Charles M. Sheldon to Jane Addams, December 8, 1911

En route, West,
 December 8th, 1911
Miss Jane Addams,
Hull House,
Chicago, Ill.

My dear Miss Addams:-

I have been reading your article in McClures on the "New Conscience and an Ancient Evil", and it raised this question in my mind and if you can spare time to answer it I would count it a great privilege: If the environments of these girls in department stores, boarding houses, etc., and the economic pressure on their lives force some of them into lives of vice, how does it happen that the majority of the girls preserve their purity? It certainly is not true that the majority of these girls working under the same conditions "go wrong". What is the underlying principle that keeps virtuous girls virtuous? In other words, is there not <danger> in over-emphasizing the economical factors? I have in mind two men working under exactly the same conditions in exactly the same place, at the same wages, living in the same [tenement]. One of them is a devout party, sober, pure-minded father and husband, the other blames his environment for the bitter pessimistic impure life he is living. I find the one thing that keeps one man straight is his religious foundation, and the one thing which makes the other man "go wrong" is the lack of it. Is it not true of many of the girls who lose their virtue that they have no religious principle underlying their definition of life?  I am raising the [page 2] question in my own mind as to the real power of environments as contrasted with the tremendous power of a religious conviction. This does not mean that I under-value the economical question, but if the economical pressure is as great as your article seems to [imply], then all of the girls under that pressure ought to "go wrong". I shall certainly value your reply.

I do not forget your great kindness to me personally when I was last at Hull House nor the deep debt I owe you for very many splendid and useful ideas concerning the "Brotherhood".

Very cordially yours,
 Charles M. Sheldon [signed]
Topeka, Kansas.
Central Church.

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