International Cooperation in Social Welfare, July 2, 1924


Jane Addams, Chicago

It is a great pleasure for me to tell so many of my colleagues of the impressions one receives in regard to the international spirit in social work, as one encircles this strange old planet of ours. It is a striking impression of similarity because so many of the people engaged directly in social betterment have had their education on this continent. The first social worker I met in India had graduated from the School of Philanthropy in New York; he was proud of the fact and was constantly asking me to judge as to how nearly he was approaching the standards required by such schools. He invited me to address the Social Service League of Bombay composed of 1,500 members, the majority of them native men. It was at this meeting that I first received the impression that the social work in India had a certain political purpose. The meeting was held in the headquarters of the Servants of India; the members were trying to prove to all the world, and especially to their own country, that as citizens of India they had quite another notion of government than that which the native princes were supposed to hold during many centuries. They believed that self-government in India would carry on humanitarian efforts inaugurated by England toward making the land more fruitful and the population more healthy and that groups of young men were already trained to carry on such a governmental policy. They were using their philanthropy somewhat as a demonstration. I found this true over and over again in the social service leagues of India, that while they were doing their actual work in the same spirit we try to maintain here, under it all was a certain political intent; that the political activities we were sometimes shoved into (when forced to work for child labor legislation, for instance), they were doing understandingly, with their eyes wide open. Mr. Joshi, whom perhaps some of you remember when he was in Washington several years ago (perhaps he was also in Canada), represented this group in the Legislative Assembly in Delhi. He was asking for the regulation of the hours of labor in factories, for the protection of Indian immigrants, and for all sorts of social legislation which most Western countries already possess. The Social League in Bombay and in other cities supplied him with material, as they revealed the wretched conditions of the people at the bottom of society and gave him the ammunition with which to carry on his campaign. It was analogous to the situation in the United States in the decade beginning in 1890 or in the earlier decades in England when the material supplied by Charles Booth and others of East London conditions were immediately used upon the floor of the House of Commons. This present situation is intensified by the fact that there is very little organized labor in India to secure labor legislation, [page 2] or it may be that social workers in India feel they may do away with intermediate steps and at once gain their ends by legislative reforms. I was continually surprised to find social workers so alert, so well informed, so aware of the political situation, until I realized that a nationalistic effort was harnessed to genuine humanitarian feeling. But more than that, as we went from one city to another, I was convinced that this group was not only pushing forward a nationalistic movement but so modifying it that the movement itself became a different thing because of this social service effort. In Delhi, we found certain of the British government representatives saying, as many English people say today, that it is a much more interesting thing to be in the civil service of India now than it was twenty years ago because the problem now is not only to establish a capable and incorruptible colonial government, but to teach and help along the movement in India toward self-government, so that India will in time become a self-governing member of the British Empire. If such a movement succeeds there is no doubt that the activities on the part of social workers will be a great element in determining the type of government activities. We may illustrate from the health work at present carried on by the British government. The finest women's hospital I ever saw is in Delhi. It was founded by English women, doctors, and nurses, but is gradually being placed in the hands of native Indian physicians, all women who are working out a sound hospital technique which is really quite astonishing. I do not believe there is a social worker in this audience who has not at times longed to bundle the entire family into the hospital when the mother goes there, but I cannot imagine a social worker who would have the temerity to porose such a thing to a hospital management or the courage to meet the attitude of pained surprise. But in Delhi they have almost accomplished it. In the lying-in hospital the wards are built around a quadrangle, into which both the wards and private rooms open. Back of the private room is built a larger room opening into the street and forming the outside of the quadrangle. Into this large room, which is also equipped with a scullery for housekeeping purposes, come the husband, all the children, and the mother-in-law, and they live there as long as the mother stays in her room. They get on very well and I could not see that the hospital discipline was at all injured thereby. The members of the family are not allowed to come into the quadrangle, although they come and go freely into the patient's room. I naturally asked, "How did you bring it about?" And the answer was, "Because we could not get the women to come in any other way." I told them that at home we too had lots of women who would not come to a hospital in any other way and that they therefore stayed at home. They said, "The conditions in many homes are too unspeakable, the women cannot stay there, we had to have them and so we had to bring the entire family." We saw one of the little mothers, not more than sixteen, lying in bed with her second baby who was also the second daughter. The poor mother was in despair and had been weeping constantly for three days and nights. The doctors were alarmed, [page 3] saying that unless the hysteria was stopped the consequences might be grave. They had done everything possible to allay her grief, but in vain. She apparently preferred death to her disgrace. The whole situation of these women patients has to be considered de novo, so to speak, and as we went about the hospital and saw the various nurses caring for each patient according to her religious demands, we realized that the hospital had been humanized and adapted to a remarkable extent -- one more example of the marvelous adaptability of the British colonial policy, although in this particular instance it was displayed in allowing the social workers to make their own adaptation.

