by Donna Barkman
Thank you, Ann, and thanks to the Jane Addams Peace Association and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for sponsoring these awards that, for the 54th year, honor Jane Addams – her principles and, in fact, her radicalism. As Chair of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award committee, I would like to acknowledge Michele Zayla for her music, the special efforts of the JAPA Board in providing books for purchase and signing, and all the members of the award committee. Here today are Eliza Dresang, Tallahassee Florida, Susan Griffith, Mt. Pleasant Michigan, and Patricia Wiser, Sewanee Tennessee. Other members, spread across the country, from Alaska to Massachusetts, are listed on your program and are here in spirit.
Jane Addams is the reason we are here today, because of the traditions she established in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which then created its education arm, the Jane Addams Peace Association, and following that, our awards. Those traditions clearly resonate in today’s cultural and political climate, creating connection and continuity, and demanding our attention and action. Jane Addams was a radical woman. Even now, that phrase offers a bit of a jolt. “Radical” invites images of the public sphere, of revolution, and of loud, angry speakers and crowds. (Nies, 1977, p. xi) “Woman” still engenders the private, quiet sphere of home, nurturing, and support. (Nies, 1977, p. xi) According to Judith Nies, radicals are not just social activists, but social artists, unearthing hidden truths by working with social movements (1977) – and who fulfills that definition better than Addams? Radicals have a “fresh vision” (Nies, 1977, p. xi) for the world – a characteristic paramount in all of Addams’ work.
Many biographers have tried to reduce her to the limiting stereotype of “woman,” especially in these titles and subtitles: “Beloved Lady,” “World Neighbor,” and “A Useful Woman.” (Joslin, 2004, p. 12) These titles belie her unrelenting work toward reform, even revolution, in many fields (immigration, poverty, education, labor, woman suffrage, racial inequality, and of course pacifism) to platitudes of femininity. They subvert and even bury her radicalism, her fresh vision. Saint Jane, reporters called her. (Reardon, 2006) “She’s remembered as a sweet lady who wanted to help poor people and is forgotten as a woman who was critical of capitalism and the military and war,” writes one Addams biographer. (Victoria Bissell Brown, as cited in Reardon, 2006).
J. Edgar Hoover characterized Addams as “’the most dangerous woman in America’, dangerous because of her pacifism, because of her challenges to the status quo.” (Louise W. Knight, as cited in Reardon, 2006) Because of her refusal to be a partisan. (Reardon, 2006)
She co-founded and was the first president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1915. As the U.S. moved into the First World War, the League was vilified by those who supported the armed conflict, and Addams was to become known as “Red Jane.” (Joslin, 2004, p. 202) Even as late as 1927, she was enduring public attacks, one claiming that she “stands for everything Bolshevist, except perhaps murder and robbery.” (Joslin, 2004, p. 215) In response to a speech in which she opposed the military draft, an American Legion commander accused her “of having advocated stripping the uniforms from West Point cadets.” (Joslin, 2004, p. 214) He “attacked Hull House as a rallying post for radicals and communists and linked their activities to an international plot to destroy civilization.” (Joslin, p. 214) After the war, she was even demonized for pleading for food for German children. (Reardon, 2006) Her refusal to retaliate ultimately calmed the storm. In 1931, she was the first woman to the win the Nobel Peace Prize, not because she was a homebody, but because she put herself in the public sphere and spoke and wrote courageously against the injustices and cruelties of war.
She held her tongue and her pen against the most outrageous charges, seeking common ground, believing that responding would only fuel the flames. She did sometimes display anger, for instance, when her trips with other women through Europe, country to country, offering mediation, were misinterpreted by the press: she scolded reporters and publishers for distortion of facts and silencing opposition to the war. (Joslin, 2004) And another example: a tart letter she wrote to one of her editors: “…you were constantly trying to say what you think would be a good thing for me to say and not what I really was trying to say although it may easily have been an inferior thing.” (Joslin, 2004, p. 255).
We are delighted to note that there is a resurgence of interest in Jane Addams and, concomitantly, in our awards: four major adult biographies have been published within the last five years and two biographies for children; the Illinois legislature has designated December 10th as a commemorative day in her honor (coincidentally the U.N. Human Rights Day). (Reardon, 2006) And we have reinvigorated an alliance with the Hull House Museum in Chicago that will be featuring and promoting our award-winning books in their exhibits.
Jane Addams was a lady, a neighbor, and she was certainly useful. She may even have been saintly, but she was not a pushover. She was radical, – a social artist who worked with unstinting dedication and struggled against overwhelming odds and who catalyzed a tradition that is palpable in this room today: the commitment of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award to peace, justice, community and equality – evident in the books we honor here, books about people who struggle against odds, who work for justice and against discrimination, and whose fresh (and radical) vision is the poetry of peace.
- Nies, J. (1977). Seven women: Portraits from the American radical tradition. New York: Viking Penguin.
- Joslin, K. (2004). Jane Addams: A writer’s life. Chicago: University of Illinois Knight, L. (2005). Citizen: Jane Addams and the struggle for democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Reardon, P.T. (2/11/2006). Why you should care about Jane Addams: Yesterday’s hero would be odd today. The Chicago Tribune.Brown,
Winner of Books for Younger Children
Delivering Justice: W. W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights, written by Jim Haskins, illustrated by Benny Andrews, published by Candlewick Press. Mr. Law.
Westley Wallace Law took the advice of his wise and supportive Grandmother. When he was angry at the discrimination he observed and encountered in the segregated south, she always spoke with him: “No matter how you are treated, you have no excuse not to ‘be somebody,’ …to be a leader of our people.” That’s the foundation of our winning book in the category of Books for Younger Children, Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights, illustrated by Benny Andrews, published by Candlewick Press.
As a young man, W. W. became an activist: he coached black citizens in Voting Schools so they could pass the test; he trained students for non-violent sit-ins; and he led his community in the 1960 Great Savannah Boycott, when huge numbers of blacks threw away their credit cards and refused to shop at segregated stores, thus demonstrating that black people meant business. Stores closed as a result.
|Because he was a member of the NAACP, he was refused work as a schoolteacher. He chose then to be a mail carrier and while performing those duties, he spoke quietly and persuasively with whites on his route and convinced them that he loved Savannah and he wanted it to be so much better. Because of his influence, black and white leaders, including city officials, joined forces, cooperatively accomplishing a stunning goal: Savannah was the first southern city to declare all citizens equal, three years before the Civil Rights Act. And did so, peacefully.|
Jim Haskins tells Law’s story with powerful and moving simplicity, one short chapter to a page. Each page is illuminated by Benny Andrews, whose oil and collage paintings show Law and his “people” – as his Grandmother predicted – with strength, dignity, and even some whimsy.
|An afterword answers questions about his later years, but the story’s final lines sum up this inspiring biography: “Westley Wallace Law delivered more than just the mail to the citizens of Savannah; he delivered justice, too.”
It is my pleasure to present the winner’s award to Kathleen Benson Haskins, on behalf of her late husband.
It is my pleasure to present the winning award to Joan Powers, editor of Delivering Justice, on behalf of Benny Andrews.
— Remarks by Donna Barkman, October 20, 2006.
Winner of Books for Older Children
Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX, the Law that Changed the Future of Girls in America, by Karen Blumenthal published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
|Here is an informational book as full of cliffhangers as a novel. Written by Karen Blumenthal, published by Atheneum, a Simon & Shuster imprint, this is our winner in the Books for Older Children category. Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX, the Law that Changed the Future of Girls in America is amazingly ambitious (note the subtitle) and deliciously personal – with details not of her own life, but of the careers and desires and triumphs of dozens of women and girls.|
Its clever design, with cartoons, comic strips, profiles, photographs, and many charts of the progress of girls’ participation, in sports and in education, tells a story that has already been forgotten by most, if ever known. Jennifer Capriati, a U. S. tennis star, said in 2002 that she’d never heard of Title IX.
Blumenthal dramatizes how, by the skin of our teeth, women were included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, yet much discrimination persisted against women in employment and education at all levels, from paper routes to professorships.
To get further and better legislation passed, many heroic women (later joined by some men) worked assiduously: Edith Green, Patsy Mink, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug. It took eight more years of persuasion, demands, and finesse to pass the law called Title IX. Its beginning: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Although much of the controversy over its implementation has focused on athletics, note that it says any education program.
Unfortunately, the rights won under Title IX legislation are still precarious. As recently as 2005, the Department of Education added a loophole allowing schools to opt out of equal treatment. We must make sure that Blumenthal will not have to write a sequel! As she chronicles women’s fight for education rights, she lifts us up with energy, authority, and humanity. Pass this book on to the girls and women in your lives.
I am delighted to present this award to the author, Karen Blumenthal.
—Remarks by Donna Barkman, October 20, 2006.
Acceptance Remarks by Karen Blumenthal, the author of Let Me Play…
|Thank you, Donna, Eliza, Susan, Patricia and the committee for this wonderful honor and especially for giving me the opportunity to speak for a few minutes—a daring thing to do.
My sincere thanks and deepest gratitude go to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Jane Addams Peace Association for recognizing Let Me Play with this award. When you spend months and months working on a book, you want nothing more than for it to be read, and your support goes a long, long way toward bringing this story to a broader audience.
By publishing standards, this was a quirky project, a book about some relatively obscure activists and a law called Title IX, which half the people I talk to have never heard of. Beyond that, it’s non-fiction for middle-schoolers, a category that is so small that you almost need a global positioning system to find it in your local bookstore.
Most of my work as a journalist over the last 25 years has come from the head, but this was a work from the heart. In 2002, over lunch with my then-editor, a woman in her twenties named Virginia Skrelja, I tried to explain why I wanted to write about the women’s movement for young people. I honestly don’t think she had any idea what that was. I started rambling about the defining events of my teen years: about married women who couldn’t get a credit card in their own names, about lawsuits to force law firms to hire women lawyers, about being called a “bra-burner” and about teachers who told girls they couldn’t be good at math. Now granted, I am from Texas and she was from NY. But at that moment, we might as well have been from different galaxies.
“Where did you go to college?” I asked.
“Columbia,” she said.
“You know, when I was in college Columbia didn’t admit women, I told her. My senior year, 1977, most of the Ivies were still reluctant about admitting women based on qualifications instead of quotas. When I applied to one of them, I got a letter back explaining that there wasn’t enough housing yet for them to admit women on the same basis as men, so they would have to restrict the number of females admitted for yet another year.”
She agreed to look at a proposal.
Back home, I knew I wanted to write not just about women’s history, but about the remarkable power of social change. My daughters had picked up this compelling Margaret Mead quote from their favorite television show, The West Wing: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Writing about the change that took place in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s was a chance to show the real power and impact of committed citizens in living color. The only question was how.
One afternoon, my oldest daughter came home from school pumped up about an assembly. Do you know about Title IX, she asked. It wasn’t just about sports—it was about education, too.
Title IX—of course! I had written extensively about it for my college newspaper and followed it for years. There couldn’t be a better way to illustrate this quiet revolution than to show how girls got to play on the soccer fields and in the classrooms.
The research proved to be daunting. Title IX and the Equal Rights Amendment came out of Congress at the same time—one a constitutional amendment destined to change our world, and the other an obscure addition to massive financial aid legislation intended to outlaw sex discrimination in education. Who could have imagined that thirty years later, the ERA would be the historical footnote?
