Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society

Students, as part of an advanced seminar, examined and wrote about the lives of these women, their intellectual contributions, and the unique impact and special problems that being female had on their careers.

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Jane Addams 1860- 1935

by Nicolle Bettis


On September 6, 1860 Laura Jane Addams was born to Sarah Weber Addams and John Addams, the same year in which Abraham Lincoln ran for president (1971, ix). It has been noted that Jane's father and Lincoln were such good friends letters would come addressed to Addams as "My Dear Double D'-'ed Addams" (http:nobel.sdsc.edu/laureates/peace-1931-1-bio.html).

"Jenny" as they called her as a baby was strongly influenced by her father who lead a very active life. He was in the State Legislature for sixteen years and directed a bank as well as a railroad. Although both parents were very strong willed, neither had appreciation for the small things in life nor the arts. Her mother Sarah Weber Addams was a strong woman and "stern disciplinarian" of her eight children. She ran the "domestic factor" with the help of a hired hand, which enabled her to prepare meals for flour, saw mill and field workers. She took charge of the mills when John was away and often helped the neighbors. When Jenny was only three her mother became very ill and died. Martha, the eldest, took over in raising the family. As a result of not having any siblings her age Jenny was often given her way and disliked greatly being reprimanded. Although it has been stated that Jenny was pretty, she felt self-conscience about the curve in her spine which as a result, made her feel ugly and crippled.

She became very close to her father, as she was his last link to Sarah, and became extremely fond of him as he was of her. She began to mimic everything he had done from the scarring of her hands that came with milling to reading every book in the village library (1971). Jane had "half expected and fully hoped to grow up to be her father" (1971, 15). Jane later states that her father was the one who incorporated her into "the moral concerns of life" (1971, 9). Jane recalls in her book, Twenty Years at Hull House, which has been seen as autobiographical, her first encounter with poverty. She remembered asking her father why people lived in awful little houses so close together. Then replied, she would have a large house in the middle of all the terrible small ones (1910).

Her sister Martha introduced Anna Halderman into the picture when she became interested in the piano where as her father saw it as an "extravagance" (1971, 9). Martha soon died; Anna and John were brought closer together because of this tragedy resulting in marriage in November of 1868. Things around the Addams house soon began to change. Anna brought sophistication and style into a house that had lacked it prior. Jenny felt left behind, not being her father's pet any longer, but she gained a new playmate, Anna's younger of two sons. Anna had her own idea about how the young Jenny should act which caused anger on the part of Jenny that was held in. Later in life she seemed to ignore her most of the time and simply avoided contact to avoid confrontation. Although she seemed to detest her stepmother she learned to act as a lady when introduced to the upper class Illinois in the 1870's because she was the daughter of John Addams, one of the most important people in that area. She used what she learned from her stepmother to move through Chicago's society when she was older.


Both parents agreed that their daughters were to attend college. Though Jane's sisters attended Rockford Female Seminary, she was interested in schools in the east such as Mount Holyoke and Smith. Her father had become the trustee of Rockford and it was understood that Jane would attend the same school as her two sisters. The principal of Rockford was a feminist who believed women deserved the same quality education that men received and that "women had a supreme duty to preserve morality, culture and the heritage of western civilization" (1971, 17).

Suggesting that Jane succeeded in school is an understatement. Her accumulative GPA out of 10 was a 9.862; she was class president, head of the literary society, editor of the school magazine and valedictorian of her class. She received her bachelor's degree one year later when the school became accredited and changed its name to the Rockford College for Women (1910). When graduation approached, Jane and her classmates reminded each other of their "early ideals." In Twenty Years at Hull House she states:

We believed, in our sublime self-conceit, that the difficulty of life would lie solely in the direction of losing these precious ideals of ours, of failing to follow the way of martyrdom and high purpose we had marked out for ourselves, and we had no notion of the obscure paths of tolerance, just allowance, and self-blame wherein, if we held our minds open, we might learn something of the mystery and complexity of life's purposes (1910, 63).

This statement shows how even in her younger years Jane's beliefs were to help others.

After graduating from college Jane decided to attend medical school which went against her parents wishes. They were afraid this would affect the decision to marry, which was expected from most upper class women (www.lkwdpl.org/wihio/adda-jan.htm).

The death of John Addams:

Unexpectedly while on vacation with Jane, John Addams died of acute appendicitis. Without his strong personality, the Addams family seemed to fall apart. After entering into medical school Jane felt as if things were not as she wanted. She could do the work but did not feel the passion as before. As a result, her family suggested she travel in Europe. Agreeing that this would be a good idea she did so with an old classmate Ellen Starr (1971).