In Ceylon and [Burma] we found again that curious combination of social work and political acumen, sometimes getting near to statesmanship. The suggestion came to my mind over and over again that in the West the humanitarian measures had crept into government almost surreptitiously but in these new undertakings toward self-government such measures were going to be recognized as basic. There is a remarkable school in Ceylon under the direction of a Scotchman, Alexander [Fraser]. One of his faculty who was killed in the war was much beloved throughout the length and breadth of Ceylon, and in his memory the graduates as well as the boys now in the school go out into the villages teaching organized athletics as far as the native children will accept them. The effort has resulted in what we of this country would call a promising playground movement. None of the playgrounds are well equipped but all of them represent in one way or another the latest spirit of rural community service and are conducted in [cooperation] with the village itself. As in India we saw the old plays which had been revived by Tagore and his people, so in Ceylon we heard a revival of old plays and old music which had been part of the background of the native life. One had the impression of social experiment coming about in this wonderful land which might suggest much to the rest of the world.

Something of that which makes India so interesting on the social service side one finds in other countries as well. In China they are trying to adopt a constitution which shall incorporate from the beginning measures and permission which we are securing with the utmost difficulty in the United States. Their constitution will reflect the social desires and impulses, at least in a measure, of those who know the lives of the very poor people. They have become impressed in those Eastern countries with some of the good things in the West which are in reality a combination of social service and governmental provision, and they are quite determined to have that type of governmental temper registered in their constitution. We were in China at the time of the great bandit outrage. I sat one day next to Admiral Tsai, who many years ago received his education at Yale. A great deal was being said about the outrage and it was intimated that if things of that kind kept on certainly Western nations would intervene. Admiral Tsai said, "You know, I was once bandited in the United States." That was a little hard to understand until he explained that he had [page 4] been one of the first students ever sent to the United States, that he had landed in San Francisco, and going across the plains had been held up by one named Jesse James and his brothers, who had robbed almost everybody on the train, although he escaped because owing to the complications of Chinese garments they had not been able to find his money. He said, "That was not so very long ago, as we count time in China, and perhaps you will have to give us more time. It took you thirteen years in the United States to secure your constitution. You made your Declaration of Independence in 1776 and adopted your constitution in 1789. We have been at ours only twelve years thus far and China is a big country and must move slowly." But the interesting part of the situation lay in the fact that the apology for this outbreak of violence was based upon the military governors who were more or less in command in all of the thirty-two provinces. The bandits were largely discharged and unpaid soldiers, too restless and disorganized to return to civil life. The Chinese were sure that when they got their constitution and an established civil government all such irregularities would be corrected. They were longing to reforest the mountains, to canalize the rivers, and begin other such necessary public works which the constitutional convention was discussing as possibilities. They were striving for the idea of the betterment of the people, an aim which they admired so much in the Western governments and of which they had had so little under the Manchus. They were making a tremendous effort at public education so that every adult would be taught a thousand characters, enabling him to read the newspapers. They were doing this with the illiterate adults, which I suppose is the hardest place in the world to begin -- doing it with the conviction that they cannot get the government they want until the electorate is able to read.