Edith Green, the author and architect of Title IX served 20 years in Congress, but was hardly known outside of Oregon. I discovered one reason why in the archives of her local newspapers. She had sponsored the Equal Pay Act, helped create the nation’s first financial aid, helped create the community college system and brought libraries to rural areas, but every story about her ran in the women’s section, or the one called “home and family.” Her political experience had made her so tough and cantankerous that some of her colleagues were afraid of her. Others had a nasty nickname: They called her the wicked witch of the west.
As a former schoolteacher, Green had a strong sense of history. “The trouble with every generation,” she liked to say, “is that they haven’t read the minutes of the last meeting.” She had of course, and found inspiration in Jane Addams and her words. She quoted Addams in a 1972 newspaper interview: “The only way to change is by the daily impinging of fact upon fact, of will upon will, and of interest upon interest.”
Green built her personal philosophy on that idea, that diligence and persistence and a deep heartfelt commitment would ultimately bring the right results. At a time when it is so easy to be cynical about politics and government, Green reminded us—young and old alike–that our democratic process can work. It was her greatest reward, she said, “to have played a small part in making opportunities available to others that were never available before.”
Dozens of other women and men did the same, pushing day in and day out for girls to have access to fields and coaches, working to open doors in law, medicine and engineering, and recording the injustices in print and on film for us to remember later. I’d like to take a moment to recognize Bettye Lane, a photojournalist who took the fabulous picture of girls trying out for Little League teams that you see on the cover. I had seen this photo in a 1970s book and knew I had to have it. When I finally found her here in New York, she was kind enough to share her wonderful and unique photos of marches, girls protesting to become paperboys, and Girls Scouts for the ERA. Without her exceptional work and commitment, we wouldn’t have this kind of photographic record. So thank you, Bettye!
I’d also like to thank the folks at Atheneum and Simon & Schuster for their courage and commitment to this unusual project. Virginia moved on quite literally the day the manuscript was due, and Caitlyn Dlouhy took it over and always treated the project like it was her own. Emma Dryden, Tracy van Straaten and Jennifer Zatorski also supported and nurtured it and gave it a good launch. My Wall Street Journal colleagues Roe D’Angelo and Ken Wells also provided tremendous support—and helped with what has to be the newspaper’s first ever excerpt of a children’s book.
Finally, I am thrilled to share today with my daughters—Abby, who is a freshman at Yale, and Jenny, who is a junior at the Hockaday School. They were the inspiration for this book. In fact, they are the best inspiration for going to work every day, and an even greater reason to get home in time for dinner. For those of us over 40, the story of Title IX is really our story. I hope you, too, have the pleasure of sharing our story—and your story–with the next generation.
— Posted with permission of Karen Blumenthal
Honors for Books for Younger Children
Poems to Poems to Dream Together=Poemas Para Soñar Juntos, written by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Paula Barragán, published by Lee and Low Books, Inc. In nineteen short and heartfelt poems in Spanish and English, Alarcón encourages and inspires us to dream alone and to work and dream together, as families and communities, in order to make our hopes for a better world come true. The stylized paintings of Paula Barragán colorfully extend and interpret the theme.
Honors for Books for Older Children
The Crazy Man, by Pamela Porter, published by Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press.The Crazy Man intertwines the emotional lives of an injured girl, a dazed mother, a runaway father, and a mental patient. Spare free-verse narration of twelve-year-old Emaline tells a story in which everyone is challenged to change in this 1960’s Saskatchewan community. Porter touchingly captures both the wide, lonely prairies and the closed minds central to the tension in this book.
Sweetgrass, by Marlene Carvell, published by Dutton Children’s Books a Division of Penguin Young Readers Group. Sweetgrass Basket is told in the alternating voices of two young Mohawk sisters. Each describes leaving her beloved home to be schooled in the notorious Carlisle Indian Industrial School, founded in 1879. Devoted to each other and their father, but opposite in personality and outlook, the sisters experience their virtual imprisonment differently: Mattie, rashly defiant, and Sarah, fearfully obedient until it’s too late to act.