A pioneer social worker, American settlement reformer, a leader in women’s suffrage movement, and a world peace activist. The first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Born in Cedarville, Illinois. As a teen, inspired by reading Dickens and by her mother’s kindness to the poor, Addams had a dream to do good in the world and to become a doctor. After graduating Rockford Female Seminary, she attended the Woman’s Medical College of Philadelphia but had to quit after one year due to health problems. After returning from a two years’ tour in Europe, Addams felt useless and unsure of her future and sank into depression.
At the age of 27, accompanied by several friends, Addams traveled to London to visit the first settlement house, a non-class community house, where people live, earn an education and get health care. Two years later, Addams and her partner, Ellen Gates Starr, founded a settlement house in Chicago, called Hull House, which eventually became a research and education center, with activities and services. At its height, Hull House was the residence of about 25 women and visited by 2,000 people on a weekly basis.
In addition to her activities at Hull House, Addams worked with other reform groups to achieve social improvements, including factory inspection, an eight-hour working day for women, justice for immigrants and the black community, women’s suffrage, research of the causes of poverty and crime, and the establishment of the first juvenile-court law.
At the age of 45, Addams began serving on Chicago’s Board of Education, and five years later she became the first female president of the National Conference of Social Work.
As a pacifist and peace activist, during WW1 she lectured on peace and ending the war, served as chairman of the International Congress of Women, and later as the president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
In 1931, in recognition of her work, Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the first American woman that has won this prize.
“Civilization is a method of living, an attitude of equal respect for all men”
More Interesting Anecdotes:
- Addams declined offers from the University of Chicago to become a faculty member so she could maintain her independence and not controlled over her political activism.
- Jane Addams Day is being celebrated is the day she received the Nobel Prize, on December 10, 1931.
- The Jane Addams College of Social Work in Chicago is named after her.