(Laura) Jane Addams
was born September 6, 1860, and died May 21, 1935. She won worldwide
recognition in the first third of the twentieth century as a pioneer
social worker in America, as a feminist, internationalist, philosopher
and reformer. She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace
Prize.Jane Addams was an ardent feminist by philosophy. In those days
before women's suffrage she believed that women should make their voices
heard in legislation and therefore should have the right to vote, but
more comprehensively, she thought that women should generate aspirations
and search out opportunities to realize them.
Addams was born
in Cedarville, Illinois, the eighth of nine children. Her father was
a prosperous miller and local political leader who served for sixteen
years as a state senator and fought as an officer in the Civil War;
he was a friend of Abraham Lincoln . Because of a congenital spinal
defect, Jane was not physically vigorous when young nor truly robust
even later in life, but her spinal difficulty was remedied by surgery.
Jane grew up in
the small community. Her mother was kind and gracious, but died when
Jane was two. Her father remarried and her new stepmother brought two
new step-brothers to the already large family. Jane was devoted to her
father, who taught her tolerance, philanthropy, and a strong work ethic.
He encouraged her to pursue higher education, but not at the expense
of losing her femininity and the prospect of marriage and motherhood.
Jane excelled in
her studies and developed strong leadership traits, which were admired
by her classmates. In 1881 she was graduated from the Rockford Female
Seminary, the valedictorian of a class of seventeen, but was granted
the bachelor's degree only after the school became accredited the next
year as Rockford College for Women.
She decided to pursue
a degree in medicine and this caused a stir in the Addams household.
Her parents felt that she had had enough education and were concerned
that she would never marry. Jane became despondent. She wanted more
in life. If her brothers could have careers in medicine and science,
why couldn't she? Besides, she disliked household duties and the prospect
of raising children held no appeal.
Jane's parents decided
that the best course was to take Jane and her friends on a grand tour
of Europe for a year or two. Jane began to show signs of serious illness
during this time. There was the pressure to do her parents' bidding,
and inner turmoil over whether or not to disobey them and choose a career.
Her father died
upon her return. This set Jane into a deeper depression and a sense
of guilt that somehow she had upset him with her insistence upon a vocation.
Her illness grew to the proportion of "invalid." She could
barely walk or move without great pain. Jane did have a slight curvature
of the spine and for this she sought treatment. Eventually, she had
surgery and was strapped into a back harness from which she could not
move for about a year. This year gave her time to think.
In the course of
the next six years she began the study of medicine but left because
of poor health. She was hospitalized intermittently, traveled and studied
in Europe for twenty-one months, and then spent almost two years in
reading and writing and in considering her future objectives.
At the age of twenty-seven,
during a second tour to Europe with her friend Ellen Starr, she visited
a settlement house, Toynbee Hall, in London's East End. This visit helped
to finalize the idea then current in her mind, that of opening a similar
house in an underprivileged area of Chicago. In 1889 she and Miss Starr
leased a large home and moved in. Their purpose being "to provide
a center for a higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain
educational and philanthropic enterprises and to investigate and improve
the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago".
At its height, Hull
House was visited each week by around two thousand people. Its facilities
included a night school for adults; kindergarten classes; clubs for
older children; a public kitchen; an art gallery; a coffeehouse; a gymnasium;
a girls club; a swimming pool; a book bindery; a music school; a drama
group; a library; and labor-related divisions. Miss
Addams and Miss Starr made speeches about the needs of the neighborhood,
raised money, convinced young women of well-to-do families to help,
took care of children, nursed the sick, listened to outpourings from
Hull House served
as a women's sociological institution. Addams
was a friend to the early members of the Chicago School of Sociology,
influencing their thought through her work in applied sociology and,
in 1893, co-authoring the Hull-House Maps and Papers that defined the
interests and methodologies of the School. She worked with George H.
Mead on social reform issues including women's rights, ending child-labor,
and the 1910 Garment Workers' Strike in which she was a mediator.