Ideas of a settlement house:

In Twenty Years at Hull House, Jane describes her first experience in East London and the overwhelming poverty which was inflicted upon this city. This city seemed to make more of an impact on her than any other she had visited in Europe. She mentions the attraction she had to poverty-stricken cities. She seems to condemn herself for referring back to literature to explain the extreme poverty to which she had been exposed.

Reflecting back on her education she began to feel that women, through education, had lost a sense of empathy. They were so protected they were not given the opportunity to turn down devastation. Although she does not know exactly when she formed the idea of a settlement house she had previously thought about renting a house in the city where young women could learn more life skills and practice ideas they had.

The first time she remembers mentioning her creation was in April of 1888 in Madrid . In June of 1888, five years after her first visit, Jane had gone back to Toynbee Hall, the model for the Hull House. She went to inquire about any information she should be aware of or expect concerning the poor. It was at this time she stopped feeling confused and lost about what she was going to do with her life. In the following January, they had decided to begin on their own without the help of outsiders. Jane and her good friend Ellen Starr started searching for a good location for the settlement house. Jane states in her book that when she and Ellen were looking for a place to begin the settlement house they needed a large house with easy access, a peaceful atmosphere and a location in the middle of several different cultures (1910).

History of Hull House:

After searching, they found a mansion on Polk and Halsted in Chicago. It had been built for Charles Hull in 1856. Prior it housed a factory, a pre-owned furniture store and a home for the elderly run by Little Sisters of the Poor. There were suspicions of the attic being haunted. As a result the individuals living on the second floor left a pitcher of water on the stairs leading to the attic. Their belief was that the ghost would not pass through running water. Despite the rumors of the ghost, Jane and Ellen, along with Mary Keyser, who did household chores, moved into the Hull House on September 18, 1889 when the owner, Helen Culver, allowed them to rent the entire house(1910).

Hull House charter:

The Hull House charter read that it was "to provide a center for a higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises, and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago" (1995). Jane believed that the nation did not like to acknowledge the fact that its threat to democracy was caused by the extremes in classes. She stated that "The good we seek for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secure for all of us" (1993, 49). This seemed to not only show through in her goals for the Hull House but she seemed to practice it throughout her life as well. "Overaccumulation at one end of society and destitution at the other" separated people (1993, 49). The organizations that she started tried to equalize the inequality between people and educate them on things they had in common as well as the qualities that made them unique; because she believed that the "things that make men like are finer and better than the things that keep them apart" (1993, 49). This is most likely why she started the Hull House.

Hull House's first resident:

Jane describes the Hull Houses "first resident" as an older lady who read to listeners from Hawthorne. She reported that she wanted to live in a place where "idealism ran high" (1910, 101). Volunteers seemed plentiful. Ellen read George Eliot's "Romola" to listeners and Jenny Dow, another volunteer, started a kindergarten (1910).

Events at Hull House:

There was a lot to be learned from the different cultures and the children at the Hull House understood this quickly. Jane gives an encounter of a young Italian boy who did not want to sit next to a girl from a different country because she ate her macaroni differently (1910). Jane did not believe in the melting pot theory; as a result, the house was to inform individuals on different cultures (1995 and 1971). According to Jane and Ellen, this included an introduction to "high culture" (1995). It only made sense that the first addition to the Hull House was the Butler Art Gallery. The settlement house worked to keep the Art Institute's library open so the working class could visit. A music school was introduced along with a successful theater, which performed a variety of plays whose actors and actresses included neighborhood residents. Some plays plots included the importance of women in history. Art was an entertainment escape for poverty-stricken immigrants who were stuck in factories all day. It was also a way to introduce and educate individuals on cultures other than their own (1971). Jane wanted the children of immigrants to learn from their parents and to appreciate their culture and heritage. As a result, she formed the Hull House Labor Museum which displayed the labor immigrant parents in their native countries in relation to jobs of the adolescents (1995). Other additions to the settlement house included a public kitchen, a coffee house, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a clubhouse for girls, a book bindery, an art studio, a library, and an employment bureau (http:nobel.sdsc.edu/laureates/peace-1931-1-bio.html). There were also meetings held for many different types of organizations. Jane and Ellen's dreams about bringing the rich and poor together by creating a community in Chicago through which the rest of the nation could learn were coming true (1971).

An example of a day in the life of Jane Addams:

One of the women who worked at the Hull House stated Jane's agenda in a letter to a friend. It reads as follows:

She is very tired . . . of course she did not let [that] deter her from tearing about. She preached for the Methodists last Sunday, entertained the Colored Women of the National Council (Mrs. Booker T. Washington et al) yesterday & later went to Winnetka . . . she runs over to Mrs. Jones-around to Mrs. Fiellras . . . up to Mrs. Kenyon-off with Mrs. Halderman, down to inquiring strangers & in and out & around about to Italian Fiestas, forced marriages, rows between scabs & unions etc. etc. etc. until my head spins & I sink exhausted while she poses to Mr. Linden [a portrait painter] & discusses the questions of the day with freshness & calmness that put the finishing touches on my amazement (1973, 82).

In the beginning Jane did just about everything but soon delegated duties out to others. This gave her the time and energy to raise funds for the house (1973). She had a strong influence among the wealthy because of her heritage and she used this to encourage supporters to give every year to keep the Hull House running. She had the support of three of the four wealthiest women in Chicago. They not only gave money but a great amount of interest as well (1971). From 1889 when the Hull House opened, until 1895, more than twenty settlement houses were created in the United States. By 1910, up to seventy people lived in the Hull House at one time and more than two thousand people entered a day (1995).

Hull House Maps and Papers:

In 1895, Hull House Maps and Papers went on sale. This was when "Halstead Center made its first contribution to sociological knowledge" (1960, X). "It was one of the first neighborhood surveys; and it was produced by women. It brought the practice of applied sociology to US sociological research" (www.pitt.edu/~fvcst1/001B-04.html). It was shared in order to help inform individuals. One book released stated that those who contributed were doing "constructive work" not "sociological investigation" (1895).


Although Jane accomplished a great deal in her lifetime, there were individuals whom disliked her because of her radical ideas and ways of doing things. She believed so strongly in peace that she was seen as a deviant once World War I began. She was even expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution (http:nobel.sdsc.edu/laureates/peace-1931-1-bio.html). Jane donated money to Rockford College's library to improve their stock of science books and was also a trustee, as a result of an invitation from the head of Rockford. She accepted but went to only one meeting because some other members disapproved of her membership because "no religious instruction was given at Hull House" (1910, 84).

Jane's work on peace:

Jane did an enormous amount when it came to peace. The American Union Against Militarism worked to keep the US out of the war and received acknowledgment from the government for allowing the Hull House to be used as a "conscription center" (19952, 306). In 1915, the year after W.W.I began, she became involved in the Woman's Peace Party and was elected national chairman. With this she went to the International Woman's Conference in The Hague and was chosen to head the commission to find an end to the war. This included meeting ten leaders in neutral countries as well as those at war to discuss mediation. This was the first significant international effort by women against the war and was documented along with co-workers Emily Balch and Alice Hamilton in Women at The Hague (1960, XI).

"At last I came upon a clearing in the FOREST, and by a well-worn path approached the portal of a little white chapel whose gleaming I had seen through the trees. I lifted the latch and entered through the beautiful door. I gazed about me in wonder: I found myself standing in a vast CATHEDRAL! I had entered into the mind and heart of a COMPASSIONATE WOMAN" (1955, 1).

It was in 1917, when the US joined the war, that Jane started to be strongly criticized (www.lkwdpl.org/wihio/adda-jan.htm). In 1919, Jane was the American delegate for the Second Women's Peace Conference where the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom began. Jane was elected the first president, a position she held until her death (1960). She assisted Herbert Hoover by supplying food and other necessities to women and children of the opposing side. This is explained in further detail in Peace and Bread in Time of War which she wrote in 1922 (http:nobel.sdsc.edu/laureates/peace-1931-1-bio.html). It has been suggested that she was capable of criticism because her beliefs derived from experiences in her neighborhood and "could always go back to the source of her strength" (1960, 3).

Community service:

When speaking about a co-worker, Jane once said, "It is good for a social worker to be an artist too" (1960, 4). It was this creative and compassionate mind that developed several organizations throughout the community to help those in need. Jane not only helped those stricken by poverty; she tried to get at the source. She believed that by changing the laws, the poor would benefit. She worked on just about every aspect of the lives of the poor from factory inspection to setting hours for women workers. She also mandated schooling for children and stood up for labor unions. Putting herself on the line for others was not uncommon. During the Haymarket riot she supported the workers at a loss of support for the Hull House. Instead of giving up she wrote articles and toured the country lecturing in order to raise money (www.lkwdpl.org/wihio/adda-jan.htm). She also helped lead investigations on just about every issue around including narcotics, milk supplies, sanitary conditions, and lead an investigation on garbage collection. This led the mayor to assign her as the inspector of garbage pickup in her ward (http:www.sojourners.com/sojourners/970722.html). The women would follow the trucks starting at six in the morning and made reports including citizens arrests of landlords whose properties were unhealthy ward (http:www.sojourners.com/sojourners/970722.html). Among other children's issues, Jane was concerned with the working conditions of young adults. After she spoke to the head of the Illinois Bureau of Labor, he had a commission investigate. When they reported back, it was the beginning of regulations which became the first laws in Illinois concerning factories (1995). It was not only women and children's issues she was concerned with, but also race issues, which led her to help form the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP which provoked people's criticism even more than her pacifism during the war. They "accused her of being a socialist, an anarchist and a communist" (ward (http:www.sojourners.com/sojourners/970722.html). This seems as though it could not be further from the truth because when it came to socialism, "she formally rejected it" (1993, 48).

