Jane Addams Was Tough, Played Politics – America’s Nonprofits, Take Note

With the demise of Hull House one of the issues that lingers over the disaster is how nonprofit leaders have strayed so far from Jane Addams fighting spirit. From The Chicago Tribune:

“Chicagoans know Addams as a leader of the social settlement movement and co-founder of Chicago’s famed Hull House, which abruptly closed Friday after 122 years. But she was so much more. She was a tireless and strident peace activist, an invaluable voice demanding the right of women to vote and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She became one of the most famous women in America and one of the most famous and highly respected Americans of her time.

She strongly felt that social services meant more than just feeding mouths and clothing bodies. Addams created a community, living with and getting to know the people she helped. She respected immigrant cultures, and provided education, training, citizenship classes and child care for working parents. She fought to improve their employment and living conditions.

But the gentle Jane Addams, whose father had been a banker and state senator, also turned out to be a politically savvy, down-in-the-wards street fighter, who wasn’t so gentle when it came to public corruption.”

The story recalls how she took on local ward boss Alderman John Powers and challenged his corrupt reign over the 19th Ward.

If America’s nonprofit leaders and Illinois’ nonprofit leaders had the will to fight that Jane had, perhaps our country and our state would not be in the pitiful state they are in. If Chicago’s nonprofit leaders had been in the political arena as Jane had been – perhaps there would’ve been more interest and support for Hull House as it hit the skids.

Let Jane have the final word (from Twenty Years at Hull House)

“Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.”

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