Jane Addams 1860 – 1935
Jane Addams was born in 1860 into a family where money to buy the better things in life was always available. As a small child, Jane sometimes accompanied her father to visit his grain mills and storehouses. It was on these trips that Jane realized the plight of disadvantaged people in the Chicago area. Rather than turn away, Jane promised that one day she would help them.
After graduating from the Rockford Female Seminary in 1881, Jane kept her promise by founding Hull House with Ellen Gates Star. This social settlement house was modeled on developments in London where middle and upper-class women settled in poor urban neighborhoods with the mission of providing services to area residents in need. Hull House offered day care and kindergarten, English classes, and an employment service. It also gave classes in art, music, and theatre and provided safe meeting places for young working women.
Hull House became a national model and by 1900, the US boasted over 100 settlement houses in cities large and small. Jane did not stop there and launched a campaign against sweat shops which she believed caused so many problems for families and particularly, working mothers. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her social work and support of the women’s suffrage movement. She is an inspiration to women who are dedicated to meeting the needs of today’s urban poor.