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By | November 2012
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Jane Addams and the Promotion of Peace and Social Justice Among the Masses

Charles F. Howlett, Ph.D.,
Molloy College

INTRODUCTION

Jane Addams was the first American female to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. She was a co-recipient with Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University. Addams was a social reformer, founder of Hull House in Chicago, and the leader of the women’s peace movement in the first half of the twentieth century. She authored a number of books, including her popular autobiography, Twenty Years at Hull House. Addams is considered one of America’s foremost female intellectual leaders? and a pioneer in the practical application of progressive education ideas to everyday life.

BACKGROUND

Born on September 6, 1860 in Cedarville, Illinois, and later educated at Rockville Female Seminary in Illinois (renamed Rockville Women’s College), Addams later established herself as one of the leading females in the areas of social reform, women’s suffrage, and war opponent. A powerful writer and thinker in her own right, Addams’ ideas were largely influenced by University of Chicago philosopher and educator John Dewey. In the 1890s, before he moved on to Columbia University, Dewey’s pragmatism opened Addams’ moralistic and religious training to the hard fact that conflict was a reality of everyday life, but one capable of transforming social disruption into progress and harmony. In the late 1890s and at the turn of the new century, Addams quickly understood the role that powerful financiers and political privilege played in maintaining class divisions. The bitter class warfare of the last decades of the nineteenth century, along with economic depressions, convinced Addams that benevolent change based on peace and justice education was possible to improve American society and the state of the world.

Addams’ journey to social...

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