John K. Reed to Jane Addams, November 27, 1911


Emerson, Whiteside Co. Ill. Nov. 27, 1911.

Dear Miss Addams:

Your articles on "A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil," in "McClure's Magazine," will do much good. They expose terrible wrongs and will enlighten and awaken those who read. I have read both articles with much interest, the second one even more that the first, because it shows one of the chief causes of this "ancient evil" in our day. I am heartily in sympathy with your movement in attacking the awful sin and crime of "white slavery".

Evil can not be destroyed unless it is first exposed. To hide it as many try to do, is but to aid in spreading sin. Covering gangrene with talcum powder will not cure it. First there must be exposure and cleansing of the diseased part, and it may have to be cut off.

I am pastor of a little village church four miles west of Sterling. In both of my sermons, yesterday and a week ago, I referred to your article in "McClure's" and quoted from them. My text last evening was. "And Lot pitched his tent toward [page 2] Sodom." Many country people are dissatisfied with their lot, thinking their conditions hard, and imagine that city life is like being in Paradise. I tried to show them that not all the unpleasant things in life belong to the country, and that life in the city is not all prosperity and happiness. While Dr. Frank Crane writes many fine essays for the "Chicago Examiner," he is wrong in attempting to make country life appear mean, narrow, and joyless, as he did when he told "Why People Flock to Cities." I may have the title improperly worded, but it contains the thought of the doctor's subject.  I hope that Dr. Crane will read your words in "McClure's," for he has likely seen only one side of city life, being pastor of a rich, aristocratic congregation in which there are no poor laboring people. I shall soon write a paper for my church organ on the subject, "Seeing Things as Others See Them." Dr. Crane must not have been in the country for thirty years, or at least since the telephone, automobile and daily mail delivery have come into use.

My life has not all been spent in this [page 3] quiet little village and on a farm a mile north where I was brought up. Half of my life, or more, has been spent in cities of from two thousand to two million inhabitants, Carthage, Oregon, Evanston and Chicago in this state; Mount Vernon and Springfield in Ohio; Martinez, Oakland, Riverside and Los Angeles in California. And finally, two weeks in London, England. I have seen both sides of life in the country and in the city. I also lived one year in Liberia, Africa in the civilized part and back in the "bush."

There will be unfavorable criticisms of your probing into "ancient evil" because it reflects upon the fair name of the city and upon the grandcivilization of the 20th century.  A few years ago when "white slavery" was first mentioned as existing in New York City, there was a strong protest on the part of some because publicity of such an evil would injure the good name of the city and might hurt business.  Many persons would not believe that such an evil existed; and [page 4] even now some do not like to admit it. One of the good judges of your city told me last winter, as we were riding together on the northwestern elevated, that "white slavery" was not (not) nearly so bad as many people thought, that there was very little of it Chicago, and that its evil was magnified.

Wrong does not wished to be disturbed. During the Civil War, the South said, "Let us alone." "Muckrakers" are looked upon as disturbers of the peace and prosperity of the nation. When Mr. Roosevelt was president, Wall Street protested because he stirred up things too much. Now there is a cry among the business men of this country that there is too much agitation against the tariff and the trusts. It is hurting business, they say. In today's "Chicago Tribune" there is a big headline article beginning "Politics Menace to U.S. Business." It gives the views of 19,000 business men to whom letters were sent. Their opinion is summed up in these words: "They care nothing for William Howard Taft or Theodore Roosevelt, Judson Harmon, or Woodrow Wilson, all they want is peace and prosperity. They [page 5] want an opportunity to do business in a legitimate manner without political interference in any one of the issues of so-called "progressivism". The tariff and the trusts must not be molested although millions of men and women may be cold and hungry. The capitalists want peace but there will be no political or industrial peace while men are hungry and out of employment.

So, those who live by the ruin of young women do not wish to be disturbed. Those who are fattening at the expense of the suffering multitudes do not like "muckraking" in the magazines. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked". There can be none while evil is in the world.  Political and social evils must be probed and brought to the light in order that lovers of righteousness may see them. In exposing the sins of society in the great city of Chicago, you may disturb the rest and peace of the business world and of some kindly disposed people, but you must not falter in your good work. It was so with the prophet Jeremiah when he says: "They have [page 6] healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace". Lust is at the bottom of the social evil -- lust for money and lust for carnal pleasure. The two work together on both sides for the destruction of young woman hood. May you be blessed in this work of holding sin up to the light, that the lovers of humanity may see and work to destroy the terrible evils of which you speak.

I am not here at present through choice, but because of circumstances. I preach to but a handful of people. Last evening there was but one young woman at the meeting and only three young men or boys -- no four. I wish that I might help to save the young people in the great city. Pardon me for saying so much; but after reading your last article, I had to give vent to my feelings.

Very sincerely yours,
John K. Reed.