Some of the industrial evils in China are being "tackled" by the English people and Americans who are living there. In Shanghai the head of the industrial department of the Young Women's Christian Association, Agatha Harrison, is a graduate of the Indian School of Economics and well equipped to cope with that tremendous problem of child labor. Shanghai is an international city, and it is hard to understand why it should not legislate for itself and abolish the work of children in the factories. Unhappily, it is possible to find very little children in many factories there. The English and Americans say that they can do nothing about it unless the Japanese employers do, and they in turn use others for an excuse and so they all go on. I never saw such little children in a factory as we saw making matches, and although China has a law preventing phossy jaw, it can easily be found. Miss Harrison and others are quite determined that this sort of thing must be stopped, at least in the city of Shanghai, also that schools must be established for the children who may be turned out of the factories. The Americans, the Japanese, the French, and other manufacturers, if they owned mills on their home territories would be obliged to pay taxes for the education of children living in those territories. They should, of course, do the same thing in Shanghai, but it is a long, hard, [page 5] slow process to bring it about even in a city with an international government of its own which could so easily be a model to all the rest of China. In describing industrial conditions in Shanghai one should always mention the child labor reforms inaugurated in one large factory belonging to a Chinese native Christian who is taking his religion seriously and is quite convinced of the wrong, as he expressed it, of injuring the spiritual welfare of little children.

Most of the social workers here doubtless know of the comprehensive survey made of the city of Peking by two Americans, Messrs. Burgess and Gamble, which is forming the basis of several needed reforms in the industrial civilization taken over so bodily from the West and which often fits in so badly with the old industrial conditions. Mr. Burgess, who is in charge of the industrial section of the Y.M.C.A., has established the beginnings of a school of social work and is planning to carry out the Peking project on the lines of social service with technical skill and with a city-wide [cooperation].

One aspect of child labor amelioration in Peking is being undertaken by the Methodist mission there, said to be one of the largest missions [enclosed] in one compound in any part of the world. They are much distressed over the condition of little children who make Chinese rugs from the time they are nine or ten years old until they are eleven or twelve. They are paid no wages beyond "board and keep," because they are apprenticed to learn a trade. But when they have learned to make the rugs they are turned out because the manufacturers do not wish to pay them permanent wages, and a new set of children is taken on. As a result there are many men in Peking who know how to make rugs but the rugs supplied to the market are actually made by little children under twelve. The Methodist missionaries in their efforts to change the method say that this is not the Western way and again the Chinese are getting a conception of what is "decent" from the missionary and from the social worker, who combine a governmental and humanitarian standpoint. Near Peking is maintained a remarkable George Junior Republic, made up of children saved from the great famine. There is one for boys and one for girls, where is carried out what they hope will be a real training for citizenship in the new self-governing republic which they are establishing. These little girls, so untrammeled and so intelligent, always recall a certain impression that I believe it is perhaps well for some of us who are growing older to remember: namely, that in China, as perhaps in some other countries, the great factor against reform seems to be the old women. There is no doubt that the Chinese would stop binding their children's feet if the old women would permit it. It is against the law. The men do not want it because women with bound feet are not so useful in the new type of society which is developing, the younger women do not want it (some of the more progressive ones are wearing stuffed shoes to hide the fact that their feet have been bound) but the old women say that feet always have been bound and therefore always must be bound, and there we are, custom still prevailing. [page 6]

In Japan, the finest piece of social work which I saw is being carried on by Caroline [Macdonald], a graduate of the University of Toronto, whose walls are sheltering us tonight. Her house in [Tokyo] is filled with a spirit of which we should all be proud could we create it in our houses. She began by taking in boys who had been arrested for trivial offenses, whom the judges were more and more willing to turn over to her on a sort of probation, and from that has grown a very genuine and understanding relationship with much of the criminal population of the city. In her book, A Gentleman in Prison, which is not a good title, to my mind, for although the man was a remarkable person he was not a gentleman in any sense, we get a certain revelation of the entire prison system in Japan and of the social work which Miss [Macdonald] has established. Her house was shaken down by the earthquake, but although she may be living in a shed at the moment, I am willing to venture the opinion that she is doing a fine quality of work.

