Jane Addams

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Jane Addams

Jane Addams (1860-1935) was a pioneer American settlement worker and founder of Hull House in Chicago, public philosopher (the first American woman in that role), author, and leader in woman suffrage and world peace. She was the most prominent woman of the Progressive Era and helped turn the nation to issues of concern to mothers, such as the needs of children, public health and world peace.

She emphasized that women have a special responsibility to clean up their communities and make them better places to live, arguing they needed the vote to be effective. Addams became a role model for middle-class women who volunteered to uplift their communities. She was considered a leading "progressive" in the 1910s but she opposed the liberalism of the New Deal in the 1930s and showed that private volunteer work was more effective than government interventions. Many of her programs and approaches resemble those of conservatives in the 21st century, as demonstrated by Elshtain (2002).

in the 1920s she was the subject of an FBI investigation, even receiving the title "most dangerous woman in America" by J. Edgar Hoover.[1][2]

Early career

Addams was born in the village of Cedarville, in northern Illinois, on Sept. 6, 1860. Her father, a Yankee, was a prominent Republican politician and supporter of Abraham Lincoln. She early on displayed ambition, a charismatic personality, and a strong sense of moral duty. At nearby Rockford Seminary, which she attended from 1877 to 1881, the conscientiousness tinged with rebellion that characterized her career began to emerge. Valedictorian and president of her class, she helped transform the small Congregational finishing school for women into a degree-conferring college. Addams was a voracious reader in history and philosophy, and tried to start an oratory program for the young women, but the men at other colleges would not recognize it.[3] Elshtain (2002) emphasizes her religiosity, showing that Addams was influenced by Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and tried to imitate Christ through a "service ethic".

In 1881 Addam's father died, and after becoming sick and pain-wracked, she decided to undergo painful operations to correct the spinal curvature she had had since birth. She was strapped into a back harness which gave her no mobility for about a year. On her recovery in 1883 Adams traveled through Europe to find her purpose in life. In 1888, the idea of founding a settlement house for the underprivileged came to her. In England she visited Toynbee Hall, London's famous settlement house in the slums of the city, and consulted the head resident, Canon Samuel A. Barnett on the matter.

Hull House

For a more detailed treatment, see Hull House.

In September 1889, Addams and a friend, Ellen Gates Starr, moved into an 1850s mansion built by banker Charles Hull, but located in a neighborhood that had become a crowded multi-ethnic slum on the near West Side of Chicago controlled by local political bosses. At one point she ran for alderman against the local boss, Johnnie Powers, and lost. Hull House, as Addams named it, became America's best known settlement house. She used Hull House to generate system-directed change—to keep families safe, community and societal conditions must be improved.[4]

Emphasis on children

Hull House stressed the role of children in the Americanization process of new immigrants, and fostered the play movement and the research and service fields of leisure, youth, and human services. Addams argued in The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (1909) that play and recreation programs are needed because cities are destroying the spirit of youth. Addams feared that cities and factories were killing the spirit of youth; recreation and play were healthy mediums to channel the spirit of youth. Hull-House featured multiple programs in art and drama, kindergarten classes, boys' and girls' clubs, language classes, reading groups, college extension courses, along with public baths, a free-speech atmosphere, a gymnasium, a labor museum and playground. They were all designed to foster democratic cooperation and collective action and downplay individualism. She helped pass the first model tenement code and the first factory laws in Illinois.

Addams and her colleagues documented the geography of typhoid fever and reported that poor workers bore the brunt of illness. She identified the political corruption and business avarice that caused the city bureaucracy to ignore health, sanitation, and building codes. Linking environmental justice and municipal reform, she eventually defeated the bosses and fostered a more equitable distribution of city services and modernized inspection practices.[5] Addams spoke of the "undoubted powers of public recreation to bring together the classes of a community in the modern city unhappily so full of devices for keeping them apart."[6] Addams worked with the Chicago Board of Health and served as the first vice-president of the Playground Association of America.

