Jane Addams: Spirit in Action
In the Media



Book Reviews











Books by Knight:

A full-life biography

Spirt in Action



A half-life biography about Addams's formative years


For upcoming appearances, see the tab above.

The Grimke Project:

My next book will be about Angelina and Sarah Grimke, two abolitionists and women's rights advocates of the 1830s, and the decade in which their activism flourished, the 1830s. To learn more about the sisters, listen to the Nov. 4, 2013 radio interview below.

Radio Interviews about the Grimkes

On November 4th, 2013 this 15-minute interview with me aired in South Carolina statewide on the "Your Day Radio Program," of South Carolina Educational Radio, with Roy Scott. This is a good overview about who the sisters are and why their story needs to be told.

On September 28, 2013, host Robin Morgan interviewed me about the book I am writing about the Grimkes and the Boston "How Women Become Political" event (see below) on weekly Women's Media Center Live radio program. For the podcast, go here.

Boston Event on How Women Become Political:

On October 7th, 2013, the Grimke Event Committee, which I chaired, along with our wonderful partner, Simmons College, hosted a celebration in downtown Boston of an historic accomplishment by Angelina Grimke. She was the first woman to address a legislative body in the history of the United States. The event happened 175 years ago in Boston and to commemorate it, we organized an event in the same city entitled, "How Women Become Political." Speakers included Gloria Steinem, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley and (by video) Senator Elizabeth Warren. For a link to a video of the event, see the C-Span website here.

For more about Angelina Grimke's remarkable 1838 speech, see here for the speech and here for the history.

For information about my upcoming and past appearances related to Jane Addams, see the tab above.

Below are a few links to recent writings and other appearances:

On July 18th, 2013 I was interviewed by St. Louis Public Radio about the early history of the settlement movement. The station posted a story here about the interview, and, down the page, a link to listen to it. My portion begins the segment.

In October 2012, I gave a talk about the political friendship between Jane Addams and fellow Progressive, Theodore Roosevelt to the Theodore Roosevelt Association at its annual meeting in Chicago. The talk has been broadcast several times on C-Span3 American History TV and can be viewed online here.

In April 2012, 23 Nobel Peace Laureates came to Chicago for a world summit. My blog post about Chicago's three Nobel Peace Laureates was published in the Huffington Post here.

In January 2012, the social services agency in Chicago that Addams co-founded, Hull House, announced that it was closing its doors.The piece I wrote for the Nation to consider its legacy is here.

In November 2011, I helped organize a roundtable discussion on women's intellectual history at the United States Intellectual History conference. Here is the link.

My op ed in the Chicago Tribune about the three women Nobel Peace Prize winners is here.

My piece on the Women's Media Center website about the media coverage on the recent testosterone study and what Jane Addams would think of it is here.

See to Knight on on C-Span Book TV's "Afterwords" here!

Listen to a recent 15-minute interview on the blog radio show, "Feisty Side of 50" here.


Why Two Books about Jane Addams?

When I wrote Citizen, my goal was to understand how Addams became one of the foremost leaders of the Progressive Era before World War I The book is about her formative years. It traces how she changed as she grew into adulthood, through her 40th year and shows what ideas shaped her childhood and how she adapted them as her world widened, although not without painful struggles along the way. The second half of the book covers her first ten years living at the settlement house she and a friend co-founded in Chicago, and what ideas she redefined, especially her ideas about democracy.

The second book, Jane Addams, covers her whole life, and while it draws on the inisghts I gained from writing the first book, it is all fresh writing, and carries the story across every decade of her life, from 1860 until her death in 1935. We see her wrestling with the politicization of politics, trying to find her footing during a painful dispute within the rising suffrage movement, and feeling compelled by her conscience to take an anguished stand for peace during time of war. In this book, the moral dilemmas created by aspiring to a Christian-infused integrity -- always under construction -- are highlighted. Iit focuses on her emergence as a political leader with a fierce democratic vision and shows what she was able to accomplish in collaboratiion with many allies and the price she paid for her commitments.

This second book is meant to be is a short introduction to her full life. It was written because so many people do not know the story. It is the first full-life biography of Addams in 37 years.

