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Addams, Jane (1860–1935)

ADDAMS, JANE (18601935)

Founder and driving force behind Hull-House, the pioneer American settlement house, Jane Addams is best known for her contribution to urban social service; however, she was also an important and influential educator who espoused Progressive educational ideas and practice.

Born in the small northern Illinois village of Cedarville, Addams was deeply influenced by her father, John Huy Addams, a successful self-made businessman and a strong supporter of Abraham Lincoln, with a dedication to public service. Although her father was wealthy, Addams found a genuinely democratic community in Cedarville, where members of different classes mingled freelyan ideal that she would strive for in her adult career. As a child, she steeped herself in literary classics and she was a highly successful student at Rockford Seminary. Like others of this first generation of college women she was, as her biographer Allen F. Davis points out, "self consciously a feminist, not so much concerned with women's suffrage as women's role in the world" (p. 19).

Discovering her own role after graduation did not come easily. She suffered a long period of illness, partly physical and partly psychological. Her depression was exacerbated by the sudden death of her beloved father. She briefly attended medical school but dropped out because of illness. For eight years Addams searched for an appropriate career. Two trips to Europe were influential in her search. In London she was shocked by the poverty she observed and deeply impressed by Toynbee Hall, England's first settlement house. In Germany she was stunned by the tasks of working women she observed. Her new observations led her to question her own education. In her autobiography, Twenty Years at Hull-House, she referred to it as a "Snare of Preparation." The first generation of college women, she now believed, had been educated away from life; "somewhere in the process of 'being educated' they had lost that simple and almost automatic response to the human appeal, that healthful reaction resulting in activity from the mere presence of suffering or of helplessness " (p. 44). She was convinced that an adequate education should not be "disconnected from the ultimate test of the conduct it inspired" (p.46).

This was to be the philosophy of education that inspired the rest of her career. By 1889 Addams had discovered her true role when she, with her friend Ellen Gates Starr, founded Hull-House in an impoverished section of Chicago that was home to many immigrants. Hull-House was, from its very beginning, dedicated to education. One of its first activities was a nursery school. Addams pursued not only the education of her poor neighbors; an important role of this new institution was the education of the middle-class women who resided within the house. In her influential essay, "The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements," she argues that the function of social settlements is to extend democracy beyond the political democracy envisioned by the founding fathers into a form of social democracy. Working with the poor, middle-class men and women could connect with the vitality of working people while, at the same time, sharing their knowledge and culture with others. She saw Hull-House as a place "in which young women who had been given over too exclusively to study might restore a balance of activity along traditional lines and learn of life from life itself " (1910, p. 51). Hull-House, like other settlements, was an educational institution that protests "against a restricted view of education."

John Dewey was a trustee and a frequent visitor at Hull-House. He credited conversations with Addams as highly influential in developing his own philosophy of education. Addams and Dewey shared a vision of education as the basis for producing a democratic community. They also shared a conception of education that went well beyond formal learning in classrooms. Hull-House itself was an educational setting, furnished as a middle-class home, with fine art and fashionable furniture, because Addams believed that in a truly democratic society the poor needed to have access to a setting that enriched the lives of the upper classes. Beyond the setting, Hull-House featured art and literature classes, political discussion groups, plays by Shakespeare and Sophocles, and lectures by prominent intellectuals, including Henry Demarest Lloyd and the radical African-American leader W. E. B. Du Bois.

Agreeing with Dewey and William James, Addams believed that knowledge should not be separated from its consequences. Education's role, therefore, was to provide the knowledge that would improve the life of all of the participants in the community. Unlike the formal education provided by the public schools and the universities, this education would not be abstract and focused on future goals, but would, rather, be an effort to relate to the needs and interests of the participants, both the children and adults who came to Hull-House. Like the university, Hull-House conducted social research but unlike the university, its aim was to use this knowledge for the improvement of community life.

