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Who is Jane Addams?


Jane Addams, a pioneer American social worker, feminist, and internationalist, was born in Cedarville, Illinois, in 1860. 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 from 1883 to 1885 and then lived in Baltimore from 1885 to 1887, but did not yet 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 originally built at the edge of the city that had become a warehouse surrounded by an immigrant neighborhood, to be the site of their settlement house.

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. She served on many social work, social welfare and settlement house boards and commissions.

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 work 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.

Jane Addams
Jane Addams' Accomplishments
Women's Suffrage
Jane Addams Postage Stamp