Partner Jane Addams

Queer Places:
Hull House, 800 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60607, Stati Uniti
Thorncraig, Bar Harbor, Maine, Stati Uniti
Graceland Cemetery, 4001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613, Stati Uniti

Mary Rozet Smith (December 23, 1868 – February 22, 1934) was a Chicago-born US philanthropist who was one of the trustees and benefactors of Hull House. She was the companion of activist Jane Addams for over thirty years. Smith provided the financing for the Hull House Music School and donated the school's organ as a memorial to her mother. She was active in several social betterment societies in Chicago at the turn of the 20th century. Mary Rozet Smith came from a wealthy Chicago family and helped to support both Jane Addams and Hull-House financially for 40 years. She and Addams shared their lives and work, and also a double bed, and were known in the women’s international network and outside it as a couple. Jane Addams had a special Mary Rozet Smith. When they traveled, they wired ahead to be sure to get a double bed. When separated, Addams wrote to Smith, “I miss you dreadfully and am yours till death,” and Smith expressed similar longing, writing, “You can never know what it is to me to have had you and to have you now.” Smith inspired a great deal of enthusiasm among Addams's colleagues. “Will you kiss your dear friend, Miss Smith, for me and tell her that in sleepless nights and even in nice dreams I see her before me as a good angel,” wrote Dutch feminist Aletta Jacobs in 1915. “I have a remembrance of her as one of the sweetest women I ever met in the world,” Jacobs added four years later. And, even more extravagantly, Jacobs concluded in 1923, “I always have admired her and if I would have been a man I should have fallen in love with her.”

Mary Rozet Smith was born on 23 December 1868 in Chicago, Illinois to Sarah (née Rozet) and Charles Mather Smith.[1][2] She was raised in a wealthy, privileged home, the daughter of the Bradner-Smith Paper Company president. As was typical of women of her social class, she did not attend university.[2] As a young woman, she participated in activities usual to her social standing, as part of the Social Register[3] and traveled extensively in Europe.[4]

She became involved in Hull House in 1890, shortly after its founding,[2] becoming one of its major financial contributors[5] and serving as one of the trustees. Around the same time, Eleanor Sophia Smith (no relation) also joined Hull House and the women began collaborating on the development a music school. Smith provided the financial backing to create the school in 1893 and hire teachers and Eleanor became the director of the school.[6] In 1902, she donated a Hook and Hastings pipe organ in honor of her mother to Hull House for the music school.[7]

In addition to her philanthropy at Hull House, Smith served on the executive committee of the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago[8] and was a contributor to the Henry Booth House, another of Chicago's settlement houses.[9] She was also active on the advisory board of the social worker's committee of the United Charities of Chicago for the DeKoven District.[10] Not all of her philanthropy was focused through organizations, as she was known to provide direct aid to families. In one instance, she paid for the education, including university studies of three children, for a mother who had fled from her husband. At this time period, women's groups and organizations, often provided social services because governmental structure to do so was lacking.[11] Smith was a member of many of these types of clubs, such as the Chicago Women's Club from 1888[12] and the Friday Club.[13]

Smith was the companion and partner of Jane Addams for over 30 years and there has been much speculation of their life and relationship.[4] Many of their letters were burned by Addams,[5] but Addams referred to their relationship as a "marriage".[5] They traveled together, co-owned a home in Maine, and were committed to each other.[4] In 1895, after Addams had suffered from a bout with typhoid fever, she went abroad with Smith, traveling to London. There, they visited several settlement houses, including Oxford House, Browning House, Bermondsey Settlement and others.[14] They proceeded on to Moscow and met Tolstoy,[15] then traveled through southern Russia, into Poland and Germany, before returning to Chicago.[16]

Early in 1934, Addams had a heart attack and Smith nursed her at her home, neglecting her own illness. Smith succumbed to pneumonia, fell into a coma and then died on 22 February 1934. Addams was considered too ill to descend the stairs to attend Smith's memorial service, which she could hear from her second-floor room.[17]


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