Introduction to Hull-House Songs, 1915

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On its twenty-fifth anniversary, Hull-House publishes this group of songs composed by Miss Eleanor Smith, for many years the director of its Music School, considering it a legitimate function of the settlement to phrase in music the [widespread] social compunctions of our day.

Four of the songs were written at various times in response to public efforts in which the residents of Hull-House were much absorbed -- the protection of sweat-shop workers, the abolition of child labor, the relief of the anthracite coal miners during a great strike, and the movement for granting votes to women. We believe that all of the songs in this collection [fulfill] the highest mission of music, first in giving expression to the type of emotional experience which quickly tends to get beyond words, and second in affording an escape from the unnecessary disorder of actual life into the wider region of the spirit which, under the laws of a great art, may be filled with an austere beauty and peace.

The last song, a prayer to be saved from the eternal question as to whether in any real sense the world is governed in the interest of righteousness, voices the doubt which so inevitably dogs the footsteps of all those who venture into the jungle of social wretchedness. Because old-fashioned songs, with the exception of those of religion and patriotism, chiefly expressed the essentially individualistic emotions of love, hope or melancholy, it is perhaps all the more imperative that socialized emotions should also find musical expression, if the manifold movements of our contemporaries are to have the inspiration and solace they so obviously need.

Jane Addams.

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