Exciting news! My picture book biography about Jane Addams, DANGEROUS JANE (illustrated by Alice Ratterree) releases from Peachtree Publishers September 1st — just in time for Jane’s birthday on September 6th! So I’d like to celebrate Ms. Addams by sharing a bit of my research, interviewing illustrator Alice Ratterree, and offering a few giveaways.
When friends first heard I was working on this book, many shared how they admired Jane Addams for helping struggling families by founding Hull House in Chicago. But when I told them Jane was also the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (yet the FBI had ironically named her the “Most Dangerous Woman in America” before this award), most friends were very surprised.
Unfortunately, it seems few people know about Jane’s tireless work for peace. Which is exactly why I wrote DANGEROUS JANE — to share the bigger story of this amazing woman who not only helped Chicagoans in need, but who also bravely fought to end the horrors of World War I and bring peace to the world.
Jane Addams (right) making a stand for PEACE
When I began the research for this story, I headed straight to Hull House Museum in Chicago to see where Jane lived and worked for many years.
While there, I asked the museum experts lots of questions, snooped through Jane’s diary, and admired her Nobel Peace Prize (Hull House displays a reproduction, Jane’s actual medal is in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection).
At Hull House I examined the FBI’s thick file of Ms. Addams’ “dangerous” activities and pored over interesting letters on Jane’s desk (one from Pres. Roosevelt expressed his “very sincere thanks” — a quote included in my book.)
Later, I interviewed other experts at the Cedarville Historical Society (Jane was born in Cedarville), Rockford University (Jane attended college there when it was named Rockford Female Seminary), and Swarthmore College (which has the Peace Collection that includes photos of Jane and her 1931 Nobel Peace Prize medal.)
In addition, I enjoyed studying Jane’s two autobiographies, Twenty Years at Hull-House and The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House, along with Peace and Bread in Time of War and other titles/articles she wrote.
Books by Jane Addams (in Hull House Museum library)
During my research I was astounded by Jane’s unwavering commitment to peace, and her huge heart which never ran out of compassion for the homeless, sick, and hungry. I hope her story of persistence, bravery, and empathy inspires young readers to follow in her footsteps.
Of course, my writings were just the beginning of this book. So to continue this celebration, the illustrator of DANGEROUS JANE, Alice Ratterree, has agreed to answer a few questions. Alice’s illustrations in this book are warm, richly detailed, and flat-out stunning! It’s hard to believe this is her first picture book.
So here’s the inside scoop on her research and creative process …
1. What drew you to this project?
As an illustrator, I am by nature a visual person. While Jane’s story was impressive to my intellect, the minute I saw her portrait and looked into those steadfast and languid eyes, it just felt like she was calling me to be a part of this story.
And the Hull House children! Those faces completely stole my heart.
I was captivated by and so thankful for the photography of this era, and in particular the work of Jacob Riis, who gained notoriety from his documentary photographs of New York City’s impoverished neighborhoods. There was a parallel movement happening during this time in the world of photography to illuminate the underbelly of society. That beauty you find in grittiness – I’m really attracted to that as an artist.
2. What research did you need to do for this book?
I realized in the early stages, it was important to immerse myself visually in the world of Jane. I spent hours perusing through pictures of Jane, the immigrant population at that time and the era of World War I, before it even felt comfortable putting pencil to paper. I racked up my fair share of library fines with all the books I checked out (though that is one overdue fee I’m always happy to pay!) and I searched image databases of this time period, scanning and saving countless reference images to my Pinterest and Dropbox accounts. I then printed many of these and covered the walls of my studio with them. It helped make Jane’s world feel more tangible and real to me while I worked.
3. Were there any scenes or details of the book that were particularly challenging to illustrate?
There is an overwhelming sense of responsibility that comes with representing non-fiction and I definitely felt the weight of that with Jane and her story, particularly since there are so few illustrated picture books about her. This was my first stab at non-fiction, so it was surprising to me how much I had to visually soak in before I could start making any drawings.
