Friday, September 12, 2014

Going the Extra Mile to Visit Jane Addams

By Gary Berg-Cross

One of the many nice national “monuments” in DC is The Extra Mile. As the name suggests its a mile long “monument” bronze medallions installed in the sidewalks of downtown Washington D.C. The markers form a one-mile walking path through an area bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue, 15th Street, G Street, and 11th Street.  These “points of light” honorees are people described as ones:

"through their caring and personal sacrifice, reached out to others, building their dreams into movements that helped people across America and throughout the world".

Each honoree has a custom-made bronze medallion installed along the path. And there are lots of good folk who have a medallion:

 I ran into a stretch of medallions on F Street NW between 14th and 13th streets and lo, luck afforded me a chance to step over a special one  – Jane Addams (1860 –1935).  That very afternoon I was to moderate a peace panel which included a small section on the Progressive era and the Women’s movement with Jane as a principle agent.  
Progressive women reformers like humanist  Jane Addams, were both venerated and vilified as they increasingly involved themselves in the peace movement and events like the. 1st International Congress of  Women, held at The Hague.
In the spirit of an enlightened expanded beyond a Procrustean war-peace dimension many of us have heard Addams’ one-liner on a deeper idea of peace : 

“True peace is not merely the absence of war, it is the presence of justice.” 

Addams is, of course, more famous for the social justice she enabled with Hull House. It is interesting to note that she founded the first settlement house which led to a later era of Christian settlement houses that sought to stress a Christian social consciousness via the social gospel.  While Christians latre tried to popularize her Christian image Jane Addams might be better characterizes as a “ force of secular humanism”. 

According to Joslin (2004), “The new humanism, as [Adams] interprets it comes from a secular, and not a religious, pattern of belief.”  Fair enough that something that starts a bit more secular can inspire others to do the right thing.

Jane Addams’ pacifism, social activism and pursuit of justice earned her label and interesting label as, “the most dangerous woman in America.”
She was dangerous enough with progressive ideas that in 1931 she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States.   

A good neighbor to have in DC and her Medallion is worth visiting and her thoughts remembered.

Civilization is a method of living, an attitude of equal respect for all men.
                                      Jane Addams

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