Criticism of Jane Addams

Richard Harding Davis, journalist, letter to the New York Times (July 13, 1915) commenting on Jane Addams speech at Carnegie Hall. In her speech Addams claimed that soldiers were given alcohol before making bayonet charges.
In this war the French or English soldier who had been killed in a bayonet charge gave his life to protect his home and country. For his supreme exit he had prepared himself by months of discipline. Through the winter in the trenches he had endured shells, disease, snow and ice. For months he had been separated from his wife, children, friends—all those he most loved. When the order to charge came it was for them he gave his life that against those who destroyed Belgium they might preserve their home, might live to enjoy peace.

Miss Addams denies him the credit of his sacrifice. She strips him of honor and courage. She tells his children, "Your father did not die for France, or for England, or for you; he died because he was drunk."

In my opinion, since the war began, no statement has been so unworthy or so untrue and ridiculous. The contempt it shows for the memory of the dead is appalling; the crudity and ignorance it displays are inconceivable.

The excerpt below comes from a piece from in the Pittsfield Journal on July 3, 1915.

The time was when Miss Jane Addams of Hull House, Chicago held a warm place in the hearts of the American people but she is vast losing their esteem, which her earlier efforts seem to merit. Her dabbling in politics, her suffrage activity and her ill-advised methods of working for peace have very materially lowered her in the esteem of hundreds of former admirers.

The excerpt below comes from a piece from in the Fort Wayne News June 18, 1917.

For three of four years past Jane Addams has gone to bizarre extremes in her advocacy of weird measures and her championship of impossible people, apparently capitalizing on a reputation honestly won in a worthy work, to keep herself constantly in the headlines. She has sacrificed fame for notoriety and a place in the public heart for a place in the spotlight.

Reflecting on the Critics of Jane Addams

  1. In reading these criticisms of Jane Addams how might you go about preparing a defense for her? What points need to be researched and substantiated? Locate information about soldiers and the use of liquor during the First World War.
  2. How do you think the majority of the people during the First World War thought about the “right for women to vote,” or pacifism?
  3. Research why it is that Jane Addams was revered for her work at Hull House. Consider how she used her work at the settlement house to inform her opinions about opposing the war, taking a pacifistic stand and promoting women’s right to vote.
  4. Investigate the individuals who Jane Addams “championed.” How might association with these individuals affect the way people thought about her.