World Peace

Addams was a major synthesizing figure in the domestic and international peace movements, serving as both a figurehead and leading theoretician; she was influenced especially by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy and by the pragmatism of philosophers John Dewey and George Herbert Mead.[7] She saw democracy, social justice and peace as mutually reinforcing; they all had to advance together to achieve any one. Addams became an anti-war activist from 1899, as part of the anti-imperialist movement that followed the Spanish–American War. In 1912 she helped found the Progressive Party and supported the presidential campaign of Theodore Roosevelt, even though his platform called for building more battleships.

Her book Newer Ideals of Peace (1907) reshaped the peace movement worldwide to include ideals of social justice. She recruited social justice reformers like Alice Hamilton, Lillian Wald, Florence Kelley, and Emily Balch to join her in the new international women's peace movement after 1914. Addams's work came to fruition after World War I, when major institutional bodies began to link peace with social justice and probe the underlying causes of war and conflict. After 1915 Addams, who never married, centered her interests in the peace movement. She was a leader at the International Congress of Women at The Hague, Holland, in 1915 and presided at the first meeting of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1919, which she served as president.[8]

She damned war as a cataclysm that undermined human kindness, solidarity, civic friendship, and caused families across the world to struggle. In turn her views were denounced by patriotic groups during World War I (1917–18). In one major speech she suggested that armies gave liquor to soldiers just before attacking, which brought a wave of ridicule on her. Even after the war the WILPF's program of peace and disarmament was characterized by opponents as radical, Communist-influenced, unpatriotic, and unfeminine. Young veterans in the American Legion, supported by some members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the League of Women Voters, were ill-prepared to confront the older, better-educated, more financially secure and nationally famous women of the WILPF.

The Legion's efforts to portray the WILPF members as dangerously naive females resonated with working class audiences, but President Calvin Coolidge and the middle classes supported Addams and her WILPF efforts in the 1920s to prohibit poison gas and outlaw war. After 1920, however, she was widely regarded as the greatest woman of the Progressive Era.[9] In 1931 she shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nicholas Murray Butler.[10]

Addams' ideals

Addams in 1913 on Capitol Hill

Addams and her colleagues originally intended Hull House as a transmission device to bring the values of the college-educated high culture to the masses, including the Efficiency Movement. However, over time the focus of Hull House changed from bringing art and culture to the neighborhood (as evidenced in the construction of the Butler Building) to responding to the needs of the community by providing childcare, educational opportunities, and large meeting spaces. Hull-House became more than simply a proving ground for the new generation of college-educated, professional women - it also became part of the community in which it was founded, and its development reveals a shared history.[11] Addams stressed that women—especially middle-class women with leisure and energy, as well as rich philanthropists—had a civic duty to become involved in municipal affairs as a matter of "civic housekeeping." Addams thereby enlarged the concept of civic duty as part of republicanism to include roles for women beyond republican motherhood (which involved child rearing).

Women's lives revolved around "responsibility, care, and obligation," and this area represented the source of women's power.[12] This notion provided the foundation for the municipal or civil housekeeping role that Addams defined, and gave added weight to the woman suffrage movement that Addams supported. Addams argued that women, as opposed to men, are trained in the delicate matters of human welfare and need to build upon their traditional roles of housekeeping to be civic housekeepers. Enlarged housekeeping duties involved reform efforts regarding poisonous sewage, impure milk (which often carried tuberculosis), smoke-laden air, and unsafe factory conditions. Addams led the "garbage wars"; in 1894 she became the first woman appointed as sanitary inspector of the Chicago 19th ward. With the help of the Hull-House Women's Club, within a year over 1000 health department violations were reported to city counsel and garbage collection reduced death and disease.[13]

Addams had long discussions with philosopher John Dewey in which they redefined democracy in terms of pragmatism and civic activism, with an emphasis more on duty and less on rights.[14] The two leading perspectives that distinguished Addams and her coalition from the modernizers more concerned with efficiency were the need to extend to social and economic life the democratic structures and practices that had been limited to the political sphere, as in Addams' programmatic support of trade unions; and second, their call for a new social ethic to supplant the individualist outlook as being no longer adequate in modern society.[15]

