Julius Rosenwald

From Feb ’07 Spotlight:

On May 21, 2006, Governor Blagojevich signed HB 5243 making December 10 “Jane Addams Day” in Illinois. The legislation became effective on January 1, so December 10, 2007 will be the first “official” day (in fact, it will be the first day officially commemorating a woman in the entire United States). To prepare for this auspicious occasion, I met with Peter Ascoli, the author of Julius Rosenwald: The Man Who Built Sear, Roebuck and Advanced the Cause of Black Education in the American South, to learn more about “the Jewish connection.”

As the book jacket (which shows JR with Booker T. Washington) makes clear, Ascoli’s mammoth 2006 biography focuses primarily on his grandfather’s contributions to African-American history, but feminist threads are woven through-out the text. JR and his wife Gussie support many feminist causes, and when they lived in Washington, D.C. (during World War I) Gussie became “heavily involved in the suffrage movement.”

You will be hearing a great deal more about Jane Addams in the next few months, but for now suffice it to say that JR served as a member of the Hull-House board of directors for over twenty years, contributing significant funds to a full spectrum of activities from underwriting new buildings to paying for new band uniforms. When the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom needed allies in their drive to secure a Nobel Peace Prize for Addams, they turned to JR, who wrote letters to numerous business and academic leaders from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to James Angell (the president of Yale) personally asking for their support. In due time, Addams became the first American woman to receive the prize, awarded seventy-five years ago on December 10, 1031.

If you would like to join the planning effort for city wide activities which will culminate on December 10, 2007, a kick-off meeting scheduled for Saturday February 10 at DePaul’s downtown campus on State Street. This meeting, co-sponsored by the Chicago Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), will include a screening of the documentary short Dinner at Jane’s filmed at Hull-House in 1993.

For information visit www.aauw-il.org/chicago or call Chicago Branch AAUW Program VP Carol Morby at (773 267-1983.

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