Students Digitize Jane Addams’ Historical Documents

Photo Courtesy of Adam Cuerden, Wikipedia

Ramapo College welcomes an exciting new initiative known as the Jane Addams Papers project. Once known as "the most prominent woman in America," Jane Addams was a hero of the Progressive movement in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Jane Addams Papers project mission is to make the writings and published works of this American icon available to the public both in print and online.

A Progressive pioneer, Addams championed such issues as immigration, social work, women’s rights and workers' rights. In her native Chicago, Addams helped found the Hull House for immigrants, women and children in 1889. A constant advocate of peace, Addams became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

During her life, Addams produced a great mass of writings. It will be the work of project members to transcribe and upload Addams’ numerous letters, articles and speeches. The end result will be a published collection, the third volume on Addams’ life.

An interest meeting was held on Sept. 16 to a room filled largely with history students, all eager to join to project.

“This is just such an amazing project,” said sophomore history major Sarah Catherine Lichon. “I can’t believe we get such an amazing opportunity like this, right here on campus.”

Project director and Ramapo alumna, professor Cathy Moran Hajo, is no stranger to such an undertaking like the Addams Project. Previously, Hajo worked in compiling a four-volume work on Margaret Sanger at New York University.

The first two volumes of the Addams Papers were compiled at Duke University. Hajo suggested bringing the Jane Addams Project to Ramapo after being impressed by the Ramapo students she worked with on the Margaret Sanger Papers.

“In some cases Ramapo students were more enthusiastic than the Ivy League students,” said Hajo at the interest meeting.

Students who join the project will gain experience in intensive research, copyright permission, HTML coding and transcribing; they also may actually be published online and in the third print volume of Addams’ life.

Project members will contextualize Addams’ plethora of documents by annotating letters, speeches and articles of the specific figures, events and places mentioned in them.

“We want to work with museums, libraries and schools to foster the use of the digital humanities and make these works freely available,” said Hajo.

Students can apply for a paid position in the Jane Addams Project, as well as volunteer. All job postings are online on Ramapo’s Archway Job Bank. 

“When I heard that the project was coming to Ramapo, I was shocked and excited. Our students will have access to so much information about her and eventually so will everyone else,” said junior Renee DeLora. “This is a great resource for not just history majors. So many students are able to work on this project. It's giving students research experience, digital humanities experience and other real world experience that will look great in the future.”

In line with DeLora’s opinion, the response at the project interest meeting was more than positive, from both the staff and students.

 “When I was learning about the Progressive era back in high school, Jane Addams always stuck out to me,” continued DeLora after the initial meeting concluded. “She was a powerful female figure of the time and she was one of the first powerful females I had ever learned about.”