Jane Addams's ideas were inspiring her but also blocking her. When she thought of herself as a human being, as the individual whom Mazzini and Tolstoy urged should put “humanity” first, she felt eager to pursue her dreams. But when she thought of herself as a woman, the iron curtain of convention closed off her horizon. She needed to understand how convention—her gender role—was holding her back before she could act. There are people who can act instinctively, impulsively, without a rationale, solely on the basis of strong feeling, but Jane Addams was not one of them or, at least, not when she was young. She lacked the strong feelings, for one thing. She needed her mind to motivate her. But she also had a particular relation to ideas. To her they were major forces, either obstacles that stood in her path or resources that fueled her courage.
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