Sunday, December 22, 2013
9-6-13 RMB Jane and Mary
9-6-13 RMB Jane and Mary
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
It’s Friday night. tgif :)
Today the internet search engine, Google, tells me it is Jane Addams birthday. She lived from September 6th, 1860 to May 21st, 1935. Her name is vaguely familiar.
Google reminds me she was a pioneer settlement worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, a public philosopher, sociologist, author, a leader in the woman’s suffrage movement and world peace. Those last two credits caught my eye and tugged at my heart. I dug deeper and found she was the first American woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I like this gal!
I read on. She is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States. Not one of us can do individually, what all of us can do collectively. She knew that. She “got” that… and she did something about it.
Some days I find it difficult to check all my boxes; to fulfill my obligations in the day’s span of twenty-four hours, and she accomplished so much more in a time when simply doing laundry or cooking a meal took ten times longer than it does today.
I looked to see what motivated her and what help she had in her work. I wondered what kind of support she had; if she married a rich man and had servants at her beck and call. No, there was no husband, but she did not do all of this completely on her own. My research reveals “Addams was close to many women and was very good at eliciting the involvement of women from different classes.” This reminds me of your early days forming women’s collectives.
And for Jane, there was one special woman, Mary Rozet Smith, with whom she shared a “romantic friendship” and a home. I like that phrase, romantic friendship. It was said Smith “became and always remained the highest and clearest note in the music that was Jane Addams’ personal life.” When apart, Addams wrote to Smith, “I miss you dreadfully and am yours ‘til death.” The article noting this, mentions “it is possible that she was a lesbian.” Ya think?
Interesting how they avoid labeling her outright, as if it that would be a negative statement, but then why mention it at all? Perhaps it is a good thing they mention it, pointing out an aspect of this person’s life, a person that accomplished so much, giving the word lesbian a positive reference in our history.
I am glad Smith found Addams and I wonder if Addams would have accomplished all she did, had Smith not found her. To whomever it was that saved their letters and to those honest enough to document their life together, my hat goes off to you. In a world where history slants to the “right”, it’s important that we remember life is made rich by recognizing the essence of each individual’s contribution, in every way.
Cheers for Jane and Mary,