The Google Doodle today honors Jane Addams, founder of social work in America, pacifist, women’s rights activist, immigration assimilationist, “Boston marriage” participant, and key figure in a dozen social reform movements including those promoting probation and juvenile courts in the criminal justice system.
I didn’t recall ever seeing her discussed by libertarians, but it turns out Milton Friedman cited her alongside Florence Nightingale and Albert Schweitzer as an example of the philanthropic achievements that can be “the product of individual genius, of strongly held minority views, of a social climate permitting variety and diversity.” To give the other side its due, Stephen Hicks discusses some of her less attractive Progressive instincts here.
On the Boston marriage, by the way, see coverage in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, and WBEZ. Addams’ devoted lifelong companion was Mary Rozet Smith, with whom she spent thirty years until the two died a year apart. Reports WBEZ, “They also made major financial decisions, such as co-owning a home in Maine. At one point they considered adopting a child together.”
Addams’ best-known contribution may have been as the American champion of the settlement house movement, which reached out to distressed immigrants to help them solve their problems with an emphasis on education and assimilation to middle-class American standards, as well as social reform more broadly. Today’s progressivism finds it somewhat complicated to deal with such a legacy, which may be one reason she has been suffering an eclipse from her previous status as possibly the most admired American woman ever.