How Would You Uplift the Masses?, February 4, 1892

REEL 46_0505.jpg
REEL 46_0506.jpg
REEL 46_0507.jpg
REEL 46_0508.jpg

MISS JANE ADDAMS: The Social Settlement of which Hull House of Chicago claims to be a modest example is an attempt to know the "masses" as one neighbor knows another neighbor. The residents of such a Settlement live among the masses, as nearly as possible without a sense of difference. They claim to have added the social function to Democracy.

We have so long believed Democracy to be a political affair that its best achievement has all been pushed along the line of the franchise and political equality. We are ashamed whenever the political organization in any ward is so weak that each citizen is not secured his vote. We have no such conscience in regard to social affairs.

The social organization has broken down through large districts of our great cities. Most of the people there are very poor -- the majority of them without leisure or energy for anything but gain of a subsistence. They move often from one wretched lodging to another. They live for the moment side by side -- many of them without knowledge of each other, without fellowship, without local tradition or public spirit, without social organization of any kind. Practically nothing is done to remedy this. The people who might do it, who have the social tact and training, the large houses and traditions of custom and hospitality, live in other parts of the city. The club houses, libraries, galleries, and semi-public conveniences for social life are also blocks away. In every huge manufacturing town we find workmen organized into armies of producers because men of executive ability and business sagacity have found it to their interest to organize them; but they are not organized socially. Although often living in crowded tenement houses, they are living without a corresponding social contact. The ideas and resources are cramped. Too often their one place of meeting is a saloon -- their only host a [page 2] bartender; a local demagogue forms their public opinions. Men of ability and refinement, of social power and university cultivation, stay away from them. Personally I believe the men who lose most are those who stay away; but the paradox is here: when cultivated people do stay away from a certain portion of the population, when all these advantages are persistently withheld, it may be for years, the result itself is pointed out as a reason -- the result is used as an argument for the continued withholding. It is constantly said that because the masses have never had social advantages they do not want them; that they are heavy and dull and that it will take political or philanthropic machinery to change them. This divides the city into those who have and those who have not; into classes and masses.

A Settlement is a protest against such division. The movement is based upon the philosophic thought to such men as Thomas H. Green, upon the social theories of men like Charles Kingsley and Frederick Maurice, upon the burning lectures of Arnold Toynbee. These men and many others have recognized the [maladjustment] in English life ever since the great inventions in machinery inaugurated the well-named "Industrial Revolution."

We are fast feeling the pressure of this [maladjustment] in America and reaching the necessity for action. No one realizes more keenly than the experimenters themselves how inadequate they are to attempt the action, but they have been driven to it from another direction.

We have in America a fast-growing number of so-called "favored" young people who have no recognized outlet for their active faculties. They hear constantly of this social [maladjustment], but no way is provided for them to help it, and their own uselessness hangs about them heavily. Huxley declares that the sense of uselessness is the severest shock that the human system can sustain, and if persistently sustained results in atrophy of power. These young people have had the advantage of colleges, of European travel, of philosophic lectures, and economic study; but they are sustaining this shock of inaction. They have pet phrases and tell you that the things that make us all alike are stronger than the things that make us different. They say that all men are united by needs and sympathies far more permanent and radical than anything that temporarily divides them and sets them in opposition to each other. This young life, so sincere in its good phrases and yet so undirected, seems to me as pitiful as the other great mass of destitute lives. One is supplemental to the other, and some method of communication can surely be devised. Mr. Barnett, the man who urged the first Settlement, that of Toynbee Hall in East London, recognized this need of outlet for the young men of Oxford and Cambridge. It is, perhaps, even more necessary for our American young people who feel so nervously the need of putting theory into action.

To turn to strictly educational matters, we find that these also are more democratic in their political than in their social aspects. There are public schools in the poorest and most crowded wards of the city, but in these wards there are many citizens who never come under the influence of a professional teacher after they are fourteen years old. They need further teaching and inspiring, which requires neighborhood methods, for it is true of people who have been allowed to remain undeveloped, and whose faculties are inert and sterile, that they cannot take their learning heavily. It has to be diffused in a social atmosphere. Information held in solution in a medium of fellowship and good will can be assimilated by the dullest. The University Extension movement emphasizes the social side of teaching, not only for the pleasure that it gives, but that it may make learning pass electrically as from friend to friend.

It is needless to say that a Settlement is a protest against a restricted view of education, and makes it possible for every educated man or woman with a teaching faculty to find out those who are ready to be taught.

At Toynbee Hall the number of classes and university extension courses multiplies so fast that in some of its aspects it seems more like a college than a club; but a teacher in this college grapples his student by every hook possible to the fuller social and intellectual life which he himself represents. Traveling parties from time to time are taken to the continent, and student parties to Oxford and Cambridge. Some of the most learned and eloquent men in England give lecture courses there. Indeed, it has come about that no Londoners see more of their [page 3] famous countrymen than those living at Whitechapel. There are classic concerts in the Hall, and popular concerts in the quadrangle. To the picture exhibits in the spring and fall the very best pictures in England are brought. It would be unfair to Englishmen to omit the athletic life of all sorts which centers there. It is logical that a Settlement disregards none of the results of civilization, casts aside nothing that the modern man considers beautiful or goodly. It rather stands for the fittings of a cultivated, well-ordered life, and the surroundings which are suggestive of a participation in the best of the past. But the residents of Toynbee Hall constantly demonstrate the truth, that this life, so different in some respects from their neighbors, is not lived without training and effort; that to make it possible at all there must be the strenuous holding to an ideal, the recognizing of social obligations, the fulfilling of the offices of good citizenship, often onerous and tiresome. The young men entertain the trades unions of their neighborhood, they join the workingmen's clubs of all sorts, (where they learn much and perhaps teach little). They are elected on the school boards, on the health and vigilance committees. In short, without necessarily starting any new thing, they strive to bring back all the municipal and social machinery nearer to its first ideal.

This idealizing of our civic and social duties is perhaps what we need most of all in our American cities. We have distinct advantages here in regard to Settlements. There are fewer poor people here than in London; there are also fewer people who expect to remain poor, and they are less strictly confined to their own districts. American cities are also diversified by foreign colonies -- little cities within themselves. There are Bohemians, Italians, and Poles, and Russians, and Greeks and Arabs in Chicago vainly trying to adjust their peasant habits to the life of a large city. The more of scholarship, the more of linguistic attainment, the more of wide humanity a Settlement among them can command, the more it can do for them. Indeed, perhaps the greatest value of a Settlement to the newly arrived foreigner is its service as an information and interpretation bureau. The resident "lends his mind out" constantly.

Living adjacent to the newly-imported peasant there are many more in every poorer quarter, who, while fairly equipped for material struggle, present lives constantly narrowing to material interests. Perhaps the Settlement does most for them in arousing social energies which have long been dormant -- in placing at their disposal large, pleasant rooms -- in giving them a change to organize clubs, to meet each other at receptions, etc. 

In every neighborhood where poorer people live, because rents are supposed to be cheaper, there is to be found another element, which, though uncertain in the individual, can be counted upon in the aggregate. It is composed of people of former opportunity and education, who, in spite of adverse circumstances, have kept up some sort of an intellectual life; of young men and women who are cherishing ambitions and are "great for books" as their neighbors say. It is to this element that a Settlement offers the University Extension lectures, and it is by this element that such opportunities are eagerly accepted.

Every industrial neighborhood -- one might say, every neighborhood -- has need of a center and impetus to keep intellectual and social activity alive.

A Settlement of women can perhaps do these things most easily. At the same time they tend to accent the humanitarian side. But there are certain active duties of citizenship which society thus far has insisted in thrusting upon men and which a women's Settlement must perforce leave unperformed.

Chicago may have been unfortunate in having its first Settlement one of women, but its work has been generously supplemented and enlarged by the hearty [cooperation] of men, many of them, I am happy to say, members of this club.

I know very little about after-dinner speaking, but I have an impression that such a speech in Chicago is indecorous without an allusion to our great enterprises. I do not feel equal to the World's Fair, but I should like to try the Auditorium. I should like to make it clear that we might as well expect its granite tower to float in [midair] without the [substructure] to uphold it and to give it a reason for being, as to hope for any uplift in our civilization without the underpinning and support of the masses. Underneath they certainly are, but they are as much bigger and more important than the top as the mighty structure of the Auditorium, filled with [page 4] all manner of activity and with great swells of music at its heart, is bigger and more important than the [meager] spaces of the elevated tower. I should like to add without metaphor, if you will permit me, that the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain -- is floating in [midair] -- until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life; that no man, whatever his genius or his organizing ability, can hope to permanently uplift himself or his followers, unless with them he uplift the masses.