Jane Addams, Pullman Strike, and Fashion

One of my favorite activities is to participate and attend historical events around Chicago. My boyfriend, friends and I have been involved in an array of events including the First Ward Ball (summoning up corrupt Aldermen Hinky Dink Kenna and Bathhouse John), the 1950s TV show “Super Circus,” and most recently recreating the stock exchange in Frank Norris’ 1903 novel “The Pit.

Well, in this spirit, I’m working on my own event to celebrate Jane Addams in December. She has an actual day set aside for her, which sadly no one really knows. It’s December 10th. Anyway, in order to celebrate this great woman and her day, I am putting together an event with American Association of University Women – Chicago on December 14th at 2pm at Hull House Museum. I’m focusing on one of the many issues that Jane Addams dealt with in her day: the Pullman Strike.

So right now, I’m doing my research to get a better sense of the Pullman strike. It’s amazing how little I knew before I began my work; Chicago history is simply taught poorly, if at all, in schools. I’m reading a contemporary account by Reverand William H. Carwardine who so far has a very sympathetic view of the strikers. He admires George Pullman but sees that many of his successful traits as part of his downfall.

In addition to getting his interesting perspective of Pullman town, the strike, etc, two comments about fashion peaked my interest. First, he talks about how the strikers adopted a white ribbon by strikers and their sympatheizers. In constrast, those who support Pullman against the strikers have adopted a minature American flag (Carwardine 45).. Yep, a flag pin. Amazing how some things really never change in our country.
The second note about fashion concerns…hats. The Reverend talks for a few pages about the generousity of people and organizations to relief efforts for the strikers and their families. In a long list of monies and goods in kind, he makes the charming comment, “From two firms came boxes of shirts, and one Oppenheimer, realizing that strikers must not go hatless, donated a box of hats” (Carwardine 44). Not only is this donation charming, it goes to reaffirm some of the general’s view of the strikers. Donors  attend to many needs, food, money, medical needs, and even something as seemingly minor as respectable appearances. This reaffirms Reverend Carwardine’s contention about the mostly respectful and refined conduct of the strikers.
Well, as least in my reading so far.
Design and art by Dan Carroll

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