Barack Obama not the first Chicago community organizer scourged by right-wingers to win the Nobel Peace Prize


 Barack Obama is only the latest Chicago community organizer to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

 The first was Jane Addams (above), who had ties to Rockford, by the way, and who, like Obama, was at one time loathed by political reactionaries.

 Addams was a social reformer, educator, author, lecturer, feminist, pacifist, political radical, acquaintance of kings and presidents, and a servant of the powerless and dispossessed. She was alternately the most admired and most despised woman in America.

 Jane Addams was born in 1860 in Cedarville, a few miles north of my own native Freeport.  She grew up amid wealth and privilege but lived most of her adult life among the poor. She attended what later became Rockford College (and earned the school’s first academic degree), founded Hull House, the famed social settlement in Chicago, and forged a career in social reform that is unparalleled in our nation’s history.

 Addams, universally recognized as the godmother of modern social work, was instrumental in the establishment of juvenile courts, child-labor laws, public-health reforms, the 8-hour workday and countless other advances. She also was a founding member of both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, among other organizations.

 In a national poll in 1910, Addams was named the most admired woman in America. But barely 10 years later, because she was a pacifist who had tried to keep the country out of World War I, she was widely scorned as a dangerous radical.

 The Daughters of the American Revolution canceled her lifetime membership and convicted her of treason in a mock trial. American Legionnaires stoned a train on which she was riding on her way to a speaking engagement. Editorials denounced her.

 The disapproval eventually waned, however, and by 1929, Addams was again widely lauded for her work. She received numerous honorary degrees and awards and, in 1931, became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

 Upon her death in 1935, Addams was eulogized in more than a thousand American newspapers and countless others around the world. Some editorials characterized her as a saint. One said: “Lucky the man who dies on the day of Jane Addams’ death. The doors of heaven, on that day, will be open so wide that all may enter.”

 In 1998, Life magazine empaneled a group of historians to rank the 100 most influential people in the world over the previous 1,000 years. Jane Addams was ranked 66th, higher than any other American woman.



  1. Thanks for posting this Pat. I don’t think I have heard or read of her before. She seems to have been dropped from American consciousness, despite her relatively recent fame. Curious that would be the case since our media is so liberal and all.

  2. Mike Carroll

    Those of us who live in Rockford are aware of the long list of Jane Adams’ accomplishments. A significant departure from more recent recipients.

  3. David: You’re right. Jane Addams has gone strangely unheralded in the popular culture, given her great status among historians and her great celebrity during her lifetime. Not long after she died, a U.S. Navy ship was named for her, and there was a line of canned vegetables called Jane Addams. Yet, for many years after her death, there were only two book-length biographies of her. But that’s begun to change in the past 10 or 15 years, during which time five or six new books have come out. And I hear there are more in the works. A couple of years ago, a stretch of Interstate 90 between South Beloit and Chicago was named for her. Next year is her 150th birthday, which might prompt a bit of a fuss. So, gradually, Jane Addams is getting the popular attention she deserves.

  4. Snuss: You would have hated Ellen Gates Starr. She was a radical agitator, a member of the Women’s Trade Union League, and a leader in major strikes over a period of 20 years. Some historians also have suggested that she, like Jane Addams, was a lesbian. And now you’re hailing her “contributions”?? My, how you’ve so quickly changed, Snuss.

  5. Treasonous mike (notorious advocate of a military coup, and fugitive from justice for doing so): The fact of the matter is that Jane Addams was labeled a communist by the right-wingers of her day — just as you and you’re ill-informed ilk so label Obama today.

    Now, go back into hiding or I’m going to sic the feds on you.

  6. Speaking of the red-baiting of Jane Addams, the crazy ladies of the Daughters of the American Revolution once prepared a “dossier” on her which purportedly “reads as a virtual who’s who of communism and socialism in America.” Check it out here:

  7. By the way, if you put “Jane Addams” and “communist” in a Google search field, you get 19,200 citations. Yeah, most of our Applesauce wingnuts would have been leading the charge against her, smearing her all over the place, just as they now do with Obama. But history will remember Obama fondly, as it now does Jane Addams. And the little weasels who red-bait Obama will earn the same kind of collective and disdainful footnote in history that the critics of Jane Addams have. I only regret that I probably won’t live long enough to relish it all from a vantage point of a future generation.

