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Jane Addams' Vision of Democracy - Essay Example

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Jane Addams' Vision of Democracy

She spent seven years after her graduation trying to identify a worthwhile career. (US Political thought). In search of clarity, she made two trips to Europe. The first was in 1883-85. The second was in 1887-88. During her second trip she visited Toynbee Hall and was greatly influenced by what she saw. She decided to establish a similar settlement house in Chicago. Joining hands with her friend Ellen Gates Starr, she opened the Hull House in September 1889.
The life history of Jane Addams is marked by ups and downs. The ebbs and tides of social recognition she received were severe and strong. Her defense of the anarchists following the assassination of the President William McKinlev (September 1901) showed her in poor light. But it was her stand against the involvement of America in the First World War that brought her name and fame to a record low level.
The negative feedbacks never slowed her down. Jean Bethke Elshtain points out, "Elizabeth Dilling described Jane Addams as a dangerous radical masquerading as a saintly champion of the poor." (Elshtain 19) Jane Addams seemed to accept bouquets and brickbats gracefully. She was continuing on her chosen path.
In 1931 she was awarded the honorary doctorate by the University of Chicago. In the same year, she got Nobel Award jointly with Nicholas Murray Butler. The beautiful life sketch drawn by Jean Bethke Elshtain brings out vividly how Jane Addams who fought to improve the living standards of the residents of Hull House, was drawn into the realms of dangerous and seedy realms of Chicago politics; how her insistence upon peace and justice at international level, made lose her popularity at national level; and how, in due course her relentless fight for peace gradually removed the national scorn; and again, she gained recognition at national and international levels.
Though Jane Addams' fame did slide down sometimes, her sincere work has carved a niche for her in the minds of the people. A proof for this is that her book 'Twenty Years at Hull-House' in which she has given a description of her early years has never gone out of print since its first publication in 1910.
Jane Addams was admired as a respectable social worker, fighter for the rights of women and downtrodden, an intellectual, effective writer and a political activist. She highlighted by her own example that the core of true citizenship was the concern for others' difficulties and concerted efforts to be of help to all. In her vision of democracy, by personal example, she laid rules for true citizens. By defining true citizens, by emphasizing direct participation in social life, she defined democracy.
Jean Bethke Elshtain, who was determined "to draw back the curtain of historic mist and dust that has obscured Addams and blurred her reputation", has provided the most appropriate source to understand Jane Addams' vision of American Democracy.
Addams did believe in Democracy. Her father had given her a concept of democracy. learnt from Abraham Lincoln, his one time political acquaintance. We all know that the most simple, direct and evocative definition of Democracy, "Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people." has come down to us from Abraham Lincoln. Addams had been initiated into this personally by her father in her formative years. So her vision of dem ...Show more


Laura Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860 in the small town of Cedarville, Illinois. Having lost her mother very early in life, she was greatly influenced by her father. One remarkable guiding principle for her was to look at facts of life straight and deal with them; she hated evading problems…
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Jane Addams Vision of Democracy essay example
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