Addams' construction of womanhood involved daughterhood, sexuality, wifehood, and motherhood. In both of her autobiographical volumes, Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910) and The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House (1930), Addams's gender constructions parallel the Progressive-Era ideology she championed. In A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil (1912) she dissected the social pathology of sex slavery, prostitution and other sexual behaviors, among working-class women in American industrial centers during 1890–1910. Addams's autobiographical persona manifests her ideology and supports her popularized public activist persona as the "Mother of Social Work," in the sense that she represents herself as a celibate matron, who served the suffering immigrant masses through Hull-House, as if they were her own children. Although not a mother herself, Addams became the "mother to the nation," identified with motherhood in the sense of protective care of her people.[16]


Addams died of cancer on May 21, 1935, in Chicago. Her 12 books include Democracy and Social Ethics (1902) and Newer Ideals of Peace (1907), as well as two influential autobiographies, Twenty Years at Hull House (1910), and The Second Twenty Years at Hull House (1930). She wrote over 500 essays, speeches, and other works; a letterpress edition of Addams' letters and publications is underway. Her achievements are commemorated by the Jane Addams College of Social Work, a unit of the University of Illinois, Chicago. Hull House is a museum, located on the university campus. Her reputation declined after 1960 as critics portrayed her an unoriginal racist determined to civilize helpless immigrants. After 1990 the pendulum swung in her favor and numerous favorable biographies have appeared.

The I-90 memorial tollway stretching from northwest Chicago to Wisconsin is named in her honor.[17]


  • "We must demand that the individual shall be willing to lose the sense of personal achievement, and shall be content to realize his activity only in connection with the activity of the many."[18]

Further reading

  • Brown, Victoria Bissell. The Education of Jane Addams: Politics and Culture in Modern America. (2003). 421 pp. excerpt and online search from amazon.com
  • Davis, Allen F. American Heroine: The Life and Legend of Jane Addams (1973), 339pp, solid scholarship but tends toward debunking
  • Diliberto, Gioia. A Useful Woman: The Early Life of Jane Addams. (1999). 318 pp.
  • Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life (2002) online edition, highly favorable interpretation by a leading conservative scholar
  • Knight, Louise W. Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy. (2005). 582 pp.; biography to 1899
  • Addams, Jane. Jane Addams: A Centennial Reader (1960) online edition
  • Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House: With Autobiographical Notes (1910) online at books.google.com online at Harvard Library
  • Elshtain, Jean B. ed. The Jane Addams Reader (2002), 488pp


Scholarly biographies

  • Brown, Victoria Bissell. The Education of Jane Addams: Politics and Culture in Modern America. (2003). 421 pp. excerpt and online search from amazon.com
  • Davis, Allen F. American Heroine: The Life and Legend of Jane Addams (1973), 339pp, solid scholarship but tends toward debunking
  • Diliberto, Gioia. A Useful Woman: The Early Life of Jane Addams. (1999). 318 pp.
  • Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life Basic Books: 2002 online edition, by a leading conservative scholar
  • Knight, Louise W. Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy. (2005). 582 pp.; biography to 1899
  • Joslin, Katherine. Jane Addams: A Writer's Life. (2004). 306 pp.
  • Linn, James W. Jane Addams: A biography. (1935) 457 pp, by her admiring nephew

Specialized studies

  • Alonso, Harriet Hyman. "Nobel Peace Laureates, Jane Addams And Emily Greene Balch: Two Women Of The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom." Journal Of Women's History 1995 7(2): 6-26. Issn: 1042-7961 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Beer, Janet and Joslin, Katherine. "Diseases of the Body Politic: White Slavery in Jane Addams' "A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil" and "Selected Short Stories" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman." Journal Of American Studies 1999 33(1): 1-18. Issn: 0021-8758 Fulltext: Cambridge journals
  • Bryan, Mary Linn McCree, and Allen F. Davis. One Hundred Years at Hull-House (1990), a history of the programs there
  • Carson, Minal. Settlement Folk: Social Thought and the American Settlement Movement, 1885-1930 (1990)
  • Chansky, Dorothy. "Re-visioning Reform," American Quarterly vol 55 #3 (2003) 515-523 online at Project Muse
  • Curti, Merle. "Jane Addams on Human Nature," Journal of the History of Ideas Vol. 22, No. 2 (Apr., 1961), pp. 240–253 in JSTOR
  • Danielson, Caroline Page. "Citizen Acts: Citizenship and Political Agency in the Works of Jane Addams, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Emma Goldman." PhD dissertation U. of Michigan 1996. 331 pp. DAI 1996 57(6): 2651-A. DA9635502 Fulltext: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
  • Dawley, Alan. Changing the World: American Progressives in War and Revolution (2003)
  • Deegan, M. J. Jane Addams and the Men of the Chicago School, 1892-1918. (1988)
  • Donovan, Brian. White Slave Crusades: Race, Gender, and Anti-Vice Activism, 1887-1917. U of Illinois Press. 2006. 186 pp.
  • Fischer, Marilyn, et al. eds. Jane Addams and the Practice of Democracy (2009), 230pp; 11 specialized essays by scholars excerpt and text search
  • Grimm, Robert Thornton, Jr. "Forerunners for a Domestic Revolution: Jane Addams, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and the Ideology Of Childhood, 1900-1916." Illinois Historical Journal 1997 90(1): 47–64. Issn: 0748-8149
  • Hamington, Maurice. "Jane Addams," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2007) online edition
  • Hamington, Maurice. Embodied Care Jane Addams, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Feminist Ethics (2004) excerpt and online search at amazon.com
  • Hamington, Maurice. "Jane Addams and a Politics of Embodied Care," The Journal of Speculative Philosophy v 15 #2 2001, pp. 105–121 online at Project Muse
  • Hamington, Maurice. "Public Pragmatism: Jane Addams and Ida B. Wells on Lynching," The Journal of Speculative Philosophy v. 19#2 (2005), pp. 167–174 online at Project Muse
  • Hansen, Jonathan M. "Fighting Words: The Transnational Patriotism of Eugene V. Debs, Jane Addams, and W. E. B. Du Bois." PhD dissertation Boston U. 1997. 286 pp. DAI 1997 57(10): 4511-A. DA9710148 Fulltext: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
  • Henderson, Karla A. "Jane Addams: Leisure Services Pioneer". Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, v53 n2 p42-45 Feb 1982.
  • Jackson, Shannon. Lines of Activity: Performance, Historiography, Hull-House Domesticity (2000). 384 pp.
  • Joslin, Katherine. Jane Addams: A writer's Life (2009) excerpt and text search
