The Chicago Park District held a dedication ceremony for the relocated city tribute to social reformer and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jane Addams ( 1860-1935 ) Sept. 24. The Jane Addams Tribute Sculpture Garden, "Helping Hands," by Louis Bourgeois ( 1911-2010 ) was originally dedicated in 1996 and displayed along the lakefront near Navy Pier. But it was a target of vandalism and harsh weather and was put into storage.
The Chicago Park District team completed the relocation of the group of sculptures June 24, 2011 to the Chicago Women's Park and gardens, on Prairie Avenue just south of 18th Street.
Jane Addams was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2008, and her efforts are also documented in the current Out in Chicago exhibit at the Chicago History Museum.
The Hall of Fame website states: "Biographer Louise Knight has noted the 'long silence about the historical significance of Addams's intimate love life.' Current historical research and insight demonstrate that it is time for Chicago's LGBT communities to claim Addams as one of our own. Historian Lillian Faderman notes that Addams 'spent her adult years, almost until her death, with other women, in long-term relationships that we would describe as lesbian today.'
"Addams had at least two long-term same-sex relationshipsone of which, with Mary Rozet Smith, lasted 40 years. Addams and Smith traveled together, shared the same room and bed, and owned property together. Addams consistently addressed Smith as 'dearest' and used phrases such as 'I am yours 'til death.' Their relationship to each other was recognized by their close associates as intimate. Historian John D'Emilio points out, 'No matter how you cut it, these are all marks that we use to understand women and men as lesbian or gay.'"
The sculptures were commissioned by the B.F. Ferguson Fund of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute picked Bourgeios to portray Addams through a "symbolically powerful artwork" rather than a depictive figurative sculpture. Bourgeios produced a series of carved granite hands that sit on rough-hewn granite bases.
Speaking about her work in a 2007 PBS Documentary film entitled From Art in the 21st Century, Bourgeois said, "A work of art does not have to be explained … . If you do not have any feeling about this, I cannot explain it to you. If this doesn't touch you, I have failed."
The work includes a plaque and six stone bases which support a hand or series of carved black granite hands representing adults and children of different backgrounds.
Alderman Robert Fioretti ( 2nd ) spoke at the tribute, as did Naomi Beckwith ( a curator with the Museum of Contemporary Art ) , William Tyre ( executive director of the Glessner House ) , and Julia Bachrach ( historian of the Chicago Park District ) . Jan Huttner appeared as "Jane Addams" and read some of Addams words for the small crowd gathered at the dedication.