Jane Addams Quotes

1860 - 1935

Jane Addams writing a letter at her desk
Jane Addams writing a letter at her desk. Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Jane Addams is best known as the founder and, for its early history, the leader of Hull-House in Chicago, one of the most successful settlement houses. She also worked for women's rights and peace, and wrote several books on social ethics.  She was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

Selected Jane Addams Quotations

  1. Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.
  2. The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.
  3. Unless our conception of patriotism is progressive, it cannot hope to embody the real affection and the real interest of the nation.
  4. In his own way each man must struggle, lest the normal law become a far-off abstraction utterly separated from his active life.
  5. Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.
  6. Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we often might win, by fearing to attempt.
  7. Private beneficence is totally inadequate to deal with the vast numbers of the city's disinherited.
  8. We have learned to say that the good must be extended to all of society before it can be held secure by any one person or class; but we have not yet learned to add to that statement, that unless all [people] and all classes contribute to a good, we cannot even be sure that it is worth having.
  9. We slowly learn that life consists of processes as well as results, and that failure may come quite as easily from ignoring the adequacy of one's method as from selfish or ignoble aims. We are thus brought to a conception of Democracy not merely as a sentiment which desires the well-being of all [people], nor yet as a creed which believes in the essential dignity and equality of all [people], but as that which affords a rule for living as well as a test of faith.
  10. Social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself.
  11. The new growth in the plant swelling against the sheath, which at the same time imprisons and protects it, must still be the truest type of progress.
  12. Civilization is a method of living and an attitude of equal respect for all people.
  13. Old-fashioned ways which no longer apply to changed conditions are a snare in which the feet of women have always become readily entangled.
  14. I do not believe that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislature, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance.
  15. National events determine our ideals, as much as our ideals determine national events.
  16. An unscrupulous contractor regards no basement as too dark, no stable loft too foul, no rear shanty too provisional, no tenement room too small for his workroom as these conditions imply low rental.
  17. America's future will be determined by the home and the school. The child becomes largely what he is taught; hence we must watch what we teach, and how we live.
  18. The essence of immorality is the tendency to make an exception of myself.
  19. The excellent becomes the permanent.
  20. Teaching in a Settlement requires distinct methods, for it is true of people who have been allowed to remain undeveloped and whose facilities are inert and sterile, that they cannot take their learning heavily. It has to be diffused in a social atmosphere, information must be held in solution, in a medium of fellowship and good will.... It is needless to say that a Settlement is a protest against a restricted view of education.
  21. [M]any women today are failing properly to discharge their duties to their own families and household simply because they fail to see that as society grows more complicated it is necessary that women shall extend her sense of responsibility to many things outside of her home, if only to preserve the home in entirety.
  22. The relationship of students and faculty to each other and to the residents was that of guest and hostess and at the close of each term the residents gave a reception to students and faculty which was one of the chief social events of the season. Upon this comfortable social basis some very good work was done.
  23. That Christianity has to be revealed and embodied in the line of social progress is a corollary to the simple proposition, that man's action is found in his social relationships in the way in which he connects with his fellows; that his motives for action are the zeal and affection with which he regards his fellows. By this simple process was created a deep enthusiasm for humanity; which regarded man as at once the organ and the object of revelation; and by this process came about the wonderful fellowship, the true democracy of the early Church, that so captivates the imagination.... The spectacle of the Christians loving all men was the most astounding Rome had ever seen.
  24. It is always easy to make all philosophy point one particular moral and all history adorn one particular tale; but I may be forgiven the reminder that the best speculative philosophy sets forth the solidarity of the human race; that the highest moralists have taught that without the advance and improvement of the whole, no man can hope for any lasting improvement in his own moral or material individual condition; and that the subjective necessity for Social Settlements is therefore identical with that necessity, which urges us on toward social and individual salvation.
  25. For ten years I have lived in a neighborhood which is by no means criminal, and yet during last October and November we were startled by seven murders within a radius of ten blocks. A little investigation of details and motives, the accident of a personal acquaintance with two of the criminals, made it not in the least difficult to trace the murders back to the influence of war. Simple people who read of carnage and bloodshed easily receive its suggestions. Habits of self-control which have been but slowly and imperfectly acquired quickly break down under the stress.
  26. Psychologists intimate that action is determined by the selection of the subject upon which the attention is habitually fixed. The newspapers, the theatrical posters, the street conversations for weeks had to do with war and bloodshed. The little children on the street played at war, day after day, killing Spaniards. The humane instinct, which keeps in abeyance the tendency to cruelty, the growing belief that the life of each human being -- however hopeless or degraded, is still sacred -- gives way, and the barbaric instinct asserts itself.
  27. It is doubtless only during a time of war that the men and women of Chicago could tolerate whipping for children in our city prison, and it is only during such a time that the introduction in the legislature of a bill for the re-establishment of the whipping post could be possible. National events determine our ideals, as much as our ideals determine national events.

About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Jane Addams Quotes." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/jane-addams-quotes-3530104. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2023, April 5). Jane Addams Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/jane-addams-quotes-3530104 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Jane Addams Quotes." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/jane-addams-quotes-3530104 (accessed June 2, 2023).