This past Saturday was the 10th annual Jane Addams Day in Illinois. It was my fourth helping the American Association of University Women Chicago, Inc. celebrate this excellent day. We partner with our Illinois chapter and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association to host an amazing event.
We started with speaker, Louise Knight, historian and author, who talked about the alliance with Jane Addams and Theodore Roosevelt. He needed her progressive support while she needed his audience in order to help the cause of suffrage. It wasn’t an easy alliance; Theodore Roosevelt was not as fully committed to women’s universal suffrage right then and now. He advocated for the approach of having women decide themselves, which was never going to realistically happen. One thing I learned was that the biggest group against women’s suffrage was the brewers and those involved in the alcohol trade because they feared (rightly) about their influence on anti-alcohol laws. So much of the opposition was funded by them. However, when the 18th Amendment ushering in Prohibition was passed, they gave up. Months later, the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, was passed. I had no idea about the connection! For more information on Louise Knight and her work on Jane Addams, check out her website: http://www.louisewknight.com/the-author.html
Our second speaker was Annie Storr, visiting professor from Brandeis. She talked about Ellen Gates Starr and her work in elections. Professor Storr talked about how Ellen Gates Starr ran for alderman and later (i think) trustee for the University of Illinois. She lost both of them by a large margin. However, the next woman to run for trustee won. It was a nice reminder that sometimes you may not get the result you want but it’s an important step in the right direction.
Our final presenter was singer and songwriter Kristin Lems, who was our featured guest in 2015. She sang two of her songs in her musical about Jane Addams and talked about her own family history intertwined with Hull House. She finished with two feminist songs including “We will Never Give up.” She sang this song while working to get the ERA amendment passed. I think it’s an important message for us all. For more on Kristin Lems and her amazing music: http://www.kristinlems.com/
What a wonderful Jane Addams day!