanitary sweatshops, yet do we ever inquire, when we put on a garment, the wages paid  the tired fingers that created it?

In international brotherhood the same conditions prevail. As an example, let us take China. That is far enough removed from present complications to be safe in discussing. (Laughter.) Let us grant, for a moment, that the commerce of Europe and the United States demands a government in China stable enough to see that commercial contracts can be carried out and that this government must be planned and executed by foreigners. Now, who shall say what race had developed a class of diplomats noble enough to see that when these ports are opened in the sacred name of commerce that the natives of China shall be protected against the various tricks of trade that we have in our midst? Who shall tell a native to consider when he is being imposed upon by a trickster, or when he is buying an article that was put together by a suffering human being in another clime? Not the military, surely, for soldiers always learn, as did the Roman legions, that is easier to subdue other races and carry away plunder than to create wealth. It is only by learning to embrace all men as brothers that one people can do justice to others. ("Jane Addams Preaches Universal Brotherhood," The Times (Philadelphia, PA), March 31, 1902, p. 8.)

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