The economic depression of the late 1880s hit Chicago hard. Jane Addams was suffering from divided loyalties. The daughter of a successful capitalist, the inheritor of his wealth, and a believer in Emersonian self-reliance, she was also a social Christian, a cooperator, and an antimaterialist, as well as a tentative supporter of labor unions and a friend of socialists, most notably of Florence Kelley. Complicating her dilemma was her essential lack of interest in economic matters. She had read Marx, to be sure, but she had never really applied her good mind to the subject. Addams seriously considered embracing Marxist socialism. She wanted to be a Marxist partly because of a feeling of human fellowship, a desire to be cooperative. “I should have been glad to have had the comradeship of that gallant company” of socialists, she writes. But she did not become one. She could not accept Marx's theory that “commercial crises” were caused by the willingness of capitalist class (“the bourgeoisie”) to pursue overproduction.
Keywords: economic depression, self-reliance, Jane Addams, Marx's theory, antimaterialism, socialism