Commentary on Jane Addams lettter, June 12, 1912


Jane Addams, of Hull-House, Chicago, fame, expresses what may be called pained surprise at certain criticisms or comments in these columns, occasioned by her appearing in a Chicago vaudeville show a few weeks since. She writes as follows:

May 4, 1912.

To the Editor of THE MIRROR.

Sir: The enclosed clipping reached me a day or two again from Romeike, and I am a little at a loss to know upon what it is founded.

To my knowledge, I have never criticized the moving picture shows. In fact, Hull-House sustained a moving picture show in our little [theater] for an entire Summer in the early days of the moving pictures. We have also a film illustrating the activities of Hull-House. I am enclosing a clipping of an interview which took place in Kansas a few days ago, which will, I think, show you my attitude.

When you say that I "misrepresent" the motion pictures I have the right, have I not, to know upon what you base that assertion, as I can recall nothing I have ever said which could be construed in that way? In regard to appearing at the Majestic, I was very happy to have that opportunity during the campaign in Chicago for the preferential vote for woman suffrage when I could address so many people. The audience of three thousand treated me with the greatest respect, as did the management. It would certainly have been foolish in a campaign to ignore an opportunity to reach so large a number of voters when an invitation had been courteously extended. I do not usually reply to newspaper attacks, but I have for so long been considered the friend of moving pictures that I am interested in knowing upon what your editorial was based.

Very truly yours,


The published criticism of motion pictures (not moving picture shows) attributed to Miss Addams appeared in the Chicago papers, according to recollection, about two years ago, when she was quoted as saying that motion pictures were injurious in their influence on the young, and therefore needed censoring. At that time, as everybody knows, who is at all acquainted with the matter, motion pictures were not at all as she was alleged to have described them. Nor had they ever been to any appreciable extent the vice and crime-inspiring monsters that they were charged with being. Lacking in art and often in good taste, they certainly were during the early days of their growth, but the improvements in art and refinement that are now generally recognized in the films were well under way at the time Miss Addams was quoted in criticism. Hence it is felt that if she was correctly quoted there is ample justification for the charge that Miss Addams did misrepresent motion pictures.


At the same time, it is conceded that, at an early date, Miss Addams took a deep interest in the new amusement, and THE MIRROR as long ago as 1897 gave her credit for introducing motion pictures into Hull-House as an entertaining feature of that institution. It is pleasing to note also from the Kansas City interview to which she refers that she entertains high regard for the films, although it will probably be difficult for her to explain why she should have qualified her praise by adding "when properly censored." Can Miss Addams really be innocent enough to imagine that the so-called censoring which the films have received has had any substantial influence in their advancement?


As for the defense Miss Addams offers for her action in appearing as an attraction in a Chicago vaudeville show, when she discussed woman's suffrage to an audience of amusement seekers, there is nothing more to be said. If she considers that she did not degrade herself by such a mountebank performance it is her own affair, and The Spectator will not quarrel with her. It might be pertinent to remark, however, that she was named by a prominent suffragist the other day as a suitable person for a cabinet position, if a woman were President of the United States, which suggests this question: Would it be possible to conceive a national cabinet officer appearing as an advertised attraction in a vaudeville entertainment?