The aim of life is some way of living, as flexible and gentle as human nature; so that ambition may stoop to kindness, and philosophy to condor and humor. Neither prosperity nor empire nor heaven can be worth winning at the price of a virulent temper, bloody hands, an anguished spirit, and a vain hatred of the rest of the world.George Santayana
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Jane Addams (6 September 1860 - 21 May 1935) American social reformer
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Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910)
- I had a consuming ambition to possess a miller's thumb. I believe I have never since wanted anything more desperately than I wanted my right thumb to be flattened as my father’s had become, during his earlier years of a miller’s life.
- I dreamed night after night that everyone in the world was dead excepting myself, and that upon me rested the responsibility of making a wagon wheel.
- The Settlement ... is an experimental effort to aid in the solution of the social and industrial problems which are engendered by the modern conditions of life in a great city. It insists that these problems are not confined to any one portion of the city. It is an attempt to relieve, at the same time, the overaccumulation at one end of society and the destitution at the other ...
- [The Settlement House] must be grounded in a philosophy whose foundation is on the solidarity of the human race, a philosophy which will not waver when the race happens to be represented by a drunken woman or an idiot boy.
- We all bear traces of the starvation struggle which for so long made up the life of the race. Our very organism holds memories and glimpses of that long life of our ancestors which still goes on among so many of our contemporaries. Nothing so deadens the sympathies and shrivels the power of enjoyment as the persistent keeping away from the great opportunities for helpfulness and a continual ignoring of the starvation struggle which makes up the life of at least half the race. To shut one’s self away from that half of the race life is to shut one’s self away from the most vital part of it; it is to live out but half the humanity to which we have been born heir.
- We fatuously hoped that we might pluck from the human tragedy itself a consciousness of a common destiny which should bring its own healing, that we might extract from life’s very misfortunes a power of cooperation which should be effective against them.
- ... this dream that men shall cease to waste strength in competition and shall come to pool their powers of production is coming to pass all over the earth.
- ... life cannot be administered by definite rules and regulations; that wisdom to deal with a man’s difficulties comes only through some knowledge of his life and habits as a whole ...
- With all the efforts made by modern society to nurture and educate the young, how stupid it is to permit the mothers of young children to spend themselves in the coarser work of the world!
- ... if the Settlement seeks its expression through social activity, it must learn the difference between mere social unrest and spiritual impulse.
- A Settlement is above all a place for enthusiasms, a spot to which those who have a passion for the equalization of human joys and opportunities are early attracted.
- ... of all the aspects of social misery nothing is so heartbreaking as unemployment ...
- Hospitality still survives among foreigners, although it is buried under false pride among the poorest Americans.
- Private beneficence is totally inadequate to deal with the vast numbers of the city's disinherited.
- ... social advance depends quite as much upon an increase in moral sensibility as it does upon a sense of duty ...
- I have come to believe ... that the stage may do more than teach, that much of our current moral instruction will not endure the test of being cast into a lifelike mold, and when presented in dramatic form will reveal itself as platitudinous and effete. That which may have sounded like righteous teaching when it was remote and wordy, will be challenged afresh when it is obliged to simulate life itself.
- 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.
- The common stock of intellectual enjoyment should not be difficult of access because of the economic position of him who would approach it.
The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House (1930)
- ... the task of youth is not only its own salvation but the salvation of those against whom it rebels, but in that case there must be something vital to rebel against and if the elderly stiffly refuse to put up a vigorous front of their own, it leaves the entire situation in a mist.
- The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.