JaneAddams, a social activist during the late 1800s, was not only responsible for the improvement of literary and art awareness among the working poor, but played a pivotal role in the development and promotion of social work. Through her creation of the Hull House, a settlement home she founded to provide support for white immigrants into the harsh and unloving society of Chicago, she was able to reach out to many and set an example for all.
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Born on September 6, 1860, Addams was one of nine children born to an aristocratic and politically influential family in Cedarville, Illinois. Her father was an Illinois State Senator and a close friend of Abraham Lincoln. Her close relationship with her father created a longing for her to follow in his footsteps. She applied herself in many academic areas at the Rockford Female Seminary. Her graduation in 1881 brought a close to four very eventful years. Not only was she Valedictorian and President of her class all four years, but she also met the friend she would later found Hull House with, Ellen G Starr. The two studied in Europe together where they discovered the idea for the Hull House from the example of Toynbee Hall, a settlement house in London that was established for the less fortunate white men of London. When Jane and Ellen moved to Chicago, they purchased the Hull Mansion on Hulsted Street. They opened the house to the immigrants of Chicago in 1889.
The Hull House was originally meant to educate the working poor in the subjects of art and literature. Addams desire was for the people to become enlightened by providing various classes and resources for them. Jane received no money for her work with the Hull House, but rather used her family funds to support herself and her passion.
Jane was also known for her many accomplishments in society, not only as a social worker, but also as an emerging female voice in a male-dominated society. Some of her accomplishments include her presidencies over many boards such as The International Congress of Women at the Hague and The National Congress of Charities and Corrections, her role as Chairman of The Womens Peace Party of the US and The International Committee of Women For Permanent Peace, and her receiving of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Jane also published many books including Twenty Years at the Hull House (1910) and The Second Twenty Years at the Hull House (1930).
Addams suffered from Congenital Spinal Defect, which prohibited her from attending Medical School, her first passion. However, it was remedied later in life by surgery. Unfortunately, she never recovered from a heart attack she had in 1926 and from her weakened state was diagnosed with cancer and past away on May 21, 1935. Fortunately her death did not put an end to her impact, legacy, and example of helping those less fortunate through word and action.
Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull House. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990.
Garraty, John A. Carnes, Mark C. Eds. American National Biography Vol. 1. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
James, Edward T. Notable American Women 1607-1950 Vol. 1. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Howard University Press, 1971.
Who Was Who in America. Vol. 1. Chicago: The A. N. Marqui's Company, 1943.