Addams had a stellar
reputation for her work with Hull House, and was respected as a committed
humanitarian. In addition to her involvement in the American Anti-Imperialist
League and the American Sociology Association, she was also a formative
member of both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
sociologists of the time defined her work as "social work",
Addams did not consider herself a social worker. She combined the central
concepts of symbolic interactionism with the theories of cultural feminism
and pragmatism to form her sociological ideas.
For her own aspiration
to rid the world of war, Jane Addams created opportunities or seized
those offered to her to advance the cause. In 1906 she gave a course
of lectures at the University of Wisconsin summer session which she
published the next year as a book, Newer Ideals of Peace. She spoke
for peace in 1913 at a ceremony commemorating the building of the Peace
Palace at The Hague and in the next two years, as a lecturer sponsored
by the Carnegie Foundation, spoke against America's entry into the First
In January, 1915,
she accepted the chairmanship of the Women's Peace Party, an American
organization, and four months later the presidency of the International
Congress of Women convened at The Hague largely upon the initiative
of Dr. Aletta Jacobs, a Dutch suffragist leader of many and varied talents.
When this congress later founded the organization called the Women's
International League for Peace and Freedom, Jane Addams served as president
until 1929, as presiding officer of its six international conferences
in those years, and as honorary president for the remainder of her life.
In 1911 she helped
to establish the National Foundation of Settlements and Neighborhood
Centers and became its first president. She was also a leader in women's
suffrage and pacifist movements, and took part in the creation of the
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1915.
to America's entry into the war, Miss Addams was attacked in the press
and expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution, but she
found an outlet for her humanitarian impulses as an assistant to Herbert
Hoover in providing relief supplies of food to the women and children
of the enemy nations, the story of which she told in her book Peace
and Bread in Time of War (1922).
a heart attack in 1926, Miss Addams never fully regained her health.
She was admitted to a hospital on December 10, 1931, the day the Nobel
Peace Prize was awarded to her in Oslo. She did not deliver a Nobel
lecture. Hospitalized at the time of the award ceremony in December,
1931, she later notified the Nobel Committee in April of 1932 that her
doctors had decided it would be unwise for her to go abroad. She died
in 1935 three days after an operation revealed unsuspected cancer.
Jane is portrayed
as the selfless giver of ministrations to the poor, but was a dynamic
force in labor reform for children and women.
All this led to
the right to vote for women. Addams worked for Chicago municipal suffrage
and became first vice-president of the National American Women Suffrage
Association in 1911. She campaigned nationwide for Theodore
Roosevelt and the Progressive Party in 1912.
She became a very
controversial figure while working on behalf of economic reform. When
horrible working conditions led to the Haymarket riot, Jane was personally
attacked for her support of the workers. It resulted in a great loss
of donor support for Hull House. She supplemented Hull House funding
with revenue from lecture tours and article writing. She began to enjoy
international acclaim. Her first book was published in 1910 and others
followed biennially. Her biggest success in writing came with the release
of the book, Twenty Years at Hull House. It
became her autobiography and brought her wealth.
Addams foresaw World
War I. In 1915, in an effort to avert war, she organized the Women's
Peace Party and the International Congress of Women. This latter organization
met at The Hague and made serious diplomatic attempts to thwart the
war. When these efforts failed and the U.S. joined the war in 1917,
criticism of Addams rose.
In 1919 she was
elected first president of the Women's International League for Peace
and Freedom, a position she held until her death. She was founder of
the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP. These positions earned
her even more criticism than her pacifism. She was accused of being
a socialist, an anarchist and a communist.
Hull House, however,
continued to be successful. When the depression of the 1930's struck,
Addams saw many of the things that she had advocated and fought for
become policies under President Franklin
She received numerous
awards during this time including, in 1931, the Nobel Peace Prize. That
year her health began to fail but she continued her work until her death
Her many publications
Democracy and social ethics, 1902; Children in American street trades,
1905; New ideals of peace, 1907; The Wage-earning Woman and the State,
Boston. 1910; Twenty years at Hull-House 1910; Symposium: child labor
on the stage, 1911.