Among the first activities of the new settlement were clubs in which children were organized in groups rather than conventional classes. "The value of these groups," she recalled in her autobiography, "consisted almost entirely in arousing a higher imagination and in giving the children the opportunity which they could not have in the crowded schools, for initiative and for independent social relationships " (p. 63). These clubs provided opportunities for creative activities, absent from the rigid, public schools' curriculum.

Addams was inspired by the idea that education could ameliorate the sharp divisions in the new industrial society. As a way of overcoming the split between immigrant parents and their Americanized offspring, she created the Hull-House Labor Museum in which immigrants were given the opportunity to practice the handicrafts they had learned in their home countries, demonstrating to their children the skills they retained despite the difficulties of acculturation in this strange new society.

Addams's view of education was broad, involving not only the Hull-House neighborhood, but also the larger Chicago community and eventually the world. Although she was not a radical feminist, in her neighborhood she worked to educate the women to extend their traditional duties of maintaining their households and protecting the health of their children to a broader concern for community clean-liness and hygiene. Hull-House inspired a drive, led by the Hull-House Women's Club, to improve the health of the neighborhood by securing better garbage removal and an improved sewage system, an effort that eventually led Addams to an appointment as garbage inspector for the ward.

Addams was less successful when she was appointed to the Chicago School Board in 1905 by reformer Mayor Edward F. Dunne. She was at first identified as an ally of the Chicago Teachers' Federation's dynamic leader, Margaret Haley. She supported the reformers on the board in an effort to improve tax assessments to support public education through higher teacher salaries and the construction of new schools. These efforts alienated powerful business interests and especially the Chicago Tribune. But she also isolated herself from the reformers by her willingness to compromise on the controversial issue of removing political influence from the process of teacher promotions. When the other school board reformers were removed by a new mayor, to their dismay, Addams did not resign in protest. Addams' deep belief that she could promote social harmony through dialogue and compromise resulted in a conspicuous failure.

This search for harmony and reconciliation was to meet its biggest challenge when Addams became one of the leading opponents of World War I. Her efforts to induce the combatants to confer instead of continuing to fight and, most important, her efforts to keep her own nation out of the war led to a rapid decline in her reputation and influence. Addams, who had been widely regarded as an American heroine, was reviled and denounced during these years (as were the immigrants she defended).

The rapid decline of Addams' reputation in these difficult years was a severe challenge to her philosophy. Like Dewey, Addams had a deep and abiding faith in reforming society through a new kind of educationan education related to the lives and interests of the people it served. But, as Christopher Lasch has pointed out, "The leap from the school and the settlement to the reform of the social structure as a whole was a much greater leap than the progressives imagined" (1965b, p. 201).

Addams' efforts to avoid war were integral to her constant vision of building a better, more democratic society by educating people to appreciate their common interests and participating in a broader sense of community, an effort that was more deeply appreciated in the postwar years. In 1931 she was finally awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Characteristically, she distributed the monetary reward to the Women's International League for Peace and her Hull-House neighbors.

See also: Dewey, John; Immigrant Education, subentry on United States; Migrants, Education of.


Addams, Jane. 1910. Twenty Years at Hull-House, with Autobiographical Notes. New York: Macmillan.

Addams, Jane. 1930. The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House: September 1909 to September 1929 with a Record of Growing Consciousness. New York: Macmillan.

Davis, Allen F. 1973. American Heroine: The Life and Legend of Jane Addams. New York: Oxford University Press.

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. 2002. Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life. New York: Basic Books.

Lasch, Christopher. 1965a. The New Radicalism in America. New York: Vintage.

Lasch, Christopher, ed. 1965b. The Social Thought of Jane Addams. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

Arthur Zilversmit

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Addams, Jane (1860–1935)

Addams, Jane (18601935)

Jane Addams, social reformer, settlement house director, and international peace activist, was born in Cedarville, Illinois, in 1860. She was the eighth child of John H. Addams, a business entrepreneur and Republican state senator. Her mother, Sarah Weber Addams, died during childbirth when Jane was two years old. As a young woman, Jane Addams aspired toward higher education and she graduated as valedictorian from Rockford Seminary in 1881. She entered Women's Medical College in Pennsylvania but withdrew during her first year due to health problems and emotional distress over her father's unexpected death.

After leaving medical school, Addams traveled throughout Europe as she pondered a suitable career. Like many educated, unmarried women of her era, Addams looked to social reform activities to fulfill her high professional ambitions. These burgeoning charitable and service endeavors allowed women to exercise their professional authority while remaining within the acceptable sphere of "women's work." Following an extended visit to East London's Toynbee Hall social settlement, she returned to the United States to found Hull-House, Chicago's famed social settlement, in 1889. Hull-House became the center of her social and political pursuits for the remainder of her life. She resided at Hull-House with her long-term companion, Mary Rozet Smith, and a cadre of progressive social reformers, activists, artists, and intellectuals who took up residence there.

Addams devoted her personal and professional life to improving the human condition through a blend of public sector activism, published writing, and community service. She committed herself to an array of social issues, including labor reform, juvenile justice, public education, women's suffrage, and international peace. Frequently cited as the "mother of social work," Addams was elected as the first female president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections in 1909. Her career also carried her far into the national and international political arena, where she advocated for women's suffrage, civil rights, and international peace. Among many major historical achievements, Addams was elected the first chairperson of the Women's Peace Party in 1915. That same year, she presided at the International Congress of Women in The Hague, Netherlands. She also founded the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and served as its leader from 1919 until her death in 1935. In 1931, Addams's work was honored with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize (which she received jointly with Nicholas Murray Butler).

Addams's ideology and reform activities were anchored in her deep concern for children and her firm belief in children's innate goodness. In her published writings and speeches, Addams insisted that children possessed a unique creative intellect and a spirit of adventure. Her book The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets condemned modern industrial society for corrupting children's nascent curiosity by exposing them to modern city vice while failing to provide appropriate recreational venues. Both of her autobiographical works, Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910) and The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House (1930), document the benefits of after-school clubs and supervised recreational opportunities for children's development and socialization.

Addams routinely voiced a particular set of concerns for working-class immigrant children and families. She believed that immigrant youth faced unjustifiable hardships stemming from poverty, acculturation, and the exploitation of their labor. As a leader in the Progressive child-saving movement, she launched fervent state and national campaigns against child labor and in favor of compulsory education. She also pressed for labor legislation that would allow working-class parents to spend more time with their children. Her drive to help women and children through protective legislation placed Addams and her colleagues in the center of controversies among the labor movement, the child savers, and some feminist groups.

Addams was also concerned about the plight of modern young women. In stark contrast to her own sheltered upbringing, she believed that the industrial city robbed young women of their innocence. Her work A New Conscience andan Ancient Evil (1912) documents her deepest fears that young working-class women's unfulfilling low-wage work in factories or as domestics would eventually launch them into lives of prostitution. To address these concerns, she encouraged working-class girls to seek protection in a traditional domestic life of marriage and motherhood. Although this belief contradicted some of her outspoken feminist principles, her concern for young working-class women reflected her overarching quest to preserve the sanctity and innocence of youth.

Jane Addams's persistent community activism and work for social justice has left a long-standing imprint on American ideology and policies concerning children, youth, and families. The Hull-House museum in Chicago has preserved many artifacts and some of the original structure of Addams's famed social settlement. Her papers on peace and justice are housed at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection in Pennsylvania.

See also: Juvenile Court; Juvenile Justice; National Child Labor Committee; Social Settlements; Social Welfare; U.S. Children's Bureau.


Addams, Jane. 1909. The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets. New York: Macmillan.

Addams, Jane. 1910. Twenty Years at Hull-House: With Autobiographical Notes. New York: Macmillan.

Addams, Jane. 1912. A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil. New York: Macmillan.

Addams, Jane. 1930. The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House. New York: Macmillan.

Davis, Allen F. 1973. The Life and Legend of Jane Addams. New York: Oxford University Press.

Muncy, Robin. 1991. Creating a Female Dominion of American Re-form. New York: Oxford University Press.

internet resources

Bettis, Nicolle. 2003. "Jane Addams 18601935." Available from <>.

University of Illinois at Chicago. 2003. "Jane Addams Hull-House Museum Home Page." Available from <>.

Laura S. Abrams

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Addams, Jane (1860-1935)

Jane Addams (1860-1935)

Social reformer


Early Life. Jane Addams was born on 6 September 1860 at Clearville, Illinois, the eighth of nine children. Her father was a prosperous miller, banker, abolitionist, and community leader who served eight terms as a state senator. Her mother died when Jane was two, and young Jane became devoted to her father, who remarried about two years later. In 1877 Addams entered the Rockford Female Seminary, in nearby Rockford, Illinois, where she became a student leader, graduating in 1881. The seminary encouraged young women to become Christian missionaries in foreign lands, but Addams resisted pressure to enter service abroad. As she wrote in Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910), I was quite settled in my mind that I should study medicine and live with the poor.

Finding Her Way. After her fathers death during the summer after her graduation from Rockford, Addams entered a difficult period. She left Womens Medical College in Philadelphia after only a few months, and, suffering from various physical ailments that left her bedridden for months at a stretch, she was frequently depressed. Travels in Europe in 1883-1885 and 1887-1888 introduced her to urban poverty and blight, experiences that left lasting impressions on her. In 1888 she and Ellen Gates Starr, a close friend and former Rockford classmate, enthusiastically adopted a plan to settle in an urban neighborhood and work directly to relieve the ill effects of poverty. Interested in tearing down divisions between the classes, Starr and Addams insisted that the upper classes must take responsibility for the adverse effects of rapid industrialization on the poor. In 1889 the two bought Hull-House in a Chicago neighborhood populated with Greek, Italian, Russian, German, and Sicilian immigrants. Addams lived at Hull-House for the remaining forty-six years of her life.

Hull-House. Addamss settlement house provided a new generation of educated white women with a place in which to do meaningful work. Many of Addamss peers were eager to apply their knowledge and talents in settings where human suffering was the greatest. As Starr wrote to a friend, Addams considered settlement-house work more for the benefit of the people who do it than for the other class. Bringing these two groups together was by any measure brilliant. By 1893 the Hull-House complex was the center of neighborhood activity, offering day care for children, a gymnasium, a dispensary, a playground, courses in cooking and sewing, and a cooperative boardinghouse for working girls. Two thousand people entered Hull-House each week. As was typical of other nineteenth-century progressives, Addams believed in the relationship between art and social justice, and Hull-House supported a range of artistic activities, such as a gallery, a theater company, and a music school. By 1907 the Hull-House complex included thirteen buildings spread over a large city block.

City Politics. By 1895 Addams and her group of settlement-house workers had realized that neighborhood services and cultural uplift alone could not solve the deep-seated problems associated with urban poverty. The staff published their views in Hull-House Maps and Papers, which called attention to unsafe and unsanitary conditions in urban tenements and sweatshops and to widespread child-labor practices. Pressure from Hull-House on the Chicago city government had already resulted in the passage in 1893 of the first Illinois factory-inspection act, and in 1894 the Hull-House staff had mounted an ambitious campaign to improve the lives of the working poor. They proposed to end child labor, shorten hours for working women, improve welfare procedures, convince the city to recognize labor unions, provide protection for immigrants from unscrupulous landlords and employers, institute compulsory schooling, and improve industrial safety. In 1899 the establishment in Chicago of the first juvenile court in the United States was largely the result of the efforts of the Hull-House staff.

