Saturday, 14 January 2006 - 5:06 PM

Jane Addams, Social Work, and the Progressive Party of 1912

Patrick Selmi, PhD, University of South Carolina.

This paper examines Jane Addams, social work, and the Progressive Party campaign of 1912. Addams has been recognized by scholars for being the first woman to second the nomination of a major presidential candidate at the Party's convention and the Party's platform has been recognized as being influenced by social work's activities during the progressive movement (Addams, 1930; Davis, 1964; Gustafson, 2001; Burns and Dunn, 2001; Elshtain, 2002). This paper suggests that Addams played a more significant role in the campaign generally than has been identified by scholars and that ongoing struggles progressives faced to separate their platform and objectives from Socialists specifically and radicalism generally contributed to the failure of the campaign in its bid to win the White House. In this paper, I chronicle the activities of Addams in the campaign and examine the party's campaign strategies and actions. In particular the paper addresses the following questions: (1) Why did Addams support Theodore Roosevelt despite their differences on issues regarding women's suffrage and race relations?; (2) What were Addams and social work's specific contributions to the campaign? (3) How did Addams and campaign leaders respond to criticisms their Platform reflected the ideas of radicals and Socialists? (4) What lessons did the campaign provide for Addams and social work and what lessons do they provide for contemporary social workers? Utilizing the papers of Jane Addams, Lillian Wald, Florence Kelley, Paul Kellogg, and Theodore Roosevelt, news paper accounts, and secondary sources, this paper found the following: (1) Addams supported Roosevelt on the grounds she concluded he was the “best possible” candidate and his decision to support, albeit mildly, women's suffrage; (2) Addams played a vital role in establishing the Party's Platform and campaign strategy as well as provided campaign speeches on behalf of Roosevelt; (3) the campaign was never prepared to address on a systematic basis charges of radicalism and the failure to do so hurt the campaign's credibility; and (4) Addams recognized the need for social work and settlement houses to partake, when necessary, in partisan political activity. Lessons for contemporary social workers interested in advancing a progressive agenda include recognizing the need to partake in partisan politics and the need to construct a well-developed political strategy that clearly delineates the differences between progressive and radical reform measures.

REFERENCES Addams, J. (1030). The Second Twenty-Years at Hull-House: September 1908- September 1929. NY: Macmillan Company. Burns, J. & Dunn, S. (2001). The Three Roosevelt's: Patrician Leaders Who Transformed America. NY: The Grove Press. Davis, A. “The Social Workers and the Progressive Party, 1912-1916”. (American Historical Review, LXIX, April, 1964, pp. 671-678). Elshtain, J.B. (2002). Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy. New York: Basic Books. Gustafson, M.S. (2001). Women and the Republican Party, 1854-1924. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

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