Jane Addams Facts:
Known for: founding of Hull-House; her work was foundational to the social work profession
Occupation: settlement house reformer, pacifist, women's rights advocate
Dates: September 6, 1860 - May 21, 1935
Also Known as: Laura Jane Addams
Jane Addams Biography:
Jane Addams was born in Cedarville, Illinois. Her mother died when she was two, and she was raised by her father and, later, a stepmother. She graduated from Rockford Female Seminary in 1881, among the first students to take a course of study equivalent to that of men at other institutions. Her father, whom she admired tremendously, died that same year, 1881.
Jane Addams attended Woman's Medical College in Pennsylvania, but she left the college, probably due to her ill health and her chronic back pain. Jane Addams toured Europe 1883-5 and then lived in Baltimore 1885-7, but did not figure out what she wanted to do with her education and her skills.
In 1888, on a visit to England with her Rockford classmate Ellen Gates Starr, Jane Addams visited Toynbee Settlement Hall and London's East End. Jane Addams and Ellen Starr planned to start an American equivalent of that settlement house. After their return they chose Hull mansion, a building which, though originally built at the edge of the city, had become surrounded by an immigrant neighborhood and was by then being used as a warehouse.
Using an experimental model of reform -- trying solutions to see what would work -- and committed to full- and part-time residents to keep in touch with the neighborhood's real needs, Jane Addams built Hull-House into an institution known worldwide. Addams wrote articles, lectured widely and did most of the fund-raising personally and served on many social work, social welfare and settlement house boards and commissions.
More Social Reform
Jane Addams also became involved in wider efforts for social reform, including housing and sanitation issues, factory inspection, rights of immigrants, women and children, pacifism and the 8-hour day. She served as a Vice President of the National Woman Suffrage Association from 1911-1914.
In 1912, Jane Addams campaigned for the Progressive Party and its presidential candidate, Teddy Roosevelt. She worked with the Peace Party, helped found and served as president (1919-1935) of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
In 1931 Jane Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Nicholas Murray Butler, but her health was too fragile to attend the European ceremonies to accept the prize. She was the second woman to be awarded that honor.
Jane Addams died in 1935.
Books by Jane Addams, many of which were edited compilations of earlier essays and magazine articles, include Twenty Years at Hull-House and Democracy and Social Ethics.
In 1963, most of the buildings which had come to be included in what was called Hull-House were torn down to make room for the University of Illinois, Chicago campus (then called Circle campus). All that is left today is the original mansion and one more building. These are now used as a museum and educational site.
More About Jane Addams:
Places: Cedarville, Illinois; Chicago, Illinois.
Organizations: Hull-House, settlement house movement, National Woman Suffrage Association, Anti-Imperialist League, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Religion: Jane Addams was raised as a Quaker, joined a Presbyterian church in Chicago and maintained her membership there. On most Sundays in Chicago she attended Unitarian church services or the Ethical Culture Society, where she served as "interim lecturer" (then the title for a position equivalent to clergy in Ethical Culture) for a brief time.
More women's history biographies, by name: