Continuing with the women’s movement, from gaining rights as persons, to the suffrage movement, and temperance movement, we now look at the accomplishments of the women of the 1920’s and 1930’s. One of the American women prominent in a time when the suffrage and temperance movement was blossoming on one end of the spectrum, and the roaring twenties with its free spirited flappers, was were at the opposite end of the spectrum was a woman by the name of Jane Addams. Addams was no ordinary woman, not by a long shot.
Jane Addams was born on May 6, 1880 into a wealthy Cedarville, Illinois family and was one of the first American Women to get and complete a college education. Jane’s father was the president of the Second National bank of Freeport and served as a senator from 1854 to 1870. He was also a founder of the Republican Party and a staunch supporter of Abraham Lincoln. Jane was born with a condition that called Potts Disease and it left her with a curved spine.
Jane was aware of her fortunate status and how most women in the country were far from privileged. Jane’s family encouraged her to get a good education and she studied at in the USA and Europe. She was driven to get the best education she could and then to use her newly acquired skills to help other women become the best that they could be as well.
It took her seven years to find a good career after graduating from Rockford Female Seminary now called Rockford College. She had entered Philadelphia Medical College but dropped out after only seven months.
There were not many opportunities open for women in this era. She did not want to get married because if she did she would not have a career. She did not want to be a teacher finding the job too boring nor did she want to be a missionary. These jobs were the extent of what was available in the late 1800’s for women and they did not appeal to her.
She was not thrilled about the traditional marriage customs expected of all upper class women, She wanted to do something different with her life and so she traveled Europe for two years and was bored. Jane came home to have surgery and returned to Europe with her former teacher and best friend. It was at this time that she visited Toynbee Hall, a settlement house for boys and it was from this visit that she was inspired to do the same back home in the States. Jane had finally found her calling.
The building of settlement houses was a movement (settlement movement) that peaked in England and the USA around the 1920’s. The idea behind this project was to get the rich and poor living together in a community. What was expected is that settlement workers, who were middle class volunteers would live and work in these communities. They would teach the urban poor culture, and career skills and hopefully help them rise about poverty. There was over 400 hundred of these settlement houses in the USA. The modern day variations for settlement houses are houses for young people who have outgrown the foster care system. The US government has set aside 140 million dollars in 1999 for these “independent Living” projects.
The settlement movement started in England during the 19th Century and providing food and lodging and a higher education for the underprivileged who lived there.
Hull House – The First Settlement House in the United States
Jane Addams and her friend Ellen Gates Starr co-founded Hull House in 1889. The name of the settlement house was taken in honour of the Charles Hull, man who built the house in 1956. Jane Addams funded the project with the $50,000 inheritance she received after her father’s death. Afterwards funding was obtained through Jane Culver the woman who sold the building to Jane and Ellen. The establishment of Hull House, was Addam’s way of getting out from the middle class social mores of her time by doing something that was both innovative and worthwhile. Hull House was a woman’s centered institution with education for the family.
Jane and Ellen were the first two people to live there. Later the house would house 25 women. When Hull House was at its best, it provided a kindergarten, night school for adults, clubs for older children, a public kitchen, library, bookbindery, coffeehouse, bathhouse, gymnasium, music school, drama school, and workshops.
Hull House was the forerunner of today’s continuing education programs. The services were primarily for the immigrant population of the area. Hull House attracted young social workers by offering a training program. Hull House grew into a 13-building complex that even had a playground. Hull House ended its long tradition in the community in 1963 when the building has to be torn down to accommodate the University of Chicago buildings but not before it has helped some many people for so many years. The original building is still standing and is a Chicago landmark housing the University of Chicago College of Architecture and Art.
Jane Addams was a very outspoken peace activist during World War I and for that she received very stern criticism. She also defended the civil rights of immigrants. Jane became the President of the Woman’s League for Peace and that position had her traveling to Europe and Asia several times during and after World War I.
She spoke at Carnegie Hall and all over. Despite her critics, her efforts were rewarded for the peace movement because she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
Hull House and the Peace Movement was the main stay of this woman’s legacy however she gave American much more. She fought for peace, for civil rights, and she believed in education for woman and making a woman’s life easier. She wanted all women to fulfill their true potential. She inspired future writers and future generations of women to do their personal best and to help other women get to that point as well. Her work inspired others to look into the plight of individuals and how the culture and subculture influences their efforts and their understanding of the world around them.
Jane Addams the Reformer
Addams was more than a social worker though that is what she was called at the time. Social Workers in that era were called a “friendly visitor.” They really didn’t do much else. Addams was a early feminist and brought about change for the poor of west Chicago. She did more than pay lip service, she worked hard for the rights women and immigrants in the area.
Some People Who Were Inspired by Jane’s Work
Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamonds was inspired by Jane’s hypothesis when he wrote Germs and Steel, 1997. His theory is based on the Fates of Societies.
Pulitzer Prize winner – E. O. Wilson drew upon Jane’s theories in his book about group behavior – On Human Nature, 1979.
Willard Motley was a resident of Hull House and he drew upon that background in his novel Knock on any Door. Again this best seller of the time presented how subcultures are fashioned by the environment in which they live.
Addams established today’s tenet for social working; in the venue of reform, theory building, and social justice standards. Hull House became a colleague of the Chicago College of Social Work. Jane worked with Howard Mead on social reform, women’s rights, and child labour. She mediated during the 1910 Garment Workers Strike.
She also worked towards standards for labor laws, juvenile court laws, factory inspection, and worker’s compensation. She advocated research work in the areas of crime and poverty. She supported the suffrage movement, was a member of NAACP, and supported rights for Blacks, Among the projects that the members of the Hull House opened were the Immigrants’ Protective League, the Juvenile Protective Association, the first juvenile court in the United States, and a Juvenile Psychopathic Clinic.”