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Addams, Jane

Abstract and Keywords

Jane Addams (1860–1935) was a settlement house leader and peace activist. She was the founder of Hull-House and became president of the National Conference of Charities and Correction. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Keywords: settlement house, Hull-House, Peace Party, League of Nations, World Court, social welfare

Jane Addams—organizer, settlement house leader, and peace activist—is probably best remembered as the founder of Hull-House and the winner of the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize. Addams was the youngest of eight children, born to John Huy Addams, an Illinois state senator from 1854 to 1870. Senator Addams, a Quaker and an abolitionist, influenced his daughter's political views.

Addams was educated at Rockford Female Seminary and Women's Medical College, in Philadelphia and in Europe. In London she visited Toynbee Hall, the first settlement house, and was inspired to open Hull-House in Chicago with Ellen Gates Starr, an art teacher. Programs at Hull-House, which became models for other settlements, included children's clubs; nurseries; an art gallery; a circulating library; an employment bureau; a lunchroom; and classes in history, music, languages, painting, dancing, and mathematics. Addams fought corrupt aldermen and was appointed neighborhood sanitation inspector, seeking to gain more services. Francis Hackett, William Lyon Mackenzie King (later prime minister of Canada), John Dewey, Julia Lathrop, Florence Kelley, Alice Hamilton, Edith and Grace Abbott, Sophonisba Breckinridge, Jessie Binford, and many others came to live and work at Hull-House to learn more about social welfare.

Addams’s efforts to advocate nationally for improved social conditions led her to the presidency of the National Conference of Charities and Correction and memberships in the National Child Labor Committee, the National Recreation Association, the National Association for the Promotion of Industrial Education, and the National Conference of Social Work.

Concerned about the effects of war on social progress, Addams played a prominent part in the formation of both the National Progressive Party in 1912, and the Women's Peace Party, of which she became president in 1915. She was also elected president of the Women's International Peace Congress at The Hague (later named the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom) in 1915. She was a delegate to similar congresses in Zurich (1919), Vienna (1921), The Hague (1922), Washington, DC (1924), Dublin (1926), and Prague (1929). Despite public opposition to her pacifist views, she continued in her efforts to condemn war and later urged the United States to join the League of Nations and the World Court. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, sharing the award with the American educator Nicholas Murray Butler. Among her books are Democracy and Social Ethics (1902), Newer Ideals of Peace (1907), The Long Road of Woman’s Memory (1916), Peace and Bread in Time of War (1922), and two autobiographical pieces, Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910) and The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House: September 1909 to September 1929 (1930). The many biographies of Jane Addams include American Heroine (1973), by Allen F. Davis; Jane Addams: A Biography (1937), by James Weber Linn; and Jane Addams of Hull-House, 1860–1935 (1961), by Margaret Tims.