Victoria Bissell Brown's introduction to Twenty Years at Hull-House explains the life of Jane Addams and her commitment to insight social change to problems that existed during the turn of the 20th century. As a reaction to the hardships of a changing industrial society, Addams decided to establish a settlement house in the West side of Chicago to help individuals who had suffered from the cruelties of industrialization. Rejecting the philosophies that stemmed from the Gilded Age, such as social Darwinism and the belief that human affairs were determined by natural law, Addams was a progressive who wanted government to be more responsive to the people.
As a progressive, Jane Addams committed herself as a social servant to the community in an attempt to fulfill the promise of democracy to everyone rather than a small elite group. Addams's dedication to communitarian purposes as opposed to individualist gains can be attributed to her upbringing and her remarkable respect for her father, John Huy Addams. Although John Addams was extremely wealthy, his neighbors appreciated and respected him because of the benefits he brought to their community, such as a reliable mill, a railroad, a bank, and an insurance company (5). Remembering the respect her father earned from their community, Jane Addams did not see her father "as an overbearing capitalist dictator from the Gilded Age but as a self-made steward from an era when leaders put the community's interest alongside their own" (5). Jane Addams's father did, in fact, influence her way of thinking, regarding the devotion to community service. She looked to her father for guidance and support (7) and after he died (the patriarch), Addams was left with a $60,000 inheritance, which she decided to use to establish the settlement house in Chicago, Hull-House (10).
At the beginning of the chapter, the author raises questions that were prevalent a century ago and that are still important today. The one question I...
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