Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Louise W. Knight  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1949 in Evanston, Illinois

-- Louise W. Knight on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Knight was born in Evanston, Illinois and grew up in Wineetka, Illinois. She returned to Evanston in 1992 and currently resides there.

Biographical and Professional Information

Knight is a biographer, public speaker, and writer. She has given talks at colleges and universities, including the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and Elmhurst College. She has written book reviews in The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Journal of Women’s History, The Journal of American History, and The Women’s Review of Books She is also an independent scholar and Visiting Scholar in the Gender Studies Program at Northwestern University. Her field is American history, with interests in nineteenth and twentieth century American reform, women’s history, Progressive history, and radical rhetoric.Her articles have been published in the ''Journal of Women’s History'', ''Gender & History'', the ''Journal of Community Practice'', and ''Affilia: Women and Social Work''. She has written book reviews for ''The New York Times Book Review'', ''The Wall Street Journal'', ''The Journal of Women’s History'', ''The Journal of American History'', and ''The Women’s Review of Books''. She also writes for the ''History News Service''. Her essays have appeared in three collections: American Reform and Reformers, Paul Cimbala and Randall Miller, eds. (Greenwood Press, 1996); Jane Addams and the Practice of Democracy, Marilyn Fischer et. al. (University of Illinois Press, 2009); and Feminist Interpretations of Jane Addams, Maurice Hamington, ed. (Penn State University Press, 2010). She provided entries about Jane Addams for ''The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest'' (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) and ''The Child: An Encyclopedia Companion'' (University of Chicago Press, 2009) and an entry about Harriet Rice for ''Women Building Chicago: A Biographical Dictionary'', Rima Lunin Schultz and Adele Hast, eds. (Indiana University Press, 2001).

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy
ISBN: 0226447006

University of Chicago Press. 2006

Jane Addams was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Now Citizen, Louise W. Knight's masterful biography, reveals Addams's early development as a political activist and social philosopher. In this book we observe a powerful mind grappling with the radical ideas of her age, most notably the ever-changing meanings of democracy.

Citizen covers the first half of Addams's life, from 1860 to 1899. Knight recounts how Addams, a child of a wealthy family in rural northern Illinois, longed for a life of larger purpose. She broadened her horizons through education, reading, and travel, and, after receiving an inheritance upon her father's death, moved to Chicago in 1889 to co-found Hull House, the city's first settlement house. Citizen shows vividly what the settlement house actually was—a neighborhood center for education and social gatherings—and describes how Addams learned of the abject working conditions in American factories, the unchecked power wielded by employers, the impact of corrupt local politics on city services, and the intolerable limits placed on women by their lack of voting rights. These experiences, Knight makes clear, transformed Addams. Always a believer in democracy as an abstraction, Addams came to understand that this national ideal was also a life philosophy and a mandate for civic activism by all.

As her story unfolds, Knight astutely captures the enigmatic Addams's compassionate personality as well as her flawed human side. Written in a strong narrative voice, Citizen is an insightful portrait of the formative years of a great American leader.

“Knight’s decision to focus on Addams’s early years is a stroke of genius. We know a great deal about Jane Addams the public figure. We know relatively little about how she made the transition from the 19th century to the 20th. In Knight’s book, Jane Addams comes to life. . . . Citizen is written neither to make money nor to gain academic tenure it is a gift, meant to enlighten and improve. Jane Addams would have understood.”—Alan Wolfe, New York Times Book Review

“My only complaint about the book is that there wasn’t more of it. . . . Knight honors Addams as an American original.”—Kathleen Dalton, Chicago Tribune

Jane Addams: Spirit in Action
ISBN: 0393071650

W. W. Norton & Company. 2010

In this landmark biography, Jane Addams becomes America's most admired and most hated woman―and wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jane Addams (1860-1935) was a leading statesperson in an era when few imagined such possibilities for women. In this fresh interpretation, the first full biography of Addams in nearly forty years, Louise W. Knight shows Addams's boldness, creativity, and tenacity as she sought ways to put the ideals of democracy into action. Starting in Chicago as a co-founder of the nation's first settlement house, Hull House―a community center where people of all classes and ethnicities could gather―Addams became a grassroots organizer and a partner of trade unionists, women, immigrants, and African Americans seeking social justice. In time she emerged as a progressive political force an advocate for women's suffrage an advisor to presidents a co-founder of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and a leader for international peace. Written as a fast-paced narrative, Jane Addams traces how one woman worked with others to make a difference in the world. 32 black-and-white illustrations


In 2007 she received the Russell P. Strange Memorial Award for her significant contribution to the study of Illinois history from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)