  • Krysiak, Barbara H. "Full-Service Community Schools: Jane Addams Meets John Dewey.". School Business Affairs, v67 n8 p4-8 Aug 2001. ISSN 0036-651X
  • Louise W. Knight, "An Authoritative Voice: Jane Addams and the Oratorical Tradition." Gender & History 1998 10(2): 217–251. Issn: 0953-5233 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Knight, Louise W. "Biography's Window on Social Change: Benevolence and Justice in Jane Addams's 'A Modern Lear.'" Journal Of Women's History 1997 9(1): 111–138. Issn: 1042-7961 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Lissak, R. S. Pluralism and Progressives: Hull-House and the New Immigrants. (1989)
  • Matassarin, Kat. "Jane Addams of Hull-House: Creative Drama at the Turn of the Century". Children's Theatre Review, v32 n4 p13-15 Oct 1983.
  • Morton, Keith. "Addams, Day, and Dewey: The Emergence of Community Service in American Culture". Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, v4 p137-49 Fall 1997.
  • Oakes, Jeannie. Becoming Good American Schools: The Struggle for Civic Virtue in Education Reform. 2000. Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-7879-4023-2
  • Ostman, Heather Elaine. "Social Activist Visions: Constructions of Womanhood in the Autobiographies of Jane Addams and Emma Goldman." PhD dissertation Fordham U. 2004. 240 pp. DAI 2004 65(3): 934-A. DA3125022 Fulltext: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
  • Packard, Sandra. "Jane Addams: Contributions and Solutions for Art Education". Art Education, 29, 1, 9-12, Jan 76.
  • Phillips, J. O. C. "The Education of Jane Addams". History of Education Quarterly, 14, 1, 49–68, Spr 74.
  • Philpott, Thomas. L. The Slum and the Ghetto: Immigrants, Blacks, and Reformers in Chicago, 1880-1930. (1991).
  • Platt, Harold. "Jane Addams and the Ward Boss Revisited: Class, Politics, and Public Health in Chicago, 1890-1930." Environmental History 2000 5(2): 194–222. ISSN 1084-5453
  • Sargent, David Kevin. "Jane Addams's Rhetorical Ethic." PhD dissertation Northwestern U. 1996. 275 pp. DAI 1997 57(11): 4597-A. DA9714673 Fulltext: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
  • Scherman, Rosemarie Redlich. "Jane Addams and the Chicago Social Justice Movement, 1889-1912." PhD dissertation City U. of New York 1999. 337 pp. DAI 1999 60(4): 1297-A. DA9924849 Fulltext: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
  • Schott, Linda. "Jane Addams and William James on Alternatives to War." Journal Of The History Of Ideas 1993 54(2): 241–254. Issn: 0022-5037 Fulltext: at Jstor
  • Sklar, Kathryn Kish. "Hull House in the 1890s: A Community of Women Reformers," Signs, Vol. 10, No. 4, (Summer, 1985), pp. 658–677 online at JSTOR
  • Sklar, Kathryn Kish. "'Some of us who deal with the Social Fabric': Jane Addams Blends Peace and Social Justice, 1907-1919." Journal Of The Gilded Age And Progressive Era 2003 2(1): 80–96. ISSN 1537-7814 Fulltext: at History Cooperative
  • Stebner, E. J. The Women of Hull-House: A Study in Spirituality, Vocation, and Friendship. (1997).
  • Sullivan, M. "Social work's legacy of peace: echoes from the early 20th century." Social Work, Sep93; 38(5): 513–20. EBSCO
  • Toft, Jessica and Abrams, Laura S. "Progressive Maternalists and the Citizenship Status of Low-Income Single Mothers." Social Service Review 2004 78(3): 447–465. ISSN: 0037-7961 Fulltext: Ebsco

