Jane Addams, Mohandas Gandhi, and the Promise of Soul Force

Peace & Change, Volume 45, Issue 4, Page 481-512, October 2020.

Jane Addams (1860–1935) and Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948) are rightly regarded as two of the 20th century’s great leaders advancing social justice and peace and through nonviolent means. Although they never met in person, they engaged similar ideas and social issues spanning nearly fifty years. In the decade and a half following World War I, they addressed one another’s work and briefly corresponded. This essay newly examines the admiration and deliberative engagement that developed between Addams and Gandhi, while highlighting their distinctive interpretations of “soul force.” I argue that each rhetorically engaged the others’ ideas and practices in ways that advanced their own approaches to nonviolent social transformation and the challenges of political consent: for Addams, moral suasion and pragmatic consensus‐building, and for Gandhi, absolute nonviolence and physical self‐suffering through acts of noncooperation and civil disobedience. This study acknowledges their shared commitment to the principle of moral goodwill toward opponents, in international and anticolonial contexts, while highlighting ways in which culture, religion, and temperament shaped their divergent nonviolent methods. Addams and Gandhi leave distinctive legacies that offer inspiration and critique for new generations addressing power and injustice.

This was originally published on Wiley: Peace & Change: Table of Contents.