Monday, September 06, 2010

Five best first-person accounts of the Progressive Era

Louise (Lucy) W. Knight's first book, Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 2005), is about the first half of the life of Jane Addams.

Her second book, a full life biography of Addams entitled Jane Addams: Spirit in Action, is released by W. W. Norton this month.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of first-person accounts of the Progressive Era. One title on the list:
The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens, 1931

The famous muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens spent his Sacramento childhood on horseback, riding free in all directions, sometimes lost in his imagined role as Napoleon or Richard the Lion-Hearted. The boy's dreaminess became the man's. His idealism fueled his groundbreaking articles and books about municipal political corruption, his fascination with socialism, and his later romances with revolution and communism. But his studies of politics also made him respect the shrewdness, practicality and personal integrity of the working-class bosses who really ran the cities. One must look elsewhere than this sometimes lyrical, sometimes hard-hitting life story to learn of Steffens's reputation as a "crank" who carried ideas too far. His vivid depiction of life as a big-city reporter and of his encounters with men like Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson make this an absorbing memoir.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue