Jane Addams acted on her most honorable impulses and helped to create powerful tools for social change. How much do you know about Addams and her American crusades?
Addams was a prominent social reformer who dedicated her life to raising up the less fortunate. She was passionate about helping people even from a very young age.
Her father was a successful miller and became a state senator. He made more than enough money to support his nine children.
When Jane was just 2, her mother died. Her father later remarried to a widow.
Jane and her living siblings each received roughly $50,000, which would be worth more than $1 million today. She decided to put the money to good use.
She had a spinal defect that limited her physical abilities as a child. When she was in college, she had surgery, but the operation only did so much to improve her health.
She spent years taking medical courses. But her own poor physical and emotional health meant that she never completed that particular degree.
As a wealthy young woman, she felt rather … useless. She read about the concept of settlement houses and decided that she wanted to create one in Illinois.
The idea was simple. Create a "settlement" house in areas with low-income people and help them with their lives. The concept first took root in London, and Addams was eager to start a similar house in Chicago.
She had multiple lesbian relationships in her adult life. She spent roughly four decades with a woman named Mary Smith.
It was called "Hull House" after the building's first owner. She opened the building with the help of Ellen Gates Starr, with whom she developed a romantic relationship.
Addams and Starr decided to make Hull House a secular organization. It didn't have any ties to churches.
The idea took off. Addams and Starr soon found success. About 10 years later, there were 100 settlement houses across the country, and 35 in Chicago alone.
She had a few long-term relationships but essentially thought of herself as married to Mary Smith, who was very supportive of Addams' work.
That big inheritance that Addams received from her father? She used it to renovate the house and turn it into a beacon of community hope in a neighborhood beset by poverty.
The idea immediately caught fire and the locals were taken with the two passionate young crusaders. Just two years into the experiment, about 2,000 people were visiting each week.
Health care was a concern, of course, but her guiding principles were to practice cooperation, teach by example and enact true democracy regardless of class, gender, and other variables.
The House helped everyone, but its programs were particularly tuned to helping disadvantaged children. There were all sorts of opportunities to help children learn and play.
Addams was a supporter of Prohibition, not necessarily out of a prudish impulse but simply because she saw substances ruin the lives of many people.
The two founders felt that art was a good support system for life in general. Hull House provided locals with many art activities, in addition to general recreation.
Many adults took night classes at Hull House, which eventually turned into a major focal point for education in the community.
The book was titled "A New Conscience and Ancient Evil," and it regarded prostitution as a social ill that needed to be corrected. She was convinced that no woman willingly participated in the activity.
She was named a garbage collection inspector and given a $1,000-per-year salary. She helped to guide better garbage collection practices, which lowered rates of disease and improved quality of life.
They had very modest plans, simply hoping to support the community in small ways. In the end, Hull House became a major operation that set an example for social organizations all over the country.
Addams felt that women really understood her social mission, and she needed female support to pass various bits of legislation. It's why she was an ardent supporter of suffrage.
As World War I bore down on America, Addams was steadfastly in favor of peace, in large part because she thought conflict would hurt her reform activities. The Daughters of the American Revolution reacted by kicking out their celebrity member.
She was steadfastly against the war and remained a pacifist. She didn't stay on the sidelines, though. She became active in new ways.
Addams knew that Europeans were starving due to the war. She loudly insisted that Americans produce more food to help feed Allied nations.
Her dedication and passion earned her a hallowed place in American history. Her work also made her the first female American to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
She suffered a heart attack in 1926 and was never again as vibrant as she'd once been. She died in 1935 at the age of 74.
In 1931, four years before she died, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The award was a testament to her tenacity and self-sacrifice during challenging times in American history.