This book was also unique in the fact that it spans Jane’s life and therefore we see her at various ages from being a baby to becoming an elder woman. It was challenging to come up with a visual aid that would allow the reader to recognize her in a crowd on each spread at each of these various stages of her life. But then I visited the Hull House in Chicago and was very impressed with the beautiful wallpapers of William and May Morris, particularly the wallpaper in her bedroom, which has been preserved in arrangement and décor from her residency there. The exquisite pattern hosts a warm inviting green and so I decided that Jane would have this color all to herself which would help distinguish her throughout the book.
4. What is your favorite illustration in the book?
I would have to say the third spread that appears in the book.
It tells the story of Jane riding with her father through an impoverished area of Chicago, and is the moment in her life that impacts her greatly, propelling her into the life of social reform. I feel this is wonderful validation for young readers, who most likely are also at this point in their lives – awakening to the rude realities of disparateness – and provides for them a chance to see how compassion can create an opportunity for positive action and change.
5. What do you personally find most inspiring or surprising about Jane Addams?
What fascinates me most about Jane is her incredible ability to balance her lineage of a life of privilege with her tenacious mission to serve an unpopular and neglected sect of the population. And she was able to navigate these two worlds with tremendous grace and style – in becoming a resident of the Hull House neighborhood, she forged a path of trust among her neighbors in a very unpretentious manner while still utilizing her education and influential connections to stimulate social awareness and change.
——– Thanks so much Alice for sharing your insightful thoughts!
Continuing the Jane-celebration, Michael Ramirez from Hull House Museum (who graciously assisted with research for the book) and my wonderful editor, Kathy Landwehr, also share what they find most inspiring about Jane.
Michael Ramirez, Hull-House Museum— What I find inspiring about Jane Addams are her passion and drive. Addams had quite a few barriers placed around her, such as being a woman and people not believing in her, yet she broke past these barriers and still went on to accomplish her goals. She did not let anyone and anything stand in her way because she was passionate about the work she was doing and continued to do it despite what many said.
Kathy Landwehr, Peachtree, Editor of DANGEROUS JANE— Like many people, I was familiar with Jane Addams’s poverty work at Hull House, and found it deeply inspiring. But somehow I had no idea about her peace work, let alone the backlash she experienced. I love that she expanded her mission from Chicago to the world, especially the way that she persevered despite criticism and personal attacks.
And last, I thought it would be fun to share a photo of when I happened upon the Jane Addams Book Shop in Champaign, IL. (It seems Jane Addams aficionados are everywhere!) The original owner of the shop Flora Faraci named her book store after Jane Addams in 1978 because she was inspired by Jane’s dedication to Hull House, her advancements in social work, and her leadership in women’s rights.
Leave a comment on this post to be entered to win:
— an autographed copy of DANGEROUS JANE
— a snazzy #BeDangerous button
— an 11″ x 17″ DANGEROUS JANE “Wanted” Poster (see below)
(*Psst! Each share of this post on FaceBook or Twitter earns another contest entry!)
CONTEST WINNERS! (The contest closed August 27th) Congrats to…
DANGEROUS JANE autographed posters – Jen D. and Carol Scrimgeour
DANGEROUS JANE autographed book – Tracy
#BeDangerous button – Mary Edly-Allen
Author Skype Q & A visit (added this prize, just because I can!) – Michelle Gajda
Learn More About Jane Addams
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Swarthmore’s Jane Addams Photo Exhibit
Jane Addams Digital Edition (Jane’s correspondence & writings)
Cedarville Area Historical Society
TWENTY YEARS AT HULL HOUSE by Jane Addams (FREE book download)
More Great Stuff!
Free Download of DANGEROUS JANE “WANTED” Poster
Free DANGEROUS JANE Teacher’s Guide
Peachtree’s DANGEROUS JANE blog post and contest
Enter to win autographed DANGEROUS JANE on Goodreads Giveaway (’til Sept. 15)
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“Slade tells the purposively inspiring story with a poetic flair, and Ratterree’s pale, evocatively washed-out watercolor illustrations are richly detailed… An attractive volume introducing an important American to young readers.” —Kirkus Reviews
“An inspiring testament to the power of activism.” —Publishers Weekly
“In Slade’s and Ratterree’s hands, Addams’s legacy shines brightly for the next generation of advocates.” —School Library Journal
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When I heard about this story coming out it went straight to my must read list. I actuality taught my students about Jane Adams and her amazing Hull house in March for National Woman’s Month. I am so excited to add this book to my collection. Thank you for sharing so much insight and neat information about Jane.
