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Why Women should Vote by Jane Addams

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Jane Addams (1915) was one of the active women in the early 20th century who spearhead the cause of women to participate in the legislative process. In this article she pities the condition of the women and the society in general and how women have been neglected in making decision how their neighborhoods, schools, and the whole country should be run. Jane Addams article is a critique of the condition of women in 1915 owing to the increased urbanization of United States. Addams article looks at the situation of women in Chicago and evaluated how their life was being affected due to lack of legislative powers to participate in making laws.

Unlike other women activist in the later movement who were criticizing the home-bound duty of women, Addams recognized that even in the increases urbanization, women had to play their rightful duties of taking care of their homes and their neighborhood. her criticisms was directed to the deteriorating standard of cleanliness at home and in  the general public due to the changes taking place and the role of municipal and private companies in collection of garbage.  The changing nature of life required women to extend their duties beyond their home and to discharge their duties effectively. Therefore we can see that the Addams recognized the role women play in the changing society especially in taking care of children and maintaining cleanliness. However she notes that the operation of municipal and the private cleaners and garbage collectors were interviewing with women’s normal duties. Lack of collaboration or due to the fact that women were not given rights to participate in public administration diminished the collaboration between the two and condition of neighborhood deteriorated.

She gives different situation which had really affected the community due to lack of participation of women. She is trig to show that despite the changes that have taken place in the society, there was need to have mutual collaboration between men and women in making decision. For example, she gives an example where Jewish women had been fighting to have there market places covered. Instead women in Chicago were selling food stuffs in open air where they were infested with dust and germs causing many diseases especially to children.  Addams argues that if women had the power of the ballot box, they would have voted for those who could look at some of these concerns.

Addams recognized that the only way to change the course of things was through political arrangement.  She argues that for women to discharge their duties effectively, they had to join general movements looking to social amelioration which could only be achieved through legal enactment. This was a strong call for women to be allowed to participate in the political process.  To stress her points, Addams  describe the two prime responsibilities  of women as seeing proper fed and clothed children and education of children, seeing that they had books, free from street influence, and enactment of children labor legislation. Addams is calling for increased role of women in discharging their duties effectively through the political process. For example, she argues the roles of women in education are diverse, yet there was not singly woman who had been elected in school boards. it is due to women juvenile court movement that juvenile criminal justice system was set up to cushion children from street influence.

Addams article is more concerned with analysis of the condition facing the society and the role women could play if they are given voting rights. It can be considered as a critical outlook of results of lack of women participation in politics.  She is also showing how the whole society is not concerned with specific issues that affect women and children. For example she argues that women need to be given voting right in order to call for factory legislation and shop sanitation to protect majority of young women who were working there.

Addams article can be seen as a critical analysis of the society in 1915 and how the changes had affected the ability of women to discharge their duties. The article displays how women if given the right to vote can change society in a great way by being given more power in discharging their duties.


Addams, J. (1915): Why women should vote. Modern History Sourcebook by Paul Halsall, 1999

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