  8. Another interesting tidbit: Jane Addams’ father, John, was quite the notable personage in his own right. He was a founding member of the Republican Party, served in the Illinois State Senate, and was an intimate acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln, whose letters to Addams were often addressed to “My dear Double-D’ed Addams.” Some historians say John Addams could have been elected governor of Illinois if he had chosen to run, but he declined the nomination in 1870.

  9. shawnnews

    Do you think Lincoln could call Jane “My Dear Double-D-ed Addams” and not be “fresh” at the same time?

  10. shawnness: How do we know he wasn’t being “fresh” with Jane’s father?

  11. Brian Frayne

    Unlike Obama, Jane Addams deserved her award for the work she did. Obama was nominated for the Nobel just 11 days into his term and had accomplished absolutely nothing. Maybe someday we will be able to look back at Obama\\\’s presidency and say he was a great leader and deserving of the Nobel, BUT NOT AFTER 11 DAYS IN OFFICE !!! This just tarnishes the spirit of the award.

  12. Mike Carroll

    “But history will remember Obama fondly, as it now does Jane Addams.”
    Talk about premature. The worship of style over substance continues unabated.

  13. Mike Carroll: And the blindness of Obamaphobia, a peculiar psycho-political illness, continues unabated in some quarters.

  14. Brain Frayne: The Nobel committee’s decision was made after more than 250 days of Obama’s presidency and doubtless was based on more than just the first 11 days of his presidency — and probably also on his record before he became president.

  15. And the blindness of Bush Derangement Syndrome, a peculiar psycho-political illness, continues unabated in some quarters.

  16. Mike Carroll

    Damn it, Neftali-you beat me to the punch.

  17. Brian Frayne

    And what did he do during those 250+ days or, for that matter, during his entire political career to warrant the Nobel Peace Prize? You rant against the \"blindness of obamaphobia\" yet blindy worship a man who, until his election to the Presidency, accomplished nothing more than ride the coat-tails of the Chicago dummycrat machine and became their poster child.

  18. Oops! I made the mistake of thinking that Brian Frayne might be a reasonably intelligent conservative who walks upright and breathes through his nose. Apparently, I was wrong, as the reference to “dummycrat machine” indicates. Brian seems unaware that Obama won the presidency in an electoral landslide that spread far beyond the Chicago dummycrat machine.

    Listen, Fraynebrain, if you want to see a good argument in favor of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, check out the post to be published here at 8:14 a.m. tomorrow.

  19. Brian Frayne

    Well, let me apologize now to you & your family for ruining your Sunday and most of the early hours of Monday. It will take up every minute of your time between now & 8:14 am tomorrow to line up a solid mix of facts (few) and lies (many) to try & justify the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama. I didn’t mean for you to have to go through all of this, but look forward to your fictional piece in the morning. Sleep well…oh yeah, you can’t, you’ve got a fiction piece to compose.

  20. shawnnews

    The kook movement’s claims always find their way into Pat’s critic’s posts.
    Here’s the usual anti-Obama rant
    1) Accusing Obama supporters of worshiping him
    1a.) Claming Obama supporters see him as “the Messiah” or “the One” or some other dumb claim.
    2) Mentioning his middle name “Hussein”
    3) Accusing Obama of lies — while not citing any.
    3a) Make up for lack of evidence with adverbs and adjectives:
    His many lies, his usual lies, his outrageous lies, etc.
    4) Cite his first job — “the community organizer”; ignore his career as a lawyer, legal professor and state and US senator.
    5) Claim his violates the constitution — while not citing violations 5a) (much like no. 3) Make up for lack of evidence with adverbs and adjectives: His many violations of the constitution, his usual violations of the constitution, his outrageous violations of the constitution.
    You guys get yourself all bent out of shape over nothing. At least you’re not preaching to the choir but the only people you’re fooling is yourselves.
    Find some good ideas and a new candidate and you won’t be out inthe ideology boondocks anymore.

  21. I don’t use his middle name. I prefer to use the name a rapper gave him on Bob & Tom, B-Rock. To me, he is just another POS from corrupt Chicago politics and I hope he ends up in a cell next to Bagosh*t!

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