How wonderful you’ve been teaching your students about Jane Addams during National Women’s Month. That’s a perfect time to introduce Jane! She is so inspiring. I hope you find the DANGEROUS JANE Teacher’s Guide helpful!
This would make a FANTASTIC addition to my Girls with Grit bookclub! Thanks for the chance to win!
I agree! Jane had plenty of grit, that’s for sure. Your bookclub sounds wonderful. (Actually, I just looked up your bookclub on the internet, and it is very wonderful!) I’m thrilled you started such an inspirational club for your young readers. Congrats! (I’d love to meet your readers. Feel free to email me from my website if you’d like to do a free Skype Q & A visit. Thx!)
I will add this to my purchase order for new books for our school library. It was a fascinating article. Thank you!
So glad you liked the article and pleased as punch you’ll be ordering the book for your school. I think the students will find Jane very inspiring!
What an amazing woman. Can’t wait to read this one!
I heartily agree — Jane is one amazing woman. The more I learned about her the more I wanted to share her story with young readers. Thanks for stopping by!
This is fantastic. I also write kids non-fiction and am working on a biography right now that is giving me trouble with how to best tell the story. Thank you for sharing your process; it gives me a jumpstart on how to refocus. Dangerous Jane is a person I want to meet! Congratulations on your new book.
I hear you Jennifer. It often takes several complete “re-envisionings” before I find an engaging way to tell someone’s story. Hang in there! The best ideas usually strike when you least expect them!
I’m looking forward to this book and learning more about Jane. What an extraordinary woman!
I hope you enjoy discovering more about Jane as much as I did. She is one surprising and tenacious woman!
Helpful article, plus I love the “Be Dangerous” theme!
Glad you found the article interesting. Peachtree came up with the #BeDangerous idea. I love it too!
Wonderful research! Can’t wait to read about this dangerous woman!
The research was a lot of fun too! It’s always exciting to go digging around and discover new things about someone in history. Hope you enjoy the book!
It sounds like a magnificent work by author and illustrator. Congrats to you both.
Thanks MD! I hope the book inspires young readers to be kind to all people.
Totally love this look into Jane Addams life and the process that brought the book to fruition. Excited to read the book!
I always find it interesting to hear about a book’s publication process, so I’m glad you enjoyed DANGEROUS JANE’s journey. Thanks for stopping by!
I can’t wait to get my hands on this book! Thank you so much for sharing your process!
Glad you enjoyed the post and hearing a little about its creation. Thanks for visiting!
The world needs more dangerous women. Thank you for bringing her remarkable story to life!
So true. Dangerous women are awesome! And Jane was one of the most dangerous ones!
What a timely story! Can’t wait to share this with young ones at our library.
I agree. I love how Jane befriended people from various backgrounds and encouraged them to share their customs and beliefs with others. Her story is also a great springboard to talk about bullying and the importance of working toward peace.
I enjoy reading about dangerous women. and when I am gone I hope people will remember me as a dangerous woman!
Dangerous woman are very exciting! I love your goal to #BeDangerous!
I volunteer in local elementary schools and am always on the look out for books to donate to classrooms, libraries, and individual kids, ones that will inspire, as well as entertain. This goes to the top of my list for the coming school year. Well done!
That’s so awesome you volunteer in your local schools, AND you donate books to classrooms! What a huge difference you are making to many lucky children!
Wow, this book sounds amazing! I love books featuring strong women and how they made a difference. Congratulations!
Those are some of my favorite books too! It’s exciting to learn about these brave women made a huge, positive difference in history.
Congratulations on a beautiful book!
Thanks Janet! I appreciate you stopping by.
Thank you Suzanne and Alice for this fascinating two-fer (four-fer?) it is great to read about the process from both the author and the illustrator of the same book, with bonus comments from the museum and your editor. And better yet, a book about such a powerful woman who can be an inspiration to all of us. You are on my radar! And reading list.