Primary sources

  • Bryan, Mary Lynn McCree, Barbara Bair, and Maree De Angury. eds., The Selected Papers of Jane Addams Volume 1: Preparing to Lead, 1860-1881. University of Illinois Press, 2002. online excerpt and search from amazon.com
  • Addams, Jane. "A Belated Industry" The American Journal of Sociology Vol. 1, No. 5 (Mar., 1896), pp. 536–550 in JSTOR
  • Addams, Jane. The subjective value of a social settlement (1892) online
  • Addams, Jane, ed. Hull-House Maps and Papers: A Presentation of Nationalities and Wages in a Congested District of Chicago, Together with Comments and Essays on Problems Growing Out of the Social Conditions (1896; reprint 2007) excerpts and online search from amazon.com full text
  • Kelley, Florence. "Hull House" The New England magazine. Volume 24, Issue 5. (July 1898) pp. 550–566 online at MOA
  • Addams, Jane. ".Ethical Survivals in Municipal Corruption," International Journal of Ethics Vol. 8, No. 3 (Apr., 1898), pp. 273–291 in JSTOR
  • Addams, Jane. "Trades Unions and Public Duty," The American Journal of Sociology Vol. 4, No. 4 (Jan., 1899), pp. 448–462 in JSTOR
  • Addams, Jane. "The Subtle Problems of Charity," The Atlantic monthly. Volume 83, Issue 496 (February 1899) pp. 163–179 online at MOA
  • Addams, Jane. Democracy and Social Ethics (1902) online at books.google.com online at Harvard Library
    • 23 editions published between 1902 and 2006 in English and held by 1,570 libraries worldwide
  • Addams, Jane. Child labor 1905 Harvard Library online
  • Addams, Jane. "Problems of Municipal Administration," The American Journal of Sociology Vol. 10, No. 4 (Jan., 1905), pp. 425–444 JSTOR
  • Addams, Jane. "Child Labor Legislation - A Requisite for Industrial Efficiency," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Vol. 25, Child Labor (May, 1905), pp. 128–136 in JSTOR
  • Addams, Jane. The operation of the Illinois child labor law, (1906) online at Harvard Library
  • Addams, Jane. Newer Ideals of Peace (1906) online at books.google.com
    • 13 editions published between 1906 and 2007 in English and held by 686 libraries worldwide
  • Addams, Jane. National protection for children 1907 online at Harvard Library
  • Addams, Jane. The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (1909) online at books.google.com, online at Harvard Library
    • 16 editions published between 1909 and 1972 in English and held by 1,094 libraries worldwide
  • Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House: With Autobiographical Notes, 1910 online at books.google.com online at Harvard Library
    • 72 editions published between 1910 and 2007 in English and held by 3,250 libraries worldwide
  • Addams, Jane. A new conscience and an ancient evil (1912) online at Harvard Library
    • 14 editions published between 1912 and 2003 in English and held by 912 libraries worldwide
  • Addams, Jane; Balch, Emily Greene; and Hamilton, Alice. Women at the Hague: The International Congress of Women and Its Results. (1915) reprint ed by Harriet Hyman Alonso, (2003). 91 pp. online at Harvard Library
  • Addams, Jane. The Long Road of Woman's Memory (1916) online at books.google.com online at Harvard Library, also reprint U. of Illinois Press, 2002. 84 pp.
  • Addams, Jane. Peace and Bread in Time of War 1922 online edition, online at Harvard Library
    • 12 editions published between 1922 and 2002 in English and held by 835 libraries worldwide
  • Addams, Jane. My Friend, Julia Lathrop. (1935; reprint U. of Illinois Press, 2004) 166 pp.
  • Addams, Jane. Jane Addams: A Centennial Reader (1960) online edition
  • Elshtain, Jean B. ed. The Jane Addams Reader (2002), 488pp
  • Lasch, Christopher, ed. The Social Thought of Jane Addams. (1965).

Additional Bibliography


  1. Handbook of Public Pedagogy: Education and Learning Beyond Schooling
  2. Illinois Issues: Local icon shifts from lauded reformer to 'the most dangerous woman in America'
  3. Knight (1998)
  4. Elshtain (2002). For some years previously Catholic nuns at Holy Family Parish had operated social welfare services in the same neighborhood. Hull House represented the first Protestant activity. See Ellen Skerrett, "The Irish Of Chicago's Hull-House Neighborhood." Chicago History 2001 30(1): 22-63. Issn: 0272-8540
  5. Platt (2000)
  6. Addams, 1909, p. 96
  7. See Hamington (2007)
  8. Alonzo (2003)
  9. Allison. Sobek, "How Did the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Campaign against Chemical Warfare, 1915-1930?" Women And Social Movements In The United States, 1600-2000 2001 5(0).
  10. Sklar (2003)
  11. Kathryn Kish Sklar, et al. eds. "How Did Changes In The Built Environment At Hull-House Reflect The Settlement's Interaction With Its Neighbors, 1889-1912?" Women And Social Movements In The United States, 1600-2000 2004 8(4).
  12. Elshtain (2002) p. 157
  13. Eileen Maura McGurty, "Trashy Women: Gender and the Politics of Garbage in Chicago, 1890-1917." Historical Geography 1998 26: 27-43. Issn: 1091-6458
  14. Knight (2005)
  15. Scherman (1999)
  16. Ostman (2004)
  17. New in Town Chicago: The resourceful, streetwise, savvy new resident's guide to moving in, getting around, and building a new life in the Windy City.
  18. Democracy and Social Ethics, page 275

External links