National Fame, Local Suspicion. Addamss efforts in Chicago brought her national fame. Much sought after as a lecturer, she served on the Chicago school board in 1905-1909 and became involved in the movement for world peace. Her articles appeared in many periodicals, and she published four books during the years 1900-1910: Democracy and Social Ethics (1902), Newer Ideals of Peace (1907), The Spirit of Youth in the City Streets (1909), and Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910). She was awarded an honorary degree by Yale University in 1910, becoming the first woman to receive such an honor, and in 1911 she became the first head of the National Federation of Settlements. Celebrities regularly visited her at Hull-House, and Theodore Roosevelt made several tours. While Addams had become a national hero, in Chicago her support for labor unions made her unpopular among the wealthy classes. She often managed to offend patrons with her open-minded approach to politics, believing as she did that every person deserved to be heard. Despite criticism, Hull-House continued to support unpopular causes and Addams enjoyed a long public career. In 1931 she and Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to bring about worldwide disarmament and international peace. She died on 21 May 1935. Her funeral at Hull-House brought thousands of mourners, reportedly as many as two thousand an hour.


Allen F. Davis, American Heroine: The Life and Legend of Jane Addams (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973);

Cornelia Meigs, Jane Addams, Pioneer for Social Justice: A Biography (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970).

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Addams, (Laura) Jane


(Laura) Jane Addams (18601935), a social reformer, internationalist, and feminist, was the first American woman to win the Nobel prize for peace. Best known as the founder of Chicago's Hull House, one of the first social settlements in North America, she was widely recognized for her numerous books and articles, social activism, and international efforts for world peace.

Addams was born in Cedarville, Illinois, on September 6, 1860, the eighth of nine children of Sarah and John Huy Addams. When she was only two, her mother died in childbirth. Her father, a prosperous businessman and Illinois state senator, was a friend of President Abraham Lincoln and a widely respected leader in the community.

In 1881 Addams graduated from Rockford College (then Rockford Women's Seminary), the valedictorian of a class of 17. Over the next six years, while intermittently studying medicine, she traveled and studied in Europe, battled an illness characterized by chronic exhaustion, and underwent surgery for a congenital spinal defect.

Confronted with the limited career opportunities available to women in the late nineteenth century, Addams searched for a way to be of service to society. In 1888, at age 27, during a second tour of Europe, she and a college friend, Ellen Gates Starr, visited a pioneering settlement house called Toynbee Hall in a desperately poor area of London. This visit crystallized in their minds the idea of opening a similar facility in one of Chicago's most underprivileged working-class neighborhoods.

The two friends returned home to a city that Lincoln Steffens, a famous writer of the period, described as "loud, lawless, unlovely, ill-smelling, new; an overgrown gawk of a village, the teeming tough among cities." In 1889 Addams acquired a large, vacant mansion built by Charles Hull in 1856 at the corner of Halsted and Polk Streets. She and Ellen Starr moved in and opened the doors of Hull House on September 18, 1889.

The settlement house was an immediate success. By the end of its second year, Hull House was host to two thousand people every week and was soon famous throughout the country. Journalists, educators, and researchers came to observe its operations, well-to-do young women gave their time and effort, and well-known social workers and reformers lived at the settlement and assisted in its activities.

Hull House eventually included 13 buildings and a playground as well as a camp near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Facilities included a day nursery, a gymnasium, a community kitchen, and a boarding club for working women. Among the services provided were the city's first kindergarten and day care center. Hull House also offered college-level courses in various subjects; training in art, music, and crafts; and the nation's first little theater group, the Hull House players. An employment bureau, an art gallery, and libraries and social clubs for men, women, and children were among other services and cultural opportunities offered to the largely immigrant population of the neighborhood.

As her reputation increased, Addams expanded her vision to focus on many crucial social issues of the time. Local activities at Hull House gave way to national activities on behalf of the underprivileged. In 1906 she became the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections. She led investigations on midwifery, narcotics consumption, milk supplies, and sanitary conditions. In 1910 she received the first honorary degree ever awarded to a woman by Yale University.

In 1914, at the onset of World War I (19141918), Addams worked for peace, refusing to endorse American participation in the war. For her opposition, she was expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution and widely attacked in the press. She devoted herself to providing relief supplies of food to the women and children of the enemy nations. In 1915 she accepted the chairmanship of the Women's Peace Party and, four months later, was named president of the International Congress of Women. That organization later became the Women's International Peace League for Peace and Freedom, of which Addams remained president until her death.