And thank you for making up creative words like four-fer! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and appreciate your kind comments. Jane Addams is certainly an inspiration!
Suzanne – I am an aspiring PB biography writer and I can’t wait to get my hands on Dangerous Jane! Thank you for giving part of your life to telling this story.
You are very sweet Sandy! It was fun to go back and remember the early stages of this book (which actually began in 2013. I’m so grateful to my critique group friends who patiently listened to many versions of the story along the way. It seems the path to a picture book bio. isn’t speedy, but it can be very rewarding in the end when you see young readers discovering someone like Jane Addams.
Just entering before I forget, will come back in a bit to read this awesome looking post
Love your method Darla! I have the memory of a goldfish most days, so I have to do things before I forget too!
This is wonderful…can’t wait to read it!
Glad the post whetted your appetite. Hope you enjoy the book and thanks for stopping by!
I love your other books, so I’m sure to love this one. Thanks for bringing this story to life.
You’re very sweet Susan! I hope your writing is going well. You have great story ideas!
I love this book already! Jane Addams was one of my heroines growing up. Can’t wait to read it, Suzanne. And Alice’s artwork is perfect. Congrats to you both!
You were a cool young lady to have chosen Jane as one of your heroines! The more I learned about her the more enthralled I became too. Thanks for your kind comments!
Congratulations, Suzanne! I love your books and this one looks equally wonderful. We certainly need more brave and dangerous people like Jane Addams in today’s world even more!
I couldn’t agree more. Our world would be a better place if we had more dangerous women like Jane. #BeDangerous!
I’m loving this art. And what a great topic!
Yes, Alice’s art in this book is outstanding! Actually, I wish I’d included more of it in the post, but I guess we don’t want to give too much away before someone reads the book either. Thanks for stopping by!
I am such a fan of Jane Addams, and of the Peace organization that carries her name and mission forward. The Annual Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards are my go-to resource for books that matter and offer timeless value for readers of many ages. I’ve been lucky enough to conduct some professional workshops about the Jane Addams awards and am always amazed that so few people are aware of them. I can’t wait to get this book, and that you for writing it.
That’s fantastic you offer workshops on the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards! They are such a wonderful resource for fantastic books, so it’s great you are spreading the word. Now I’m a fan of yours ! (who just became one of your followers on Twitter!)
As a history major and author of two historical fiction books, I am fascinated by all things historic, especially when the topic is a strong woman. This book will definitely be on my “to be read” list.
How cool you have such a strong history background! I’m also a fan of strong women, and hope you enjoy DANGEROUS JANE!
I grew up near Chicago and went to Hull House with a friend and her mother back in the 1950s. My friend’s family was always out and about helping people. My friend became a social worker and then taught social work for decades. I worked on foster care review board for years – so that visit to Hull House must have been inspiring! Thank you for writing and illustrating this important book..
Wow! I should have called you when I was doing my research! How interesting you were able to visit Hull House in the 50s when there was a great deal going on there. Your work on the foster care review board sounds very interesting! Thanks for sharing!
Love the look of the book and of course, the topic! I’ve recently become the editor of the digital edition of Jane Addams’ Papers and we would love to feature your story on our blog and social media.
Hi Cathy, I’m so honored you stopped by! I’ve been keeping an eye on your website and have enjoyed perusing some of Jane’s correspondence there. What an incredible resource you’re creating! I can’t imagine all the hours of work it takes to put all that together. Just let me know if you need anything for your blog and other social media. Thanks a bunch!
What a fantastic post, Suzanne. Happy to know this book will soon be out in the world, inspiring kids everywhere!
Thanks for the kind comments Jill!
This will be a great Christmas gift for my 11 year old granddaughter! So inspiring! Thank you for your hard work, Suzanne.
That’s so sweet of you to get the book for your Granddaughter! I hope she enjoys discovering the dangerous life of Jane Addams!
The story of Jane Adams is with inspiration. She was a determined and amazing woman, ahead of her time sharing good will. I am impressed with the amount of research both Suzanne Slade, author and Alice Ratterree, illustrator, discovered to tell Jane’s story.
