Many affluent families began to contribute to the Hull-House projects, and their young children, especially young ladies, became its volunteers. By the end of the first year, barely three months after they had moved in, Jane and Ellen threw a party for the neighbourhood and the sponsors. There were so many people involved already, that two parties had to be thrown, one on Christmas and one on New Year’s. For Christmas, Jane scraped together every cent she could and bought candy for all of the children who attended, and a copy of Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years for each member of the Young Heroes Club. By September of the following year, Hull-House would serve fifty thousand visitors.56
Hull-House grew in bits and pieces, as needs in the community became apparent. A small building was put up in front of the main house. Its lower floor became a branch of the Chicago Public Library (which was offered the facility rent free). The upper level became an art gallery and studio, where classes were offered. The University of Chicago offered extension classes on the Hull-House campus, and almost all of the students were sent to Rockford College for summer school.57
Hilda Satt, author of I Came a Stranger: The Story of a Hull-house Girl, tells the story of how Jane Addams convinced her to take part in a one of the extension classes in English. There were few students enrolled, and Jane did not wish to offend the instructor, one Professor Chandler, who was teaching his first course at the settlement house. As part of the first night’s assignment, Satt wrote an essay, which the instructor felt showed such promise that he arranged a full scholarship for her an the University of Chicago, despite the fact that Satt did not even have a high school diploma. Satt was grateful, but did not see how she could attend college, as she would have to leave work, and she was an important source of her family’s income. Jane had a solution. Jane would “pay” Satt a stipend equal to her weekly earnings while she remained a college student. This would be a loan, which Satt could repay when she was able.58
Another building became a coffee shop. Jane envisioned it as a place where young men might congregate after work instead of the neighbourhood saloon. Drinking was an enormous problem in the area, caused in part by the horrible conditions in which many people lived and abetted by a common feeling of isolation now familiar to many urban dwellers. As a result, in the area around Hull-House there were nine churches and 250 saloons.59 Although all sorts of non-alcoholic drinks were tried, from grape juice to cola, to little café could not draw the men out of the bars. However, it did attract younger men and women, those who worked in nearby factories and the teachers at a local school. It provided a familiar old-world style center for gossiping and relaxing. When workers were frequently too tired to cook for themselves or their families, and frequently subsisted on tea and toast, the cafe also provided a place to get a nourishing meal.60
Hull-House offered the first public baths in the city of Chicago. This was critical to the immigrants in the area, who were unable to afford indoor plumbing—often they were lucky to be able to haul buckets of water from a hydrant in front of their tenements, but who had had access to public baths in the home country.61 In fact, the public baths were opened in response to Jane’s learning that there were only three opeating bathtubs in the one-third square mile around Hull-House.62 Hull-House also offered the first swimming pool and fresh-air school, useful boons in the Midwest before the invention of air-conditioning.63
In one of her speeches, Jane impressed a man named William Kent, who owned a tenement house near Hull-House. He had inherited the property and although he lived in the city, he spent a lot of time at a ranch in the West, so he had never seen the building. He was determined to do something with the property to help Hull-House, so Jane and he went to look it over. When he saw it, he was appalled at both the condition of the tenement and of its residents, many of whom were prostitutes and drug users. He offered the property to Jane.
The income from the building was $2000 per month, but Jane knew that there was nothing she could do with it. It was too far deteriorated to be of use to anyone. She suggested that he tear it down. At first he was reluctant, as that represented an additional expense. But eventually he complied. The land on which this derelict had sat became the first playground in the city of Chicago.64, 65 Finally, Jane had the “large yard” for all the children from the “horrid little houses” to come and play in. Eventually, management of the playground was given over to the City Playground Commission, which opened others and became part of the Chicago Park District. Hull-House helped start the system of Chicago parks.66, 67
It is hardly surprising that, being centered among the homes of the working class, and especially with so many of its residents working on behalf of women and child labourers, that Hull-House should find itself a center for labour organising. Hull-Houses meeting rooms were open to the unions, and several were founded within its walls. Like Upton, Addams saw unions as being a fundamental protector of the rights of the working poor. She worked to support them and their members, despite their unpopularity with her wealthy patrons. It forced her to seek other ways to raise money for her projects, but she could not turn her back on the horrors that she saw in the sweatshops, which only union organisation and legislation could end.
55. Meigs, Cornelia. Jane Addams: Pioneer for Social Justice. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1970. pp. 61-63, 46.
56. Faderman, