The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the Universe which runs through himself and all things.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
This book covers Addams's life from birth to age 40. My goal was to understand her formative years, how she became the leader she became. Not surprisingly, it was a process of adding to and subtracting from her core beliefs -- about human nature, about people of other classes and races, about where her first duties (she was a 19th century woman after all) lay. She flourished in a privileged "given life" in a wealthy family in a small town but in the end she embraced a new "chosen life" in the industrial city of Chicago, living among working people, mostly immigrants, and, her inheritance spent, earning her own living as a speaker and writer. The second half of the book covers her first ten years living at the settlement house she and a friend co-founded in Chicago, Hull House, and changing her mind about what it meant to believe in democracy. She had always loved the idea, but it was life at Hull House that taught her what trusting the people really meant.
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This book is a full-life biography. While it draws on the insights I gained from writing Citizen, 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. It focuses on her emergence as a political leader with a fierce democratic vision and shows what she was able to accomplish in collaboration with many allies and the price she paid for her commitments. Those looking for a short introduction to her full life. will want to read this book. It was written because so many people do not know the story. It is the first full-life biography of Addams in 37 years.
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