Women’s History Month Spotlight: Jane Addams

Hello, Residents of the 93rd District! It’s Dr. Kristen Strom here. As Representative Weaver’s Director of Education and Agriculture Outreach, I am continuing to spotlight women from Illinois who have made a difference in our communities for Women’s History Month. 

Today we will learn about Jane Addams, who was born in 1860 in Cedarville, Illinois. She was the eighth of nine children, and her father was a miller, state senator for 16 years, and an officer in the Civil War. Throughout her life, she was a social worker, a feminist, and an internationalist, and was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. 

Addams graduated at the top of her class in 1881 from the Rockford Female Seminary and began her study of medicine but then became ill and left school due to her health. She loved to read, write, study, and travel. In fact, during her travels around Europe in 1888, she learned of a settlement house in London that served poor industrial works and was inspired to open one in Chicago. So, in 1889 with her friend Ellen G. Starr, she leased a house built by Charles Hull in Chicago’s poor, industrial west side, and moved into the large home. The home was decided to “provide a center for higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises and to investigate and improve the considerations in the industrial districts of Chicago.” Within two years, Hull-House served two thousand people each week. They took care of the sick and provided services to children and adults. There were classes and clubs for children, programs and night classes for adults, job training, and eventually a community center, gymnasium, and art gallery.

Her dedication continued as she lobbied for a juvenile court system, better sanitation and factory laws, labor legislation for women, and playgrounds and kindergartens in Chicago. She was elected to Chicago’s Board of Education in 1905, helped to found the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, became the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, and in 1910 received the first honorary degree awarded to a woman by Yale University.

During WWI, Addams promoted international peace, which prompted criticism from many. She believed that human beings were capable of solving problems without violence, and became part of a group of women who toured warring nations. In 1915, she led the Women’s Peace Party, and became president of the International Congress of Women. Jane Addams was also a founding member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919 and was the president until 1929. Then, in 1931, Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts.

Copy and paste the link below to learn more about Jane Addams!