Profile of Jane Addams
They decide to start Hull House on the South Side of Chicago,
Hi, I'm Frank Couvares for About.com, and I'm here to talk to you about Jane Addams.First, she was a social worker and a feminist. Growing up in Illinois - her father, a friend of Abraham Lincoln - she was dedicated to a kind of generalized egalitarian and democratic ethos. But as a young woman who considered herself an ugly duckling, with a curved spine and a homely face, she very early doubted she would ever lead the conventional life of wife and mother. So her sense that she might never live the conventional life of wife and mother led her, eventually, to a trip to England to visit Toynbee Hall, the pioneering settlement house based in part on the ideas that those who had the means and the education had a moral duty to go and live among the poor - to work with them, to live with them, to eat with them, and find out what their lives were like. And then, hopefully, to make those lives better.So when she comes back from England with her traveling companion, Ellen Gates Starr, who becomes her lifelong collaborator, they decide to start Hull House on the South Side of Chicago, their version of a settlement house. She becomes a kind of secular nun. She never marries, of course, and she devotes her life to service, in this house, this almost convent. Except that it's an open convent, designed to attract all the immigrant population of the neighborhoods surrounding Hull House; to provide them with educational services, a public kitchen, a bathhouse. All sorts of classes, gymnasiums, playgrounds.She pushes for child labor, child welfare legislation, clean water. She works for organized labor. She's a dynamo, and Hull House becomes the center of a whole range of what would eventually be called Progressive reform efforts - not just in Chicago, but around the country.Addams becomes one of the most famous Progressives in America. Indeed, she nominates Theodore Roosevelt at the Progressive political convention in 1912, when Roosevelt breaks away from the Republican Party and becomes a Reformer. Jane Addams also becomes an important voice for pacifism and anti-war activism in America. She opposes the Spanish-American War, and especially the American move towards imperialism that follows the Spanish-American War. She attends, and helps to organize, the 1915 Women's Peace Conference in the Hague. Her activism is so intense that eventually, when the United States finally enters World War I, she weather significant criticism, declared unpatriotic and seditious by many. Eventually, however, her peace activism all over the world wins her the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize.Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.