In 1931, with Nicholas Murray Butler, Addams was named a cowinner of the Nobel prize for peace. Hospitalized for heart problems at the time of the award ceremony, she was unable to deliver the Nobel lecture in Oslo. She died in 1935 of cancer; appropriately, her funeral service took place in the courtyard of Hull House.

See also: Tenements


Addams, Jane. Democracy and Social Ethics. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1964.

. Twenty Years at Hull House. New York: MacMillan Press, 1910.

Farrell, John C. Beloved Lady: A History of Jane Addams's Ideas on Reform and Peace. New York: John Hopkins Press, 1967.

Tims, Margaret. Jane Addams of Hull House, 1860 1935. London: Allen & Unwin, 1961.

Nash, Roderick. From These Beginnings: A Biographical Approach to American History, vol. 2. New York: Harper Press, 1984, s.v. "Jane Addams."

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Jane Addams

Jane Addams

As social worker, reformer, and pacifist, Jane Addams (1860-1935) was the "beloved lady" of American reform. She founded the most famous settlement house in American history, Hull House in Chicago.

Jane Addams was born in Cedarville, III., on Sept. 6, 1860, the eighth child of a successful miller, banker, and landowner. She did not remember her mother, who died when Jane was 3 years old. She was devoted to and profoundly influenced by her father, an idealist and philanthropist of Quaker tendencies and a state senator of Illinois for 16 years.

Jane Addams attended Rockford Female Seminary in northern Illinois, from which she graduated in 1881. The curriculum was dominated by religion and the classics, but she developed an interest in the sciences and entered the Women's Medical College in Philadelphia. After 6 months, illness forced her to discontinue her studies permanently and undergo a spinal operation; she was never quite free of illness throughout her life.

Finding a Career

During a long convalescence Addams fell into a deep depression, partly because of her affliction but also because of her sensitivity to the lot of women of her station in 19th-century America. Although intelligent middle-class women were frequently well educated, as Jane Addams was, society dictated a life of ornamental uselessness for them as wives and mothers within a masculine-dominated home. During a leisurely tour in Europe between 1883 and 1885 and winters spent in Baltimore in 1886 and 1887, Addams sought solace in religion. Only after a second trip to Europe in 1887-1888, however, when she visited Toynbee Hall, the famous settlement house in London, did she find a satisfactory outlet for her talents and energies.

Toynbee Hall was a social and cultural center in the slums of London's East End; it was designed to introduce young ministerial candidates to the world of England's urban poor. Jane Addams hit upon the idea of providing a similar opportunity for young middle-class American women, concluding "that it would be a good thing to rent a house in a part of the city where many primitive and actual needs are found, in which young women who had been given over too exclusively to study might restore a balance of activity along traditional lines and learn of life from life itself."

Creation of Hull House

Hull House, in one of Chicago's most poverty-stricken immigrant slums, was originally envisioned as a service to young women desiring more than a homemaker's life. But it soon developed into a great center for the poor of the neighborhood, providing a home for working girls, a theater, a boys' club, a day nursery, and numerous other services. Thousands visited it annually, and Hull House was the source of inspiration for dozens of similar settlement houses in other cities. Its success catapulted Jane Addams into national prominence. She became involved in an attempt to remedy Chicago's corrupt politics, served on a mediation commission in the Pullman railroad strike of 1894, supported the right of labor to organize, and spoke and wrote widely on virtually every reform issue of the day, from woman's suffrage to pacifism.

Jane Addams served as an officer for innumerable reform groups, including the Progressive party and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (of which she was president in 1915), and she attended international peace congresses in a dozen European cities. Her books cover wide-ranging subjects: prostitution and woman's rights (A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil, 1912, and The Long Road of Woman's Memory, 1916), juvenile delinquency (The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, 1909), and militarism in America (Newer ideals of peace, 1906). She received honorary degrees from a half dozen American universities and was an informal adviser to several American presidents. She died on May 21, 1935.