This post has inspired me to polish a biographical manuscript of mine that is *under construction*.
I will share this post on Twitter, Facebook, and my Word Press.
I’m happy to hear this post nudged you to revisit your biography manuscript. It’s funny, I was just looking through my J. Addams file yesterday and was surprised to see how many radically different versions I’d created before the one in this book. Hope your next version is the best one yet!
When I taught 4th grade, I loved teaching about Jane Addams. This book is every teacher’s dream!
So cool to hear how your shared Jane Addams with your students when you were a teacher. Hope this book is helpful to other teachers!
Absolutely love this book! I sent the link to our school’s media specialist to add to our school library. I especially liked Alice’s comment, ” ….how compassion can create an opportunity for positive action and change” for young children. Timely, considering current events. LOVE that Jane was a peacemaker. Congratulations!
Thanks for sharing with your media specialist, Mary. I agree, Alice’s comment about compassion is spot on, especially in regards to the challenges we face today! It’s amazing how Jane was very tenacious, yet winsome at the same time as she worked for peace in America and around the world.
Thanks for sending the link to your media specialist. I agree, Alice’s comment about compassion is spot on, and so applicable today. I love how Jane was tenacious, yet winsome at the same time as she fought for peace in America and around the world.
Jane Addams lived a phenomenal life of service and courage, and I’m excited to read all about her in your new book, Suzanne. Congratulations on your latest work. And thanks so much for sharing a bit about your research and writing process.
Happy to hear you enjoyed the post Rita. I appreciate your kind comments!
I learned so much from your post and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. The emotion in the illustrations is amazing!
You’re very perceptive — the illustrations do convey many emotions in an authentic, poignant way that text could not accomplish. Hope you enjoy the book!
Thanks for sharing, and I cannot wait to read this book and share it!
Thanks for stopping by Denise! I hope you find the book inspiring.
Thank you for this totally fascinating post on your research, as well as the illustrator’s research process! I was planning on a tweet and FB share before you even brought that up 🙂
So glad you enjoyed hearing about some of our research! And thanks so much for sharing! You are sweet!
So interesting! Great post, and I am looking forward to reading the book. It’s especially important to be that kind of dangerous now!
I agree with you! Kindness is crucial in our world today, and we need more dangerous women like Jane. #BeDangerous
Love this line: compassion can create an opportunity for positive action and change. This was a great post showing how the book was put together from both writer and illustrator.
So true! Compassion can create so many positive opportunities, as Jane’s like exemplifies beautifully!
Both Jane’s story and Alice’s research journey are fascinating and inspiring. Thank you for sharing!
Glad you enjoyed the post Sydney. Both Alice and Jane inspired me too!
What an incredible journey you shared with us! Thank you for research ideas and telling a story that needed to be told. I’m one of those that was unaware of the accomplishments of this amazing woman. Can’t wait to get (or win) a copy of your new book! =]
Thanks for your kind words Anne! I’m glad you found Jane’s accomplishments inspiring.
I love how the author’s words (Suzanne) and illustrator’s pictures (Alice) meld into one perfect picture book. Wow! This is on my list to buy…or win!
It’s always exciting to see how the words and illustrations of a book come together. I’m thrilled I was able to work with Alice on this book. Thanks for stopping by!
I’m so excited to read this book & add it to my strong girls/women PBs!!!
Fascinating and will inspire young girls to persevere & accomplish their dreams.
I also love picture books about inspiring, brave women. I hope this story inspires girls to be dangerous like Jane!
Great approach to search and present this fascinating woman’s life! Thank you. for sharing with us!!
So happy you enjoyed the post Agatha. Thanks for stopping by!
We’d love to share Dangerous Jane on our blog!
And DANGEROUS JANE would love to visit your blog. We love Lu & Bean Read! Such a great blog.
What a fascinating book and article! Thanks so much for sharing!
Suzanne, I can’t wait to see this in real life! Congratulations to you and Alice on a gorgeous book!!!!
What a remarkable lady!
Hello, my name is Justice Levine and I am the publicity assistant for the Jane Addams Papers project based at Ramapo College of New Jersey. We would love to discuss a guest blog post or an interview with you, if you have the time.