Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860, the eighth child of a prominent family in the small town of Cedarville, Illinois. Of the nine children born to her parents, John and Sarah Addams, only four would reach maturity. Pregnant with her ninth child at the age of forty-nine, Sarah Addams died in 1863, leaving two-year-old Jane, ten-year-old James Weber and three older daughters—Mary, Martha, and Alice.
Five years after Sarah’s death, John Addams married Anna Haldeman, a widow from nearby Freeport who had two sons, eighteen-year-old Henry and seven-year-old George. Jane welcomed the arrival of George, who was almost the same age as she, but she resented her new stepmother at first. The little girl was used to being pampered by her older siblings and the family servants, and she was taken aback by Anna Addams’s unfamiliar habits. The new Mrs. Addams was determined to enforce order in the somewhat unruly household, and she had a quick temper. When she arrived in her new home, she began at once to reorganize it, insisting on formal mealtime behavior, scrupulously orderly rooms, and strict discipline among the children.
Anna Addams was, however, intelligent, cultivated, and basically kind. An avid reader and a talented musician, she often entertained the youngsters by reading plays and novels aloud to them, playing the guitar, and singing folk songs. The children soon became accustomed to her ways, and after a few months she won the hearts of both Jane and her siblings. Although Jane grew found of “Ma,” as she began to call her stepmother, she continued to look to her father and sister Martha for advice and approval. When Martha suddenly died of typhoid fever at the age of sixteen, five-year-old Jan...
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...d remedy some of society’s ills. Largely through Addams’s efforts, people became aware not only of poor people’s needs, but of what they could do to improve living conditions. Still standing on Halsted Street, the original mansion that contained Hull House looks as gracious and dignified as ever—as if Jane Addams herself stands within its courtyard reminding us to bring help and hope to those less fortunate.
Addams, Jane. Democracy and Social Ethics. 1902. Reprint. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.
Addams, Jane. The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House. New York: Macmillan Co., 1930.
Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House. 1910. Reprint. Prairie State Books. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990.
Berson, Robin. Jane Addams: A Biography. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2004.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life. New York: Basic Books, 2002.
Lasch, Christopher, ed. The Social Thought of Jane Addams. American Heritage Series. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1965.
The Official Web Site of the Nobel Foundation. Nobelprize.org. 2005.
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