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“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life." -Jane Addams

by April from San Diego

Jane Addams (http://www.glhalloffame.org/index.pl?item=311&todo=view_item)
"To me it seems that to give happiness is a far nobler goal that to attain it: and that what we exist for is much more a matter of relations to others than a matter of individual progress: much more a matter of helping others to heaven than of getting there ourselves." (Lewis Carroll) Jane Addams personifies this quote with the way she dedicated her life completely to helping her fellow men and women regardless of race, gender or social standing. Her independence and drive to be involved in the world around her stems from her close relationship with her successful, philanthropist father, John Huy Addams. Because her mother died when she was three, Addams grew up completely devoted to her father. She followed his example both in pursuing education and in committing her life to helping others. In 1889, Addams and her friend Ellen Starr opened a settlement house in the slums of Chicago, Illinois called the Hull House. This house offered the underprivileged immigrants living in the slums a place to go for social services such as academic classes, day-care, playgrounds, and other such opportunities for entertainment and education. Not only did Addams build this community center to better the lives of the impoverished immigrants in the neighborhood, she used it as a headquarters from which she could spread her ideals of open-mindedness, peace and understanding between all people. In 1931 she became the first woman to win the Noble Peace Prize. She and fellow peace activist, Columbia University president, Nicholas Murray Butler shared the prize, but Addams could not attend the ceremony due to her deteriorating health. Ms. Addams died on May 21, 1935 and was buried in the courtyard of her beloved Hull House. Addams gave voice to those who wouldn't be heard otherwise and the ideals of peace she advocated continue to be fought for today. Jane Addams was a leading lady who spearheaded social reform in America and tore down social barriers with intelligence, independence and open-mindedness.

An extremely intelligent woman, Addams pursued knowledge and used this knowledge to help educate others on social issues largely ignored at that time. From a young age, Addams determinedly pursued a high level of education. "Submitting to her father's demands, Addams attended Rockford [Female Seminar] from 1877 to 1881, but did not relinquish her determination to get a B.A. from Smith after Rockford...She planned also to attend Women's Medical College in Philadelphia and work as a doctor among the poor." (American Decades). Unfortunately, due to health issues, Addams was unable to attend Smith or Women's Medical College; however, she graduated Rockford Female Seminar as valedictorian of a class of seventeen (Nobel Foundation). Her driving desire to learn inspired her to want to pursue education through college and beyond to medical school. She wanted to get as much knowledge as she could and did so despite obstacles like her poor health and pressure from her father. The fact she not only graduated a forward-thinking school with a college-like curriculum, but also managed to be the valedictorian of her class shows she was hardworking as well as smart(American Decades). Addams used her eruditeness to educate others about issues she felt were important and yet ignored by society. She wrote multiple books that "... [covered] 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).” (Encyclopedia of World Biography). The sheer variety of the topics she wrote books on reveals that not only was she educated; she was educated on a multitude of topics. The topics she explores are complex and multifaceted as well, which makes it all the more impressive that she wrote extensively about them. Prostitution, women's rights, juvenile delinquency, militarism –none of these issues would be a topic of popular discussion in the late 19th century/ early 20th century. Unafraid to write about subjects that were not in the social norm, she instead chose to use her writing to bring attention to these issues and to educate people about them. Jane Addams possessed an acumen that was the result of natural intelligence and, more importantly, an impressive determination to gain as much knowledge as she could in order to help others. The fact that her intention throughout her academic pursuit was to help her fellow men and women shows true selflessness and heroism.

Jane Addams on the left holding the U.S. flag (
Addams was an ardent feminist, and showed further independence in the way she continued to fight for what she believed in even when her ideas were unpopular. Her feminist ideals centered on the idea that "...women should make their voices heard in legislation and therefore should have the right to vote, but more comprehensively...that women should generate aspirations and search out opportunities to realize them."(Nobel Foundation). Addams had strong, progressive views on women’s role in politics, especially for her time. She believed that women should have a bigger role in government but she also believed that the women themselves were responsible for making themselves a bigger part of the government. Even her support of suffrage for women showed a streak of independence during a time when women were simply expected to be useless ornaments around the houses of their husbands. Women like Addams, who believed in their own ability to be equal to men, paved the way for social reform that gave women the rights they deserved. Addams's strength of opinion and stubborn pursuit of what she considered to be right is evident in the way she ignored criticism and continued to follow her own moral code. "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." (American Eras). Addams believed strongly in the idea that everyone deserved to have a voice in society. These moral values reflect her amazingly open-minded and beneficent nature. This woman had few prejudices, if any, and she spoke for those ignored by the rest of society. Addams didn't care much for what other people thought about her actions which shows her focus centered on helping people not on popularity or profit. She wasn't doing what she did to impress people; she did it to make the world a better place. Opinionated and focused on philanthropic pursuits, Addams believed that everyone deserved to be listened to and given opportunities to improve their lives. She disregarded all criticism aimed at her and continued to fight for those without a voice even when her causes were unpopular.

As a leading reformist and peace-advocate, Jane Addams's open-minded approach to politics, well-earned intelligence, and complete disregard for what others thought about her makes her an important figure in bridging the gap between social classes and races. Addams pursued education as far as she could and later used this education and her natural cleverness to bring awareness to causes she felt were being unfairly ignored or belittled. She wrote several books about such issues and dedicated her career to bringing attention to suffering and injustice. As well as extremely intelligent, Addams was an independent woman who refused to be useless despite the traditional role of her gender as an accessory to the household. Her indifference to popular opinion and stubborn ignoring of criticism showed that her motivation for helping others was simple kindness and nothing further. Addams did an astounding amount of good during her life and her complete devotion to helping others is an inspiration to everyone. She understood what most people choose to ignore; the idea that we all belong to the human race and that no person should be disregarded because of their social standing or ethnicity. This principle coupled with her sheer determination to change what she thought was unjust in the world demonstrates a strength of character all people should aspire to achieve in their lifetimes. Few people deserve to have the title of hero, but it is an apt one for someone like Jane Addams who dedicated almost her entire life to helping people and improving the world around her. The level of kindness, love, acceptance, and determination she possessed is astounding and if more people followed her example, the world would be a much better place.

Addams at the Hull House surrounded by children (http://shopinnovent.com/blog/?p=81#)

Work Cited:

"Jane Addams." American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.
Jane Addams." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 13 Dec. 2010.
Jane Addams 1860-1935." American Eras. Detroit: Gale, 1997. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 9 Dec. 2010.
“Jane Addams- Biography” Nobleprize.org. Nobel Foundation, 15 Dec 2010. .
Carroll, Lewis “Inspirational Quotes by Lewis Carroll [Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson]” Values.com. The Foundation For A Better Life. January 4, 2011 .

Work Consulted

"Jane Addams." American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.
Jane Addams." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 13 Dec. 2010.
Jane Addams 1860-1935." American Eras. Detroit: Gale, 1997. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 9 Dec. 2010.
“Jane Addams- Biography” Nobleprize.org. Nobel Foundation, 15 Dec 2010. .
“History” Jane Addams Hull House Association. Jane Addams Hull House Associations January 4, 2011. .

Written by April from San Diego
Last changed on: 8/28/2011

Jane Addams Hull House Association

Nobelprize.org The offical web site of the nobel prize

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