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Jane Addams and Hull House

Jane Addams and Hull House

Born in Cederville, Illinois, on September 6, 1860, Jane Addams founded the world famous social settlement of Hull House. From Hull House, where she lived and worked from it’s start in 1889 to her death in 1935, Jane Addams built her reputation as the country’s most prominent women through her writings, settlement work and international efforts for world peace. In 1931, she became the first women to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Addams, whose father was an Illinois state senator and friend of Abraham Lincoln, graduated in 1881 from Rockford College (then called Rockford Women’s Seminary). She returned the following year to receive one of the school’s first bachelor’s degrees. With limited career opportunities for women, she began searching for ways to help others and solve the country’s growing social problems. In 1888, Addams and her college friend, Ellen Gates Starr, visited Toynbee Hall, the two women observed college-educated Englishmen “settling” in desperately poor East London slum where they helped the people. This gave her the idea for Hull House.

In the years from 1860 through 1890, the prospect of a better life attracted nearly ten million immigrants who settled in cities around the United States. The growing number of industries produced demands for thousands of new workers and immigrants were seeking more economic opportunities. Most immigrants settled near each other’s own nationality and/or original village when in America.

They could speak their own language and act as if they were in their own country. Within these neighborhoods, immigrants suffered crowded conditions. These were often called slums, yet they became ghettos when laws, prejudice and community pressure prevented inhabitants from renting elsewhere.

Health conditions were terrible in these districts. Typhoid fever, smallpox and diphtheria were some of the diseases that ravaged the slums. Many children suffered from juvenile diseases such as whooping cough, measles and scarlet fever. The infant morality rate was very high. Along with immigrants, blacks suffered greatly as well. Immigrants couldn’t afford better housing, but blacks were trapped in segregated areas. Blacks were driven out of skilled trades and were excluded from many factories. Racist’s whites used high rents and there was enormous pressure to exclude blacks from area...

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... obtains wherever educated young people are seeking an outlet for that sentiment of universal brotherhood which the best spirit of our times is forcing from an emotion into a motive”.(Women’s History,2)

The Creation of Hull House allowed for a closer and more understanding relationship between the settlement workers themselves and the immigrants and the poor. Jane knew as a little child that she wanted to help the poor and she recalls an incident early in her life of seeing a homeless man on the street. She asked her father why that was, and he replied that that was just the way things were. From that day forward, Jane knew that something had to be done. She was an amazing women and loved being able to help the less fortunate.

Works Cited

Addams, Jane, Twenty Years at Hull House, New York, Macmillan, 1910.

Women’s History website #1. Women of Hull House

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Women’s History Website #2. Jane Addams-Bibliographies.

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Women’s History Website #3. Jane Addams-Education.
womenshistory.about.com/cs/addamseducation/index.htm>.
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