The Making of Jane Addams

Her Childhood

College and Her 20's




Hull-House Firsts

Classes Offered at Hull-House

Hull-House Maps and Papers: Sociology in the Settlement

Living at Hull-House

A Community of Women

Jane and Ellen and Mary

Being Saint Jane

The Legacy of Hull-House



Chronology of Jane Addams’s Life


Additional Resources

Jane Addams’s Work Online

Sites About Jane Addams’s Legacy





In 1889, when Hull-House was founded, Chicago had a population of one million residents, of whom, 75% had been born abroad.132  In the neighbourhood in which Hull-House was established there was overwhelming poverty and desperation of the sort which even those who read Upton and Bettman can only begin to imagine.

Jane Addams had a passion for service engendered in her when she was only a little girl.  Following her graduation from college, she suffered a profound depression as she sought both a direction for her passion and an outlet for her education and talents. 

There is a popular saying, “When it is time to railroad, people railroad,” suggesting that the great inventors and innovators of history are not so much the product of their genius but of the times in which they live.  Certainly it is true that had Albert Einstein been born one hundred years earlier, his brilliance might not have had any outcome without an underlying appreciation for certain aspects of physics that became apparent during his early life.  Still, would someone else have decided that E=MC² or described Brownian motion had he not lived when he did?

There is not doubt that America needed the Settlement Movement.  Someone needed to stand up to the abuses of fourteen-hour days and child labour and the appalling conditions in which the poor were forced to live.  The explosive growth in the number of settlement houses that followed the opening of Hull-House showed that there was both a need and a will to meet it.

But would that need have been met without the person Jane Addams?  Would someone else have inspired the devotion of Ellen Gates Starr and Mary Rozet Smith?  Would someone else have linked Florence Kelley and Julia Lathrop and Grace Abbott and Frances Perkins?

Jane Addams did not have a unique vision.  Obviously her vision was shared by many other people who became her confederates, her residents, her coworkers, her patrons, and her followers.  But perhaps she was in a unique position to carry out that vision, to launch it, to give it a reality so that others could “join up.”

Whether saint or sinner, angel or anarchist, through her own work and through the network of people whom she inspired, Jane Addams had a profound and unique on American history and the lives of the working class.  Some have called her “America’s greatest liberal” and “the greatest woman America produced.” Is it fact or hyperbole?  Following the research involved in the production of this paper, this author leans toward fact.

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132.   Reynolds, Moira Davison.  Women Champions of Human Rights: Eleven U.S. Leaders of the Twentieth Century.  Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1991.  p. 5.