What Does Being Over Fifty Mean?

The question was one that women a hundred years ago also wrestled with. Jane Addams even wrote an essay about it, "Need a Woman Over 50 Feel Old?" I have posted this essay on my website (see "About Jane Addams") and it is also posted on the website of an expert on the question for our own times, Suzanne Braun Levine, the author of FIFTY IS THE NEW FIFTY. http://www.suzannebraunlevine.com/tag/jane-addams/


Culture of Poverty

A friend recently asked me if I thought Jane Addams believed that there was a "culture of poverty"? Here is my reply:

The meaning Addams might have ascribed to this modern phrase is different than the one that most people have in mind. Addams was an optimist about the possibilities of self-development, especially among the youth, no matter what difficult circumstances they were born to. At the same time, she saw in her neighbors' lives the ways that the experience of poverty permeated their days and had the potential to shape their habits and expectations of life. She observed that sometimes the working poor developed a certain philosophical acceptance about their lack of choices; they learned to accept what they could not change. And they often did not understand the power of collective action -- a power they especially needed. At the same time, she knew many whose optimism, determination, self-discipline and very hard work to improve their lives hugely impressed her. I wonder whether we might just as well consider those fine and human qualities "the culture of poverty"?

Jane Addams: Spirit In Action

Louise W. Knight's full life biography, JANE ADDAMS: SPIRIT IN ACTION was published by W. W. Norton in September 2010, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Addams's birth.

In this landmark biography, Jane Addams becomes America's most admired and most hated woman—and wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jane Addams (1860-1935) was a leading statesperson in an era when few imagined such possibilities for women. In this fresh interpretation, the first full biography of Addams in nearly forty years, Louise W. Knight shows Addams's boldness, creativity, and tenacity as she sought ways to put the ideals of democracy into action. Starting in Chicago as a co-founder of the nation's first settlement house, Hull House—a community center where people of all classes and ethnicities could gather—Addams became a grassroots organizer and a partner of trade unionists, women, immigrants, and African Americans seeking social justice. In time she emerged as a progressive political force; an advocate for women's suffrage; an advisor to presidents; a co-founder of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP; and a leader for international peace. Written as a fast-paced narrative, Jane Addams traces how one woman worked with others to make a difference in the world.

Endorsements and Reviews for SPIRIT IN ACTION

“This book is as fine an introduction to the life and thought of Jane Addams as one is ever likely to read. Her internal growth as a world-class democrat, coupled with the many public causes with which she interacted, is so beautifully laid out that the reader sees vividly why Addams was, is, and remains an iconic figure in American history.”
Vivian Gornick, author of Fierce Attachments and The Men in My Life

“Only superlatives like excellent and elegant can do justice to Louise W. Knight’s fine Jane Addams. Whether Addams was grass-roots organizing, founding Hull House, or fighting for women’s suffrage, she was always an indefatigable warrior. If there was any real fairness in this troubled world Addams would have won three Nobel Peace Prizes instead of one. Highly recommended.”

Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America

“Louise W. Knight’s masterful biography of Jane Addams not only brings to life this remarkable crusader for peace and justice but serves as an eloquent reminder of the ideals for which she stood. Addams may be gone but with the publication of this spiritually imbued biography her dreams will live again and her life can be a model for yet another generation. To commemorate the 150th birthday of this icon of American decency and fairness, Knight’s biography is a book that begs to be given as a present to others.”
James McGrath Morris, author of Pulitzer: A Life in Politics,
Print and Power

“As the granddaughter of a Hull House teacher, I read this beautiful biography with a sort of intimate awe. This biography is a gift to my generation, a call for us to be as courageous and visionary in our own time as Jane Addams was in hers.” —

Courtney E. Martin, author of Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists

“Jane Addams lives in these pages. So does her work and wisdom on such ongoing concerns as immigration, the intertwined restrictions of sex and race, striving for peace in a nation at war, and acting locally while thinking globally. Thanks to Louise Knight, we can meet an experienced organizer and a friend we need right now.”

Gloria Steinem

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.

Publishers' Weekly, July 26, 2010