A New Challenge to the Scholar, June 14, 1922


Seventy-fifth anniversary address, Rockford College Commencement Exercises, Rockford, Ill.

"A New Challenge to the Scholar"
Jane Addams, A.B., '81, A.M., LL.D.

It is a great pleasure to be here on the seventy-fifth anniversary because there is something about milestones which makes us sit down and reflect upon the past, sometimes to our profit and always with a certain wistful pleasure.  

I should like to remind you of two of three distinct periods of development during these seventy-five years to Rockford College. The first twenty-five years were under Miss Sill. I was a student then at the Rockford Female Seminary. We all venerated Miss Sill very much. We had some perception of her wisdom and courage. She who had pioneered in the west in 1847, that terrible year in Europe when revolutions swayed, and new movements started here, she who obtained the charter for the first school of higher learning for women. She made very warm friends among men who had also pioneered a few years earlier in this part of the country. Those of us who knew her in her later life as a beautiful picture of serene old age carry away from this building many memories which the later students will miss. 

In those days, Rockford reflected something of the denominational school. Mrs. Brazee, Miss Blaisdell, Miss Mary Norton, and Miss Potter -- those women had before them a task a little unlike the colleges in the east which they were imitating. They, in the east, had been instituted to carry the culture of Europe to this country. They were making teachers, preachers, and missionaries.  

The missionaries among the graduates here are a very large number. Those of us who are not missionaries are always apologetic about it. We made up our minds to resolve into the deed the various fine principles we were taught. 

In those early days we didn’t discuss the causes of our knowledge. We reasoned from a premise rather than going into the foundation of that premise. We were taught a great deal about mental and moral philosophy, we even had two different books [page 2] and two different courses. There was an exact definition in our minds and we were examined in them. We also had to give the board of trustees a very clear analysis of the whole of Butler’s Analogy and the whole of the Book of Hebrew. I can well remember the fear and trembling with which we stood up in this very room and went through the examination. 

During the next period there came to be a little touch of research. In the science department there came knowledge of resources. In 1872 there came a spirit of a certain restlessness. The faculty told us many things about the eastern colleges from which many of them had been graduated. For the next twenty years there was a great deal of striving to change the name from "seminary" to "college". We did much in that direction, and it broke out the very hottest in 1881-82. We made up our minds that the charter which had been given to Miss Sill was the only charter there was. Therefore, we worked out a plan and said that if we actually took college degrees from the board of trustees that that would be the first step toward changing from a seminary to a college. So two from the class of '81 and two from '82 received our degrees in 1882. Then we felt that a milestone had been passed. 

It was ten years later before the college formally changed its name, although the classes had received degrees if they had the required work.

From 1882 until now it has grown in steadiness of scholarship, standards of achievement and equipment. When we were pushing forward so hard we had little for equipment. We even sometimes went to Beloit which was then a very dangerous journey on account of the suspicions it aroused. 

Here we are at the beginning of the last lap of our first century. A certain challenge is coming to educated women of the world which would not exist in the seventy-five years just finished. Research is being carried on very vigorously in the line of learning to use such mental equipment as the race has evolved at the present moment. They are to use the minds in a new way. There are many manifestations of it. One of the first manifestations of it expressed itself in certain religious and philosophic notes which might be described as suggestive mental healing -- the learning to [page 3] control the mind. There is another manifestation of the change which largely is scientific for which Miss Lathrop is largely responsible. It started in Chicago many years ago when there was attached to the juvenile court a [psychopathic] clinic. It was believed then that a child could not be tried for a crime. He could only be brought before the judge and analyzed to find out what was wrong with his education or his environment. 

This clinic which was supported for five years by a private endowment was the first experiment made anywhere in relation to child conduct, child delinquency. 

Then, it has a great many other manifestations. During the war all soldiers were subjected to mental tests. They were all classified. The country was startled at the first wide-spread application of mental analysis to young men of our country. There are also these popular manifestations of trying to use the mind constantly. The large advertising agencies seem to afford a chance to use achievements received in college. These agencies are working out a practical psychology. These companies are asking for psychologists like art studios are asking for art students. 

It is only a matter of a little time until some enterprising woman starts a school for mental [defenses].

There are publicity departments also. I have had to do this winter with a man who is one of the most successful money-raisers in the world. He always says dogmatically that such and such a thing will do and such and such a thing will not do. He has a theory; he has an inner eye. There are three very clever publicity agents in Chicago who put over reform movements. I can almost tell which one has written the things in the press.

There you are coming back again to an understanding of human nature. This does afford a challenge to the new scholar. She will have to put her mind to this new profession which is arising in our midst. Schools of salesmanship [illegible] are an example. Women will go out and make it their business to find out what may be done in this broader relationship which our crowded cities are demanding; and they will find out what is the scientific, most human, natural way in which large bodies of people may [page 4] live together. We may judge them more nearly upon merit than it is now possible to do. I have been much impressed during the last two or three years by what a Frenchman once said; "There are two things about the human race -- (1) the power of inventing which would bring people far apart into relationship -- the radio, steamship, wireless; (2) the way the human race managed to keep apart by building up race prejudices, etc." 

These wonderful inventions have been made and women have not done much in discovering them, but now they may have a chance to discover the state of mind, to extend interest and possibilities of human intercourse in such a way that these inventions may be more intimately used so that we may have a larger and more united world. If we can have people come together, beginning in our own cities, beginning in movements in which we are most interested, beginning in business, beginning in any direction, -- being quite sure that you can follow the psychology you have been taught, may you not have before you a challenge which is genuine and will give to the present generation that for which it is groping in all directions. 

Someone said the other day in regard to the election of James Angell as President of Yale that the most significant thing was that he was a physiological psychologist, that he came there with advanced views, and that he was going to make over the traditions of Yale in relation to its intercourse to the populations all about it. I know this is one more straw showing the direction in which people are thinking.

Women have always been able to get estranged people to come together and shake hands. All of this may be utilized in a scholarly fashion.

You are the same people in college and out of college. You don't go through any great change after you leave its doors. All that you had of conscientious work will be a great help in life. I am sure from what I hear of your class that we have a class of which we may well be proud in the seventy-fifth anniversary of Rockford College. I beg of you sometimes to remember the old seminary which turned out some of us in the older days. When we see so many of you in [illegible] caps and gowns receiving a degree, I want to congratulate you. I want to say to the class of 1855, I want to say to my sister alumnae, that we are most happy to be with you here and that we wish the college every good wish possible. I add the prediction that in two years we will have a class fifty strong. Here's to it, may it come right speedily!