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Jane Addams

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Jane Addams: A Fascinating Study of One of the Most Intriguing and Important Women in History (1999)

Jane Addams (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935) was a pioneer American settlement social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in women’s suffrage and world peace. In an era when presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson identified themselves as reformers and social activists, Addams was one of the most prominent[1] reformers of the Progressive Era. She helped turn America to issues of concern to mothers, such as the needs of children, local public health, and world peace. She said that if women were to be responsible for cleaning up their communities and making them better places to live, they needed to be able to vote to do so effectively. Addams became a role model for middle-class women who volunteered to uplift their communities. She is increasingly being recognized as a member of the American pragmatist school of philosophy.[2] In 1931 she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States.

Jane Addams

220px-Jane_Addams_-_Bain_News_ServiceJane Addams (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935) was a pioneer American settlement activist/reformer, social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in women’s suffrage and world peace. She created the first Hull House. In an era when presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson identified themselves as reformers and social activists, Addams was one of the most prominent reformers of the Progressive Era. She helped America to address and focus on issues that were of concern to mothers, such as the needs of children, local public health, and world peace. She said that if women were to be responsible for cleaning up their communities and making them better places to live, they needed to be able to vote to do so effectively. Addams became a role model for middle-class women who volunteered to uplift their communities. She is increasingly being recognized as a member of the American pragmatist school of philosophy. In 1889 she co-founded Hull House, and in 1920 she was a co-founder for the ACLU. In 1931 she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States.

Early Life

220px-Jane_AddamsJane Addams as a young woman, undated studio portrait by Cox, Chicago

Born in Cedarville, Illinois, Jane Addams was the youngest of eight children born into a prosperous northern Illinois family of English-American descent which traced back to colonial New England; her father was politically prominent. Three of her siblings died in infancy, and another died at age 16, leaving only four by the time Addams was age 8. Her mother, Sarah Addams (née Weber), died when Jane was two years old.

Addams spent her childhood playing outdoors, reading indoors, and attending Sunday school. When she was four, she contracted tuberculosis of the spine, Potts’s disease, which caused a curvature in her spine and lifelong health problems. This made it complicated as a child to function with the other children, considering she had a limp and could not run as well. As a child, she thought she was “ugly” and later remembered wanting not to embarrass her father, when he was dressed in his Sunday best, by walking down the street with him.

Addams adored her father when she was a child, as she made clear in the stories she told in her memoir, Twenty Years at Hull House (1910). John Huy Addams was an agricultural businessman with large timber, cattle, and agricultural holdings; flour and timber mills; and a woolen factory. He was the president of The Second National Bank of Freeport. He remarried in 1868, when Jane was eight years old. His second wife was Anna Hostetter Haldeman, the widow of a miller in Freeport.

John Addams was a founding member of the Illinois Republican Party, served as an Illinois State Senator (1855–70), and supported his friend Abraham Lincoln in his candidacies, for senator (1854) and the presidency (1860). John Addams kept a letter from Lincoln in his desk, and Jane Addams loved to look at it as a child.

In her teens, Addams had big dreams—to do something useful in the world. Long interested in the poor from her reading of Dickens and inspired by her mother’s kindness to the Cedarville poor, she decided to become a doctor so that she could live and work among the poor. It was a vague idea, nurtured by literary fiction. She was a voracious reader.

Addams’s father encouraged her to pursue higher education but close to home. She was eager to attend the new college for women, Smith College in Massachusetts; but her father required her to attend nearby Rockford Female Seminary (now Rockford University), in Rockford, Illinois. After graduating from Rockford in 1881, with a collegiate certificate and membership in Phi Beta Kappa, she still hoped to attend Smith to earn a proper B.A. That summer, her father died unexpectedly from a sudden case of appendicitis. Each child inherited roughly $50,000 (equivalent to $1.23 million today).

That fall, Addams, her sister Alice, Alice’s husband Harry, and their stepmother, Anna Haldeman Addams, moved to Philadelphia so that the three young people could pursue medical educations. Harry was already trained in medicine and did further studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Jane and Alice completed their first year of medical school at the Woman’s Medical College of Philadelphia,[4] but Jane’s health problems, a spinal operation and a nervous breakdown, prevented her from completing the degree. She was filled with sadness at her failure. Stepmother Anna was also ill, so the entire family canceled their plans to stay two years and returned to Cedarville.

The following fall her brother-in-law/step brother Harry performed surgery on her back, to straighten it. He then advised that she not pursue studies but, instead, travel. In August 1883, she set off for a two-year tour of Europe with her stepmother, traveling some of the time with friends and family who joined them. Addams decided that she did not have to become a doctor to be able to help the poor.

Upon her return home, in June 1887, she lived with her stepmother in Cedarville, and spent the winters with her in Baltimore. Addams, still filled with vague ambition, sank into depression, unsure of her future and feeling useless leading the conventional life expected of a well-to-do young woman. She wrote long letters to her friend from Rockford Seminary, Ellen Gates Starr, mostly about Christianity and books but sometimes about her despair.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Addams

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