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Jane Addams: Spirit in Action Hardcover – September 6, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393071650
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393071658
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jane Addams (1860–1935) was one of the leading figures of the Progressive era. This "pragmatic visionary," as Knight calls her, is best known as the creator of Hull House, a model settlement house offering training, shelter, and culture for Chicago's poor. Addams also involved herself in a long list of Progressive campaigns. Her rhetorical skills as both speaker and writer made her internationally recognized as a supporter of civil rights, woman suffrage, and labor reform. Using brief quotes and contextual details, Knight (Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy) describes her subject's journey from a Victorian upbringing that stressed family duty through her practice of lofty "benevolence" as a young woman to the confidence to unhesitatingly risk her substantial reputation advocating pacifism during WWI. Her continuing peace activities earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, but antagonized many longstanding supporters. In this well-supported and appealing portrait of an iconic American, Knight emphasizes Addams's struggle to redefine Victorian womanhood and claim her right to "possess authority in the public realm" and "exercise authority" as a lobbying feminist who helped women acquire the right to vote. 32 illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Jane Addams’ life story never becomes irrelevant. With the passage of time, her reputation and her remarkable accomplishments have only increased in stature. As the cofounder of Hull House, the first settlement house in America, she gained a level of independence, influence, and respect seldom achieved by a woman in the late nineteenth century. As the twentieth century dawned, Addams began translating her own heartfelt spirit of democracy into both social and political action. In addition to helping the immigrant residents of her working-class Chicago neighborhood, she became a tireless advocate of labor unions, free speech, civil rights, women’s suffrage, and world peace. Knight, the author of Citizen (2006), provides the first full-length biography of Jane Addams in 35 years. She carefully traces Addams’ philosophical progression as she Addams evolvedfrom a passive reformer into an active collaborator, who tirelessly worked with, not for, others to usher in a new era of democracy and social justice. --Margaret Flanagan

More About the Author

Louise (Lucy) W. Knight is a biographer living in Evanston, Illinois. In 2005 she published her first book CITIZEN: JANE ADDAMS AND THE STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY (University of Chicago Press, 2005), an in-depth exploration of Addams's formative years, through age 40. The book traces how she struggled to find a purpose in life and how her passion for democracy was deepened by experience. Knight's second book, a full life biography of Addams entitled JANE ADDAMS: SPIRIT IN ACTION, was published by W. W. Norton in 2010, and highlights her emergence as a leading political leader and her national and international struggles and achievements. Previously, Knight worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C., and as a fundraiser at Duke University, Wheaton College (Mass.), and United South End Settlements in Boston. Beginning in 1993, when she founded Knight Consulting, she has worked as a consultant to nonprofits and foundations. For more information about her as an author, see www.louisewknight.com. For more about her as a consultant, see www.LKnightConsulting.com.

Customer Reviews

A really interesting, engaging book I enjoyed.
Maryland Reader
Viewed in this way, it becomes easy for the reader to understand how it was that Addams always seemed so new and contemporary.
G. Schechter
In essence, it is a very human biography of a truly extraordinary individual.
P. Daniels

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By G. Schechter on October 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Louise Knight's is a highly readable, very well-written book that captures in 200 pages the essence and scope of one of the greatest women the United States has ever produced: Jane Addams. Not only does one learn about the historical context in which Addams lived (and indeed, which she helped shape) from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries around labor reform, women's suffrage, immigration, peace, social philosophy, and new bottom-up tactics in effecting political change, but Knight provides intimate insights into the evolution of the upper-class-bred Addams into a woman of the people and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Knight takes nothing Addams said or did at face value, providing the historian's needed "detective work" to ferret out the whys and wherefores of Addams' actions.

To provide but two of many examples, Knight notes that in a speech Addams gave in 1896 following the violent Pullman strike, Addams used the word "power" in what was for her a new context, that of "Pullman's 'power' to build the town of Pullman and... his failture to recognize the legitimacy" of his own workers'/tenants' demands. Knight: "'Power' was a word Addams had previously used to refer to character. Growing up, she had dreamed of achieving that kind of personal power, but she had no conscious experience with other kinds of power. Sheltered within her family, she had not seen the power the family's wealth gave it economically and socially, nor seen the other kinds of power her father's influence as a politican created. She lived on the safe side of impersonal power, oblivious and innocent. Why did she see it now?
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jan on September 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Last night I listened to Bill O'Reilly denigrate "Progressive Values" on Fox News. But if YOU are the least bit confused by the term "Progressive Values," if you wonder if YOU want to be called "a Progressive" yourself, then this really is the book for you!

Me, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind how Jane Addams would vote in November if she were here to do so in person.

Quoted from the Postscript: "On the whole, history confirmed that the fears of conservatives were unfounded. The end of child labor, which Congress banned in 1938, did not force major industries out of business; women's ability to vote did not destroy the family; federal old-age pensions, the federal minimum wage, and state unemployment insurance did not destroy the American capitalist system... On the other hand, seventy-five years after her death, many of the problems worked on by Addams and other reformers, of both genders and of every class and race, remain unfinished..."

Enthusiasm gap??? Not if YOU read THIS book!!!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Maryland Reader on October 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book so much I feel compelled to do a review. There is nothing about Jane Addams upbringing that would predict her leadership roles in women's sufferage, civil rights, and as an advocate for child labor laws, education and international peace. Her family was well-to-do, but not robber-baron wealthy, yet she founded Hull House with her own funds, thereafter supporting herself from writing and speaking engagements.

I found her personal philosophy and ethos (and lapses) fascinating. She sought to reconcile herself to what she was often already doing or advocating, yet somewhat unusually for that era, her compulsion toward public service was not based on traditional religious beliefs.

While the book paints a full picture of her range of intellectual and advocacy pursuits, it doesn't shy away from her failings. To give an egregious example, in 1899, a rash of lynchings occurred across the country and not just in the South. Perhaps because of a lack of personal knowledge, perhaps because of her own prejudices, her writings and advocacy were intended for white Southerners as an audience and took a tone of concern about the lack of due process of the mob, not the lynching itself or the torture, inequality and innocent victims of lynching. In the same year, her protests regarding the Filipino-American war did not take on the outdated tenents of "benevolent assimulation."

Louise Knight has woven the story of this complex, intelligent woman with her internal ethical debates into a highly readable book that presents Addams and her advocacy within the frame of her time's events. She met and corresponded with Presidents, intellectuals and leaders of her day, as well those emigrants using Hull House resources. A really interesting, engaging book I enjoyed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marilyn Fischer on January 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Finally! A full biography of one of the most amazing women in American history that gives a full account of her feminism and her penetrating intellect. Knight's biography presents Addams sympathetically, but as fully human--smart, tender, ambitious, willing to admit failures and learn from them, and fully engaged with the challenges of her time.

The writing is gorgeous: clear, straight-forward, and pitch-perfect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Jensen on April 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jane Addams symbolizes the struggle to improve the status quo, she was a fighter and would never back down when she was fighting for a cause. Whether she was trying to improve the working conditions for the working class, get Child Labor Laws put into effect, or Woman's Suffrage, Jane was always putting herself at risk for others. This book goes deep into the personal conflicts Jane had internally and externally throughout her life as a young woman in the late 1800's until her death in 1935 at age 74. This book is an easy read and the details of her life are very amazing such as the fact she was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Although she was recognized for her accomplishments later in life, what I love about Jane Addams was that she had a heart of gold even as a young child with a keen sense of right from wrong and wanting to make a positive impact on other's lives. This book deserves a 5-star review due to how well it transitions every important detail of her life and how she has impacted The United States and the world as we know it today.
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