Fighting for Equal Rights
Jane Addams, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Rachel Carson were four American women who advocated for social change. Their courage, intelligence, strength and leadership made a positive difference in the lives of many people. These women were pioneers in their times. They either helped to found, or lent their voices to, various social movements, policies, and causes that evolved during their lifetimes and proved successful in helping many oppressed people. Jane Addams is most famous for her work in two major movements, the first of which is the Settlement House movement of the 1800s. Settlement houses, which first originated in England. These facilities were created in response to problems arising from immigration, urbanization, and industrialization. In America, the settlement houses were typically available for medical assistance, housing, and education to immigrants in the areas surrounding them (Izzo, 2010). Later, with the help of advocates like Addams, they began to take on new roles and more issues related to social and economic policies and conditions. Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr founded Hull House on the West side of Chicago, IL, in 1889. It was a secular house, as opposed to those run by religious organizations. As a more progressive settlement house, along with all the other things offered, Hull House provided more than just basic needs for its attendants. It made available many services such as daycare for single working mothers, an employment bureau, and access to art and other forms of cultural education (Izzo, 2010). As an activist, and one of the earliest social workers, Addams knew it was important for the people she served to have well-rounded experiences; these helped them to be more engaged, productive members of society. One big difference between the Settlement house movement and other organizations like it was that the settlement houses took information about the poor and underserved they were trying to reach out to, processed the information, and used it to describe the plight of these people to others (Blau and Abramovitz, 2010). This signified a major break toward the fight for social justice and the profession of social work. They were using facts gathered from their work in the population to create structured methods of helping these people. Through these groundbreaking research studies, public policies were eventually enacted. Because of this kind of work in Hull House, Jane Addams emerged as a great leader in the social reform movement. She fought to write and edit legislation about housing, sanitation, factory regulations, immigrant right, and child labor laws. Addams firmly believed that every person deserved his or her equal share of rights as a citizen of the United States. She allowed union meetings to be held at Hull House and was a member of the Progressive Party (Izzo, 2010). While Hull House is arguably Jane Addams most famous project, another movement she is often associated with is the Peace Movement, which included the fight for women’s rights. Once World War I began, priorities in America shifted. Addams remained focused, however, on her party, the Women’s Peace Party, which she cofounded in 1915. This party networked with other peace movements and their activists, eventually evolving into the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). This organization still exists today; it: “...works to achieve through peaceful means world disarmament, full rights for women, racial and economic justice, an end to all forms of violence, and to establish those political, social, and psychological conditions which can assure peace, freedom, and justice for all.” (Mission Statement, WILPF, n.d.)
Essentially, this means the organization fights for an end to war and violence, equal rights for women and all other minorities, and social justice. This mission statement was part of the code by which Jane Addams lived. Through her...
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