Jane Addams (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935) was an American social worker, sociologist, philosopher and reformer. She was also the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and a founder of the U.S. Settlement House Movement.
Read The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets by Jane Addams, one of four of her works available free from Project Gutenberg.
Born in Cedarville, Illinois, Jane Addams was educated in the United States and Europe, graduating from the Rockford Female Seminary (now Rockford College) in Rockford, Illinois.
In 1889 she and Ellen Gates Starr co-founded Hull House in Chicago, Illinois, one of the first settlement houses in the United States. Influenced by Toynbee Hall in the East End of London, settlement houses provided welfare for a neighborhood's poor and a center for social reform. At its height, Hull House was visited each week by around two thousand people.
Its facilities included a night school for adults; kindergarten classes; clubs for older children; a public kitchen; an art gallery; a coffeehouse; a gymnasium; a girls club; a swimming pool; a book bindery; a music school; a drama group; a library; and labor-related divisions.
Hull House also served as a women's sociological institution. Addams was a friend and colleague to the early members of the Chicago School of Sociology, influencing their thought through her work in applied sociology and, in 1893, co-authoring the Hull-House Maps and Papers that came to define the interests and methodologies of the School. She worked with George H. Mead on social reform issues including women's rights, ending child-labor, and the 1910 Garment Workers' Strike in which she was a mediator. Although academic sociologists of the time defined her work as "social work", Addams did not consider herself a social worker. She combined the central concepts of symbolic interactionism with the theories of cultural feminism and pragmatism to form her sociological ideas. (Deegan, 1988)
Addams had a stellar reputation for her work with Hull House, and was respected as a committed humanitarian. However, her staunch pacifist stance on World War I cost her much support, and she was expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution for refusing to back U.S. involvement in that war.
In addition to her involvement in the American Anti-Imperialist League and the American Sociology Association, she was also a formative member of both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1911 she helped to establish the National Foundation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers and became its first president. She was also a leader in women's suffrage and pacifist movements, and took part in the creation of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1915. In 1931 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with American educator Nicholas Murray Butler.
When she died in 1935 due to poor health, thousands of people went to see her coffin.
In 1998 the British Columbia Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom commissioned Canadian artist Christian Cardell Corbet to create a bronze medallion of Jane Addams to celebrate her life and achievments. The medallion since has been collected by several important museums.
The Jane Addams Peace Association together with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom give the annual Jane Addams Children's Book Awards.