Quotations by Addams, Jane


These young men and women, longing to socialize their democracy, are animated by certain hopes which may be thus loosely formulated; that if in a democratic country nothing can be permanently achieved save through the masses of the people, it will be impossible to establish a higher political life than the people themselves crave; that it is difficult to see how the notion of a higher civic life can be fostered save through common intercourse; that the blessings which we associate with a life of refinement and cultivation can be made universal and must be made universal if they are to be permanent; that the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in mid-air, until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.

Jane Addams (1860-1935) American reformer, suffragist, philosopher, author
“The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements” (1892)
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Added on 27-Aug-13 | Last updated 27-Aug-13
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For action is indeed the sole medium of expression for ethics. We continually forget that the sphere of morals is the sphere of action, that speculation in regard to morality is but observation and must remain in the sphere of intellectual comment, that a situation does not really become moral until we are confronted with the question of what shall be done in a concrete case, and are obliged to act upon our theory.

Jane Addams (1860-1935) American reformer, suffragist, philosopher, author
Democracy and Social Ethics, ch. 7 “Political Reform” (1902)
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A city is in many respects a great business corporation, but in other respects it is enlarged housekeeping. … May we not say that city housekeeping has failed partly because women, the traditional housekeepers, have not been consulted as to its multiform activities?

Jane Addams (1860-1935) American reformer, suffragist, philosopher, author
Newer Ideals of Peace, “Utilization of Women in City Government” (1907)
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What, after all, has maintained the human race on this old globe, despite all the calamities of nature and all the tragic failings of mankind, if not faith in new possibilities and courage to advocate them?

Jane Addams (1860-1935) American reformer, suffragist, philosopher, author
Peace and Bread in Time of War, ch. 7 “Personal Reactions During War” (1922)
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Private beneficence is totally inadequate to deal with the vast numbers of the city’s disinherited.

Jane Addams (1860-1935) American reformer, suffragist, philosopher, author
Twenty Years at Hull-House, ch. 14 (1910)
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If the underdog were always right, one might quite easily try to defend him. The trouble is that very often he is but obscurely right, sometimes only partially right, and often quite wrong; but perhaps he is never so altogether wrong and pig-headed and utterly reprehensible as he is represented to be by those who add the possession of prejudices to the other almost insuperable difficulties of understanding him.

Jane Addams (1860-1935) American reformer, suffragist, philosopher, author
Twenty Years at Hull-House, ch. 17 (1910)
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In his own way each man must struggle, lest the moral law become a far-off abstraction utterly separated from his active life.

Jane Addams (1860-1935) American reformer, suffragist, philosopher, author
Twenty Years at Hull-House, ch. 4 “The Snare of Preparation” (1910)
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Quoting her notebook (Sep 1882).
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To do what you are afraid to do is to guide your life by fear. How much better not to be afraid to do what you believe in doing!

Jane Addams (1860-1935) American reformer, suffragist, philosopher, author
Editorial, Rockford Seminary Magazine (c. 1880)


Quoted in James Weber Linn, Jane Addams: A Biography (1935).

Reacting to Emerson. See also Schmich.

Added on 14-Aug-13 | Last updated 11-Aug-14
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