Juvenile courts:

Because she felt it was unfair to try adolescents as adults, she began to form the juvenile court system in which the juvenile court would act as a nurturing parent. The first juvenile court opened in 1899 in Chicago. The probation officer was a resident of the Hull House and was paid by a committee lead by its trustees and residents. By 1920, only three states did not have juvenile courts (1995).

Children's issues:

Jane seemed to care a great deal about children and even met with Teddy Roosevelt in 1909 to discuss a conference about the best type of care to give children. She states, "It brought the entire subject before the country as a whole and gave to social work a dignity and a place in the national life which it had never known before" (1995). Jane, along with Lillian Wald, wanted to create a United States Children's Bureau to protect and take care of battered wives and children. They protested against child labor and wanted decent care for children. In her essay called "Women War and Babies" Jane states:

As women we are the custodians of the life of the ages and we will no longer consent to its reckless destruction. We are particularly charged with the future of childhood, the care of the helpless and the unfortunate, and we will no longer endure without protest that added burden of maimed and invalid men and poverty-stricken women and orphans which war places on us. We have builded by the patient drudgery of the past the basic foundations of the home and of peaceful industry of the home and of peaceful industry; we will no longer endure that hoary evil which in an hour destroys or tolerate that denial of the sovereignty of reason and justice by which war and all that makes for war today render important the idealism of the race" (1952, 307).

Sociological influence:

In 1919, she was a main concern for the US and labeled the most dangerous woman in America. This seems to be the point where her role in sociology fell. Although she made great contributions to the field of sociology, she is rarely acknowledged. She was looking for it to develop in a different direction. One very important reason Jane was not looked at as a sociologist was because she was female. Social work, which is mainly seen as dominated by women, and sociology, as dominated by men, formed shortly after W.W.I. Those women trained in Chicago before 1918 were then pushed toward social work and were rarely hired in sociology within universities. The American Sociological Society restricted women's participation to the office. This patriarchal monopoly was very much present at the University of Chicago and disagreed with Addam's philosophy. This field may have been different had Jane stayed with it, resulting in more professional careers in sociology (1986). Although she truly loved to learn, she had several reasons to question universities. One of them being that they cautioned young women about preparing for a new life that would include a husband and family (1993). Although Jane has been labeled a social worker, it is very apparent that she played a large role in sociology. It is difficult to determine where because women were basically discouraged from entering the field. One author suggests that her work may have been understood since most sociologists never cited work done by close colleagues. Kasler who studied early German sociologists formed criteria to determine whether or not someone is a sociologist which included:

Jane met all of these requirements. Not only was she ignored, but those she associated with; WEB DuBois, who was a black sociologist, were as well such as. While she was strongly influenced by the British, the American white men were following the works of the French and German. Jane did not let this discourage her; she simply made the Hull House into a meeting place for both men and women sociologist's of any race to gather (1988, 13).

In 1935, three days after it was discovered that Jane had cancer, she died (Committee http:nobel.sdsc.edu/laureates/peace-1931-1-bio.html). It has been estimated that the service in the Hull House courthouse was visited by more than 2,000 people an hour. At the time of her death she had written ten books, more than two thousand articles and had given hundreds of speeches (1995).

It is apparent that Jane Addams was an extraordinary woman. She has done several things to improve lives from the private to the public sphere. She is one of the reasons society lives the way they do.


Timeline of Jane's accomplishments:

-1899 Democracy or Militarism speech given in front of the Chicago Liberty Meeting on April 30

-1905 appointed Chicago's Board of Education and chairman of School Management Committee

-1905 elected the first woman at the National Conference of Social Work

-1906 wrote Newer Ideals of Peace, which discussed problems with the military among civilians

-1908 helped found Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy

-1909 first woman president of National Conference of Charities and Corrections

-1909 President Theodore Roosevelt asked Jane to come to a conference concerning childcare for dependent children

-1910 release of her first book followed by two every year after

-1910 received first honorary degree given to a woman by Yale University

-1910 first female president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections (NCCC) which she gave 18 papers from 1897- 1933

-1911 first vice-president of National American Women suffrage Association

-1912 campaigned for Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Party , seconded his nomination for President of the Progressive Party

-1913 elected second to Thomas Edison in Independent magazine's poll for "Who Was the Most Useful American"

-1915 organized the Women's Peace Party and the International Congress of women

-1919 elected the first president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

-1919 on Archibald Stevenson's "traitor list" shown to the Overman Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee

-1931 only social worker awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

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