The prefectures everywhere in Japan have established departments of social welfare, and the cities as well have their departments of social welfare, both of them aiming at methods they have seen practiced in the West. They test them out in a frank and remarkable way. The prefecture of Osaka, when we visited there, had just refused a gift of ten million yen, offered by a moneylender to found a children's home. The social welfare department reported that he was evidently self-seeking and wished to advertise himself and his family and they did not consider it for the best interests of the social life of Osaka to receive this money. In this refusal of about five million dollars they did not imitate us, did they? The commander of the Salvation Army in Japan is an unusual scholar, educated in the United States, who is carrying on with remarkable ability certain necessary reforms which the Salvation Army advocate throughout the island. The W.C.T.U. in Japan has been perfectly valiant in its stand against the old custom of keeping defenseless women in a fenced portion of the city, so that even during the earthquake they were not able to escape and probably no one will ever know how many of them perished. These groups of Japanese are trying to control and eliminate that kind of primitive evil through legislative enactment.

A novelist of note has opened a settlement in the most crowded part of one of the new Western cities in Japan. What he wrote and said took me back to the early days of the settlements in England and the United States, although the plea he made for the betterment of human life through an interpretation and understanding of the oppressed and overburdened was more ably put than most of us had been able to do it. He made a distinction between understanding and social sympathy which reminded me of a story about my colleague and friend, Mary McDowell, which perhaps you will permit me to relate here and now. Many years ago, when the City Club was first built in Chicago, all sorts of organizations used to meet there; we took to it all our causes and talked them over at lunch. One day as I entered the elevator, the boy, who knew me quite [page 7] well, said quite casually, "What are you eating with today? With garbage or the social evil?" I said, "With garbage," and so he deposited me on the fourth floor where I found Mary McDowell pinning on the wall blueprints of a certain garbage reduction plan. I had been a little disturbed by my conversation in the elevator and so I said, "Isn’t it remarkable the way we eat and at the same time talk about these disagreeable subjects?" She went on pinning up her blueprints as she replied: "If you lived near Bubbly Creek, into which the five largest stockyards in the world discharge their refuse, you would be so interested in garbage that you would talk about it at lunch or at any other time." I assured her that I was interested in garbage, and instanced the fact that I had once been a garbage inspector myself. "Yes," she said, "you are interested, but you are not really sympathetic."

I should be very grateful if at the end of this speech I could feel that my audience had not only understood but had also become sympathetic with this world-wide effort which in my opinion is being made to give our professional interests a certain governmental status and expression in the vast nations of the East. If we have any interpretive capacity, any power for generalizing our experience and making it available for world purposes, then this is the hour to be of use to the millions of poverty-stricken people whose deep oblivion is being penetrated for the first time. If the little group of social workers in the East, so undaunted and valiant, are willing to make the attempt, certainly we ought to [cooperate] with understanding and sympathy.

We have all been interested in what Dr. René Sand has just told us of an international gathering of social workers which is planned for next year. I sincerely hope that among the nations represented there will be those of the Orient, by social workers who are characterized by that peculiar seriousness and devotion belonging to the pioneers in any movement. They are still close to the mystery of life, not yet lost in their cases, but realizing as perhaps few of us do, the great burden and social consequence of their daily living.

I have said nothing of the Philippines, of Korea, and of half a dozen other countries in which I might have found illustrations, but even with this meager material I wish I might make you feel that we belong to a great body representing a vast fund of moral energy which rightly directed may make over some of the saddest features of this old globe, so long populated with those oppressed by disease, poverty, and ignorance.