Phoebe E. H. Willets to Jane Addams, July 17, [1912]

Cold Spring Harbor,
Long Island

My dear Miss Addams: --

I greatly appreciate your frank reply to my frank letter and I feel that a fair discussion may be equally helpful to you, to me and to the many others who wonder why "The Social Evil" is a necessary book. I am not rabid, I realize that sin and evil exist, in this natural-law-governed-world; but our viewpoint differs. Many things interest me, but so far, everything I am familiar with, has proved to me the superabundance of good and the beautiful [page 2] that surrounds us, and if we look we find this. Teaching and preaching belief in the possible and probable "good in everything," combined with [practicalhelp is my idea of a-life-worth-while.

You have probably heard from many who would accept as right and best anything you had done. I do not question your motive but I agree with the sentiment that "Miss Addams is beginning to see the world through Hull House windows" and I feel you should be asked to consider if this be not true?

Your book has stunned many people. You are too certain of general acclamation. My purpose in appealing to you is, because you personally have a hold on the faith of many people and it seems sad that should perish or be [misdirected].

Did you read John Burroughs' "The Gospel of Nature," in the June "Century"? That was well worth writing. Reading that three times, is not yet enough for me, it is so large of conception, so hopeful, so wholesome, so [page 3] helpful. The one truly effective remark in your book is, as I remember it: "Nothing is accomplished without affection."

I have heard you speak several times, I have visited Hull House and I have visited Judge Pinckney's Juvenile Court and my conception of the strength of character, purpose and judgment of a good man, was made more firm, by the proof that my own Christ-like Husband was not the only man of his type. Could Miss Addams accomplish what Judge Pinckney does? I found no evidence of that. You do not see your limitations, [perhaps] because of flattery.

What you have written, proves that much of the evil you select as a topic, is as a rule, the result of ignorance or lack of judgment of mothers. This is your and my field for work. It is not your or my right, to incite more sending of women into the streets, in the [pretense] of necessary suffrage and give an open field to those wrongly inclined or ignorantly hysterical [page 4] and thus forcing into public life, the women who wish and need to be kept normal, for the sake of new lives. I agree with Stewart Edward White that the most any of us can accomplish in this life, is: "To help on, the next generation." Women canvassing on the street at night, as I understand, was the pretext for the evil and hysterical exhibition in Chicago, recently; this is no help to purity or wholesomeness.

Out of this chaos, there seems to be emerging; a movement by the strong, [mentally], [morally] and spiritually furthering "The Boy Scouts," "The Camp Fire Girls" and other [endeavors], that can and will result in normal help for young people. I agree with Dr. Gulick: "It is necessary that the [consciousness] of dignity, romance and beauty, be again restored to daily work, that it may once more take the fundamental place in the training of strong true character" etc. [page 5]

Some mothers, might be sufficiently ill judged to read to a boy about the social evil, in detailed exploitation; few fathers would. Men know better cause and effect and are surprised at such a book, from any woman. You cannot balance with good, the harm this book may do. I realize you meant well, hence the situation is pathetic. I am mailing you a copy of Mrs. Goodman's book. As a married woman of exceptional education and attainment, who knows her subject, she covers in a healthful way, ground that is left sweet and wholesome.

Sometime when you are in New York, I would like to be advised and to meet you, for [perhaps] personal discussion [page 6] would be mutually helpful; meanwhile, believe my opinion is not solitary.

With much respect for Miss Addams

Very sincerely

Phoebe E H Willets

Mrs. Joseph Hewlett Willets,
Cold Spring Harbor,
Long Island,
New York.

July the seventeenth