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Jane Addams and her impact on society

By SuperA17 Jun 16, 2002 899 Words

Jane Addams is known for Hull House, located in Chicago, IL. While this isn't her only contribution to society during her life, this is the one contribution that has probably made the biggest impact on society. Jane became interested in social issues when she went on a trip to England with two college friends. She was exposed to the poverty that was all around England's East End. Also, while she was in England, her and her friends came across Toynbee Hall, which was a settlement house that was used by students from Oxford and Cambridge to teach workingmen. After returning to Chicago, Jane and her friend, Ellen Gates Starr, decided to start looking into the possibilities of starting a settlement house in the run-down streets of Chicago. When they finally decided on a house, it was named the Hull House.

Jane Addams also was concerned with the issues of establishing a juvenile court system and women's suffrage. She was also involved with the peace movement by becoming an important advocate of internationalism. She became interested in the peace movement during World War I by participating in the International Congress of Women. She was very opposed to World War II, and worked through the Women's Peace Party, which later became the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She was the WILPF's first president. Because of her work as the president of this organization, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. The main reason that she backed women's suffrage was because she believed that the women's votes would provide the margin necessary to pass the social legislations that she was in favor of. Because of her hard work, the Progressive party adopted a lot of her ideas to their platform in 1912, along with establishing a juvenile court system.

Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860 in Cedarville, Illinois, to a wealthy family. Her mother died when she was three years old. Her father was a Quaker who ran a mill and was also a state senator. As a small child, Jane wanted to be a doctor but there were only two fields that were acceptable at the time for women: getting married and having children or becoming a schoolteacher. When Jane was eight, her father re-married. Her stepmother had a big influence on the Addam's girls in the area of arts. Jane received a lot of attention from her father and because of this she realized that her potential as a woman was not as limited as she thought. She entered into the Rockville Female Seminary in 1877. She was very popular among her classmates because of her ability to write and speak. Soon after she graduated, she became ill and depressed, but wasn't sure how to deal with it. In 1881, her father suddenly became ill and died. She enrolled in medical school, but after the first semester, she became ill again and was put in the hospital for an extended period of time. Her brother also took a turn for the worse and had a mental breakdown, which in turn was an emotional setback for her.

After Jane and her friend, Ellen Gates Starr opened the Hull House, they started to realize how bad conditions were in Chicago. They would take care of children so mothers could work; children were made to work long hours, and many other things that opened their eyes. Because of how many people they helped, Addams went around to many different women's clubs, church groups, and college students to talk about settlement houses, social reform and the ways that these people could help Chicago and the nation. Addams gave up a lot, considering her background; to live in the slums of Chicago and to help people the way she did was amazing. During the 1890's, settlement houses became more and more popular. She was a leader in this movement because of her writings and her lectures.

Addams became more involved in national concerns. The US was declaring war on Spain and because of that, violent crime rates went up in Chicago. Because of her works, her protests eventually reached Charles R. Crane, a close friend of President Woodrow Wilson. Mr. Crane urged President Wilson to meet with Addams as soon as he returned from Europe in 1915. President Wilson had a meeting with her, but rejected her ideas. She tried to stop the US from entering the war, but it fell on deaf ears. She was more hated than cheered. Jane would not work for the Red Cross because it had become part of the military.

I thought that Addams' concept of settlement houses was a very good one. I think we need more of those in America today. She worked really hard to provide a safe and loving place for people to live or at least stay for a while. These are meant to try to help people get back on their feet. These houses provide a way for parents to get jobs and not have to worry bout their kids. Once they get a steady job and keep it, then they can try to work and take care of their kids. I think one example of this concept would be a foster home. A foster home takes kids into the home for as long as is needed. Sometimes the kids go to another home and sometimes they stay and are adopted.

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