The House That Jane Built
I have a riddle for you. The FBI kept a file on her and
considered her "the most dangerous woman in America." She was the
first American woman to win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. She
was one of the founding members of the ACLU and the NAACP and had the
attention of several presidents.
Now who am I talking about?
If you guessed Jane Addams, YOWZA! You are up on your
herstory. If you didn't, don't feel bad. I purposely left out the
funding of Hull House, her achievement that is best known today. Tanya
Lee Stone's The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Adams makes
this story beautifully accessible to young readers and listeners.
Through what was probably a combination of inborn spunk and
liberal parenting Jane Addams became a woman ahead of her time. She
went on adventures with her stepbrother and graduated college at the
head of her class at a time when most women didn't pursue higher
As a young child, when Addams became aware of the destitute
conditions many people dwelt in she resolved to live "right in the
midst of the horrid little houses" in order to change things. This
was no idle promise. She started a settlement house in the poverty
ridden slums of Chicago. At a time when most white women of means
supported charities by giving money to missionary societies, she she
went right down there live among the desperately poor people she had
vowed to serve.
Jane Adams is a woman whose story needs to be heard now more
than ever. The financial gap between the haves and the have nots is
widening to an obscene degree. At the same time they are becoming
much less likely to live in the same neighborhoods or send their
children to the same public schools. The increasing invisibility of
the lived experience of the poor makes it all too easy for demogogues
like Governor LePage to demonize and deprive them.
On a personal note, I am not anywhere near as ambitious as Jane
Addams. But I have my little piece of turf I'm working towards
setting up. For years now I've been a member of the Community Center
Development Committee. I want to make sure one room becomes a food
pantry/clothing exchange. I plan for it to be decorated in murals
done by kids in the school.
A great big shout out goes out to the people who continue to go out to
work in the most dangerous and destitute places on the face of the
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod