Speech to the Civic and Commerce Association, May 1, 1912 (excerpts)

Jane Addams Asserts Cities Breed Savages
Chicago Social Worker Declares Social Centers Are Needed.
She Says Recreation Parks Cleanse Crowded Communities.
Woman Speaks Before Civic and Commerce Association.

Jane Addams, speaking before the Civic and Commerce association in the West hotel yesterday, told her hearers that if a city wished to preserve for its inhabitants the greatest gift in its possession -- humanizing social relationships -- it must undertake the establishment of social centers in which social life might be organized and carried on steadily and normally.

"In a great city, just because men are crowded into hotels, apartment houses and tenements and constantly jostle each other upon the street, they are deluded into believing they have social intercourse when they have it not," said Miss Addams. "Therefore, unless the apparatus for social intercourse is formally provided by the city, it is possible in the midst of the crowd to cultivate habits of solitude and great secretiveness, just because people are deceived by the simulacrum of companionship.

[Page 2] "Many years ago Huxley contended that savages might easily be produced in the most crowded city quarters. Chicago recently has been startled by a very hideous murder, committed by a group of six young Polish men and boys. They lived in that part of the city which shows all the unlovely results of overcrowding. None of them, since they had left school, had been provided with any means for social intercourse and companionship. Some of the aspects of this murder -- the senseless mutilation of the body of the [victim] and others -- were [incredibly] remote from modern civilization.

Finds Gang System Powerful.

"I have lived for many years in Chicago in a ward which has been represented by an alderman who is considered corrupt. I have always been interested in his methods of procedure and I was much startled some years ago when Hull House was conducting a campaign against him to be told by a wise man in the locality that such an alderman could never be defeated, save by a candidate who had grown up in the ward and had had a long experience in the 'gang.' I have since learned to understand what he meant.

"The leader of a gang of boys gains his prestige largely through his power of obtaining favors for his followers. He discovered the alleys in which they may play undisturbed because a policeman; later he finds the pool rooms in which minors may congregate undisturbed in defiance of the law, the saloons which easily and readily sell liquor to minors or the gambling places which are protected by obscure, yet powerful influence. It is but a step further when he and his followers are voters, and he is running for office.

"While the power of a politician of this type is rapidly being abridged by the establishment of civil service in cities as well as by the operation of the various efficiency bureaus, to my mind it is being broken into more rapidly from the other end, as it were, by the gradual abolition of this particular type of gang training through the establishment of public recreation centers. [Page 3]

New System for Leaders.

"A group of boys will not continue to stand upon the street corners and to seek forbidden amusements in alleys and pool rooms when all the fascinating apparatus of a recreation field is at their disposal. Under this system the boy who is admired is not the one who can secure secret favors, but he is the one who can best meet those standards which boys maintain of athletic prowess, running, jumping, turning and so forth."

Six Hundred Present.

There were about 600 present at the meeting, at the close of Miss Addams' remarks the members of the Civic and Commerce association rose to their feet in token of appreciation of her talk and applauded. Alderman De Laittre presided at the dinner and urged that the men refrain from smoking during the hour. Miss Addams prefaced her talk with an allusion to this announcement. She told of the time when she was on the Chicago school board, and was appointed a teller at an election.

She was the only woman in the committee of tellers and after hours of laborious work the men bewailed the fact that they could not smoke because there was a woman present.

"Go ahead and smoke," she admonished. Later, when the news of the incident came out, she received many telegrams and letters from women's clubs deploring her action as "encouraging the very thing they sought to stop." Miss Addams explained that she would not ask the Civic and Commerce men to stop smoking out of deference to the other women present.

Mrs. T. G. Winter introduced Miss Addams, briefly eulogizing the patience, faith, humility and service which she said had characterized her life. [Page 4]

Social Evil Study is Urged

Miss Addams Declares People
Learn of Conditions and
Combat Them.

"Social evils can never be properly dealt with until the people awake to a realization of their seriousness and make efforts to obtain more intimate knowledge of the existing conditions, said Miss Jane Addams, who addressed an audience last night in the First Congregational church on "Newer Possibilities of Social Service." The auditorium of the church and the lobbies were crowded and Miss Addams' remarks were interrupted several times by bursts of applause. Rev. J. E. Freeman of the St. Mark's church, and Rev. L. A. Crandall of Trinity Baptist church, greeted Miss Addams in behalf of their congregations and Dr. Cyrus Northrup tendered her the greetings of the Methodist Conference now in session in Minneapolis.

Miss Addams spoke as the guest of the Minnesota Congregational club. In introducing her, Rev. H. P. Dewey of the Plymouth Congregational church, president of the club, paid a tribute to her work in Chicago and said that if the people of the United States desired to have a woman to occupy the presidential chair Miss Addams would be well fitted for the position.

Miss Addams said that the people and the churches throughout the country were confronted with a problem in the social evils that was in reality a test. "The police and the different associations," she said, "are doing good work in bettering conditions in society, but the matter will not be properly dealt with until the people know more about what is actually going on and realize that it is their duty to deal with the matter.

"Get in Touch With Conditions."

"The people themselves," she said, "must get in touch with the [denizens] of the underworld and learn just what the conditions are. They must find out how young girls are led astray and young boys turned into criminals. Then they will be able to cope with the problems.

Miss Addams declared that commercial enterprises were in a great way responsible for the ruination of [Page 5] young girls and boys. "The public dance hall," she said, "is one of the greatest factors in the degradation of girls and boys. A great number of these places are conducted in connection with saloons and the dancers are urged to drink liquor. About a year ago it was discovered upon investigation in Chicago that out of 319 dance halls, 264 were conducted in connection with saloons and waiters went about upon the floor urging the dancers to drink."

Miss Addams, in outlining plans to cope with the seduction of young girls, gave three phases of the situation, which must be considered -- the social, economical and the scientific. She said that efforts should be made to make the home life of girls more pleasant and to create conditions which would keep them from falling into temptations. She said that one-sixteenth of all the working girls in Chicago were living away from homes, and that a number of clubs and associations had been formed which were proving of great value in aiding these girls and women to lead comfortable and respectable lives.