Further Reading

Most of the biographies of Jane Addams are satisfactory. Her two autobiographical works are of great interest: Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910) and The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House (1930). Jane Addams: A Centennial Reader (1960) is the best book of selections from her writings and includes valuable introductions by other authors. John C. Farrell, Beloved Lady: A History of Jane Addams' Ideas on Reform and Peace (1967), provides a fascinating analysis of her ideas.

Additional Sources

Addams, Jane, The social thought of Jane Addams, New York, N.Y.: Irvington, 1982, 1965.

Hovde, Jane, Jane Addams, New York: Facts on File, 1989.

Levine, Daniel, Jane Addams and the liberal tradition, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980, 1971. □

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Addams, Jane

Addams, Jane (1860–1935), American social reformer, settlement house founder, pacifist, and writer.Addams was born 6 September 1860 in Cedarville, Illinois. Heir to her father's political sensibilities, Jane Addams's early heroes were Abraham Lincoln and Giuseppe Mazzini. A member of the first generation of college women, she found a way to put her social gospel and piety directly to work with the founding (with Ellen Gates Starr) of Hull House, a settlement house in Chicago's immigrant ghetto. In 1889, Addams claimed that democratic political governance was, in fact, a form of civic housekeeping: she became a leading social reformer of the era and a founder of modern social work.

Jane Addams's world was turned upside down with the outbreak of World War I. Her defense of radicals and anarchists, her brave and often lonely devotion to pacifism and opposition to “the idea of war” as well as its terrible reality, placed her outside the American mainstream and brought down derision and abuse. In 1915, Addams, Emily Greene Balch, and others helped to create the Woman's Peace Party, which called for “continuous mediation.” This was the forerunner to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, founded in 1919, of which Jane Addams was a founding mother and president from its inception in 1915 to her death. An advocate of women's suffrage, Addams in her articles, speeches, and books traced the powerful role women must play in promoting peace as an imperative to preserve human life. Her understanding of feminism set it in “unalterable” opposition to militarism.

Unfairly and inaccurately called a traitor and a Bolshevik, Addams never reneged on her commitments to civil liberties or to pacifism. Her joint recognition (with Nicholas Murray Butler) for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 and her embodiment of the notion of service helped restore her stature as one of America's foremost humanitarians.


Christopher Lasch, ed., The Social Thought of Jane Addams, 1965.
Daniel Levine , Jane Addams and the Liberal Tradition, 1980.

Jean Bethke Elshtain

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Addams, Jane

Jane Addams, 1860–1935, American social worker, b. Cedarville, Ill., grad. Rockford College, 1881. In 1889, with Ellen Gates Starr, she founded Hull House in Chicago, one of the first social settlements in the United States (see settlement house). Based on the university settlements begun in England by Samuel Barnett, Hull House served as a community center for the neighborhood poor and later as a center for social reform activities. It was important in Chicago civic affairs and had an influence on the settlement movement throughout the country. An active reformer throughout her career, Jane Addams was a leader in the woman's suffrage and pacifist (see pacifism) movements, and was a strong opponent of the Spanish-American War. She was the recipient (jointly with Nicholas Murray Butler) of the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize. Her books on social questions include The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (1909), A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil (1912), and Peace and Bread in Time of War (1922).

See her autobiographical Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910) and The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House (1930); the selected works in The Jane Addams Reader (ed. by J. B. Elshtain, 2001); biographies by J. W. Linn, her nephew (1935), A. F. Davis (1973), G. Diliberto (1999), and L. W. Knight (2005); studies by D. Levine (1971) and J. B. Elshtain (2001).

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"Addams, Jane." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

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Addams, Jane

Addams, Jane (1860–1935) US social reformer. In 1931, she became the first US woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing the prize with Nicholas M. Butler. In 1889, she founded Hull House, Chicago, an early social settlement house. Addams pioneered labour, housing, health, and legal reforms, and campaigned for female suffrage and pacifism.

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"Addams, Jane." World Encyclopedia. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

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