In 1889, Jane Addams co-founded Hull House in Chicago, Illinois, the first settlement house in the United States. All of the initial funding came from the $50,000 estate she inherited after her father died. Jane was the first occupant of the house, which would later be the residence of about 25 women. At its height, Hull House was visited each week by around 2000 people. Its facilities included a night school for adults, kindergarten classes, clubs for older children, a public kitchen, an art gallery, a coffeehouse, a gymnasium, a girls club, bathhouse, a book bindery, a music school, a drama group, a library, and labor-related divisions.
Her adult night school was a forerunner of the continuing education classes offered by many universities today. In addition to making available services and cultural opportunities for the largely immigrant population of the neighborhood, Hull House afforded an opportunity for young social workers to acquire training. Eventually, the Hull House became a 13-building settlement, which included a playground and a summer camp.
In this book, Jane Addams reflects on labor, discrimination, welfare, education, and the role of democracy and government in relation to improving the lives of society's less fortunate.
Public Domain (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC
Written over 100 years ago, "Democracy and Social Ethics" is at times overly verbose and excruciating to follow. The author occasionally (particularly in the first chapter) goes into long, seemingly stream-of-conscious philisophical tangents in which she uses a lot of words but says very little, These parts of the book are nearly incomprehensible and thoroughly unbearable, you can almost skip the first chapter without missing anything important.
Later sections discuss the social circumstances of her time and her corresponding ethical perspective. Addams supports her opinions primarily with hypothetical anecdotes - 'a person who encounters this will do that', 'the person who participates in this may come to believe that' - which weakens her foundation somewhat. However, many of the social circumstances that she describes are no longer relevant to today's society, so the fact that some of her arguments are poorly supported seems inconsequential.
The value of this book in the 21st century is not in learning how to be a better person, but in learning about what life was like in the past. When Addams discusses topics like child-labor, live-in servants, and extreme political corruption, you'll find a new appreciation for modern America and how far we've come in the past century.
The narrator, who sounds about college-student-aged, does a solid job going over difficult language, with only a few tiny stumbles here and there. She speaks quickly but not too quickly to follow; overall, the narration is so smooth that it's easy to picture her plopped in a sound booth running through the entire book in one sitting without taking a break.
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