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Jane Addams and Hull House

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Jane Addams and Hull House

Born in Cederville, Illinois, on September 6, 1860, Jane Addams founded the world famous social settlement of Hull House. From Hull House, where she lived and worked from it's start in 1889 to her death in 1935, Jane Addams built her reputation as the country's most prominent women through her writings, settlement work and international efforts for world peace. In 1931, she became the first women to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Addams, whose father was an Illinois state senator and friend of Abraham Lincoln, graduated in 1881 from Rockford College (then called Rockford Women's Seminary). She returned the following year to receive one of the school's first bachelor's degrees. With limited career opportunities for women, she began searching for ways to help others and solve the country's growing social problems. In 1888, Addams and her college friend, Ellen Gates Starr, visited Toynbee Hall, the two women observed college-educated Englishmen "settling" in desperately poor East London slum where they helped the people. This gave her the idea for Hull House.

In the years from 1860 through 1890, the prospect of a better life attracted nearly ten million immigrants who settled in cities around the United States. The growing number of industries produced demands for thousands of new workers and immigrants were seeking more economic opportunities. Most immigrants settled near each other's own nationality and/or original village when in America.

They could speak their own language and act as if they were in their own country. Within these neighborhoods, immigrants suffered crowded conditions. These were often called slums, yet they became ghettos when laws, prejudice and community pressure prevented inhabitants from renting elsewhere.

Health conditions were terrible in these districts. Typhoid fever, smallpox and diphtheria were some of the diseases that ravaged the slums. Many children suffered from juvenile diseases such as whooping cough, measles and scarlet fever. The infant morality rate was very high. Along with immigrants, blacks suffered greatly as well. Immigrants couldn't afford better housing, but blacks were trapped in segregated areas. Blacks were driven out of skilled trades and were excluded from many factories. Racist's whites used high rents and there was enormous pressure to exclude blacks from areas inhabited by whites. To help the urban poor, many middle-class reformers sought solutions for relieving poverty.

Many reformers at this time such as Jacob Riis focused on the poor and immigrants moral improvements and ignored the crippling impact of low wages and dangerous working conditions. Organizations expelled immigrants from drinking and other forbidden behaviors such as prostitution and gambling. What these reformers didn't understand was that the conditions that immigrants faced, led them to act these ways. Jane Addams realized this. Addams developed a new weapon against poverty: the settlement houses.

Addams toured in Europe in 1883 and was impressed by Toynbee Hall, which was a charity workers' residence situated deep in a London slum. When Addams returned to Chicago in 1889, they purchased and refurnished Charles J. Hull's mansion and opened the Hull House, in a settlement approach.

In 1892, Addams delivered a speech in a lecture to the Ethnic Cultural Societies about the settlement housing. These societies probably had political connections to human rights issues. The speech is called The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements, and its main points were to give the immigrants and underprivileged the same opportunities as the rest of the population. Addams states, " This paper is an attempt to.... analyze the motives which underlie a movement based not only upon conviction, but genuine emotion".(Addams,1910) She does not aid the poor and foreign born because it is right or wrong, but because they are humans just like herself. In The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements, Addams presents three main reasons for settlement houses. She states,".. the first contains the desire to make the entire organism democratic...the second is to share the race life, third springs from a certain renaissance of Christianity."(Women's History,2)

Although America held a democratic ideal, democracy had made little attempt in social affairs. Addams believed in equal opportunity for all citizens of the United States. She felt there should be fairness and justice in society. She states,

We consciously followed the gift of the ballot hard upon the gift of freedom of the Negro, but we are quite unmoved by the fact that he live among us in a practical social ostracism. We hasten to give the franchise to the immigrant from a sense of justice, from a tradition that he ought to have it, while we dub him with epithet deriding his past life or present occupation and feel no duty to invite him to out houses.(Women's History,1)

Immigrants and blacks were suffering with poor living and social conditions and yet nobody was doing anything to remedy these problems. The people that had money and could do something about it lived in other parts of the city. Libraries, clubhouses and any social life were blocks away. Addams believes that schooling was very important for the young people, yet many children were not receiving teaching after age twelve. Addams felt that all people should have the same opportunities to better their things in their life.

She states that teaching in settlements," the teacher will grapple his students, not only by formal lectures, but by every hood possible to the fuller intellectual life which he represents."(Women's History,3) In settlement houses, people would receive an education that will apply to the future.

The second reason Addams gives for the necessity of social settlements is " the great desire to share the race life and to bring as much social energy and the accumulation of civilization of those portions of the rave which have little..."(Women's History,1) Most blacks and immigrants at this time did not have the same opportunities as whites. She started the settlement houses because there should be care for all human beings as individuals.

Addams believes that all young children and adults are the future of America and there should be equal opportunities to all. Many young

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