Review: Louise W. Knight, Citizen

January 31, 2006
By

jacket imageAlan Wolfe recently reviewed Louise W. Knight’s Citizen in the New York Times: "Knight’s book is what the Germans call a bildung, an account of how a person’s character is formed. As it happens, Knight’s decision to focus on Addam’s early years is a stroke of genius. We know a great deal about Jane Addams the public figure. We know relatively little about how she made the transition from the 19th century to the 20th. In Knight’s book, Jane Addams comes to life.… Knight’s book is filled with fascinating detail about everyday life at Hull House, from the way residents were selected, to the fundraising difficulties that emerged as Addams exhausted her personal wealth, to an absorbing account of Addam’s life as a Chicago garbage inspector. Knight’s extensive research and straightforward narrative allow readers to watch Addams gain self-confidence, survive a breakup with [Ellen Gates] Starr and the formation of a new relationship with Mary Rozet Smith, wrestle with her desire to help immigrants even as she disdains much about their way of life, and try to establish democracy at Hull House while remaining reluctant to cede control of its destiny.… Knight, an independent scholar, has something in common with [Addams]. Citizen is written neither to make money nor to gain academic tenture; it is a gift, meant to enlighten and improve. Jane Addams would have understood."
Read an excerpt.

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