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American Literary History and the Turn toward Modernity$
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Melanie V. Dawson and Meredith L. Goldsmith

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813056043

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813056043.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 28 May 2022

On Jane Addams’s Feminist Pragmatism

On Jane Addams’s Feminist Pragmatism

Finding Modern Value in Recovering the Sentimental Myth of the Devil Baby

(p.144) 5 On Jane Addams’s Feminist Pragmatism
American Literary History and the Turn toward Modernity

Kristen Renzi

University Press of Florida

What power did Jane Addams see in a group of elderly female Hull-House clients who came searching in 1913 for a purported “Devil Baby”? Kristen Renzi argues that Addams uses the tale as a catalyst for her depictions of cultures that explicitly challenge the modern tendency to discount the past in the name of progress. Temporally and ideologically, Addams can be situated at modernity’s threshold, for her work exhibits ties to both nineteenth-century femininity and twentieth-century public intellectualism. Through The Long Road of Woman’s Memory (1916), Addams not only overtly analyzes the ways in which women experience, remember, and give meaning to their gendered realities, but also uses the Devil-baby tale to query her own “threshold” position. Her equal investment in both modern possibilities for women and traditional, explicitly feminine forms of knowledge provides a model of considering a feminist recovery that, far from objectifying relics of the past, demonstrates the contemporary socio-political needs and possibilities that can only be understood through a pragmatic turning backward.

Keywords:   Jane Addams, femininity, feminism, public intellectualism, gendered realities, pragmatism

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