Inspirational Women Wednesday, Jane Adams
“Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.”
Laura Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860, in Cedarville, Illinois. Jane was the eighth of nine children. Her father was a prosperous miller and local political leader. Jane’s father served for 16 years as a state senator and even fought in the Civil War as an officer and was a good friend of Abraham Lincoln, who even wrote him letters. The information on Jane’s mother is almost non-existant.
Due to a congenital birth defect, Jane wasn’t physically strong as a child or even later in life. Although, surgery did seem to ease her spinal pain a little.
In 1881, Jane graduated from the Rockford Female Seminary, as valedictorian. The very next year the school became accredited as Rockford College for Women. As a result, the school gave her credit for a bachelor’s degree. In the 1880s, Addams was struggling to find her place. She briefly studied medicine, but due to medical issues soon dropped out. This led to some traveling opportunities in Europe. She spent 21 months of site seeing and studying in Europe.
Still unsure of what she wanted to do, at 27 years old, Addams was in Europe with her friend Ellen G. Starr. During this visit, the two friends visited Toynbee Hall, a settlement house in London’s East End. The visit to Toynbee Hall inspired Jane to go forward with opening a similar house in an underprivileged area of Chicago, which soon became a dream of hers and Miss Starr.
The Beginning of Hull House
In 1889, their dream came into fruition. Addams and Starr leased a house built by Charles Hull. This became the first settlement in the United States, North America, and Chicago. They named the settlement Hull House after the original owner, Charles Hull. The two friends moved into the house and expressed their purpose, “to provide a center for a higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.”
Adams and Starr made speeches all over Chicago. These speeches resulted in money raised for Hull House and women from well-to-do families volunteering their time to help with the children. Hull House took off pretty quickly. Leading to hosting around two thousand people a week after only the second year. Furthermore, Hull House offered Kindergarten classes, night classes for adults, and social clubs for older children. Over the years, Adams’ organization led to more than 10 buildings. Leading to the more services being offered.
Jane Addams’ Reputation Grew
In 1905, joined the Chicago Board of Education. Leading to her being appointed chairman of the School Management Committee. This wasn’t the extent of her triumphs. She also:
- Took part in the founding of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy
- The first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections
- Led investigations on
- midwifery, narcotics consumption, milk supplies, and sanitary conditions
- 1910, received the first honorary degree ever awarded to a woman by Yale University
As a result, of her feminist philosophy, she believed women deserved the right to vote. Due to this philosophy, she also felt strongly that women should see their worth and seek out opportunities.
Addams was a deeply committed pacifist and peace activist. Consequently, leading to her being kicked out of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She did assist Herbert Hoover in providing supplies and food for the women and children of the enemy’s nations. As a result, she wrote her book Peace and Bread in Time of War.
Jane Addams had a heart attack in 1926 and sadly she never really gained her health back after this. In fact, she was admitted to the hospital the same day her Nobel Peace Prize was being given to her and Nicholas Murray Butler. She died on May 21, 1935. Jane Addams is remembered as an inspiration in social work and her fight for peace.
See you next week for another Inspirational Women Wednesday!
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31