Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy

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University of Chicago Press, Sep 15, 2008 - History - 598 pages
Jane Addams was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Now Citizen, Louise W. Knight's masterful biography, reveals Addams's early development as a political activist and social philosopher. In this book we observe a powerful mind grappling with the radical ideas of her age, most notably the ever-changing meanings of democracy.

Citizen covers the first half of Addams's life, from 1860 to 1899. Knight recounts how Addams, a child of a wealthy family in rural northern Illinois, longed for a life of larger purpose. She broadened her horizons through education, reading, and travel, and, after receiving an inheritance upon her father's death, moved to Chicago in 1889 to co-found Hull House, the city's first settlement house. Citizen shows vividly what the settlement house actually was—a neighborhood center for education and social gatherings—and describes how Addams learned of the abject working conditions in American factories, the unchecked power wielded by employers, the impact of corrupt local politics on city services, and the intolerable limits placed on women by their lack of voting rights. These experiences, Knight makes clear, transformed Addams. Always a believer in democracy as an abstraction, Addams came to understand that this national ideal was also a life philosophy and a mandate for civic activism by all.

As her story unfolds, Knight astutely captures the enigmatic Addams's compassionate personality as well as her flawed human side. Written in a strong narrative voice, Citizen is an insightful portrait of the formative years of a great American leader.

“Knight’s decision to focus on Addams’s early years is a stroke of genius. We know a great deal about Jane Addams the public figure. We know relatively little about how she made the transition from the 19th century to the 20th. In Knight’s book, Jane Addams comes to life. . . . Citizen is written neither to make money nor to gain academic tenure; it is a gift, meant to enlighten and improve. Jane Addams would have understood.”—Alan Wolfe, New York Times Book Review

“My only complaint about the book is that there wasn’t more of it. . . . Knight honors Addams as an American original.”—Kathleen Dalton, Chicago Tribune
 

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User Review  - autumnturner76 - LibraryThing

So far, the book is great, but I am going to set it aside for awhile simply because it has been languishing on my currently reading list and although I pick it up now and then, it deserves more attention than I am currently giving it. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - AutumnTurner - LibraryThing

So far, the book is great, but I am going to set it aside for awhile simply because it has been languishing on my currently reading list and although I pick it up now and then, it deserves more attention than I am currently giving it. Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
The Given Life 186088
7
The Chosen Life 188999
177
Scholarship and Jane Addams
405
List of Abbreviations
413
Notes
417
Bibliography
523
Index
565
Copyright

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Page 7 - All those hints and glimpses of a larger and more satisfying democracy, which literature and our own hopes supply, have a tendency to slip away from us and to leave us sadly unguided and perplexed when we attempt to act upon them. Our conceptions of morality, as all our other ideas, pass through a course of development; the difficulty comes in adjusting our conduct, which has become hardened into customs and habits, to these changing moral conceptions. When this adjustment is not made, we suffer...
Page vii - People are beginning to inquire how far public sentiment should sanction or tolerate these unsexed women, who would step out from the true sphere of the mother, the wife, and the daughter, and taking upon themselves the...

About the author (2008)

Louise W. Knight is an independent scholar who has taught rhetoric at Northwestern University.

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