Jane Addams

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.

– Jane Addams


born in Cedarville, Illinois, The United States September 06, 1860
died: May 21, 1935
gender: female

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 had, though originally built at the edge of the city, become surrounded by an immigrant neighborhood and had been 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.

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.

By Jone Johnson Lewis, About.com



13 thoughts on “Jane Addams

  1. September 6, 1860: Activist Jane Addams was born in Illinois, 153 years ago today.

  2. Interesting woman. Lucky she had the man she did, to allow her to be who she was, way ahead of her time. 😉

  3. What a remarkable woman!

  4. Happy birthday Ms. Adams and I agree with you completely. I’m happy that you are from IL, I think that kind of makes us related in some distant way, even if you are 153 old. Thank you for all you did. Appreciate you.

  5. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Who was the first woman to be awarded that honour? Curious!!

    Interesting piece here, enjoyed it. So fascinated by history & other lives. It’s why I write, record my own.

  6. As a history teacher I rate her very high in the pantheon of great American women.

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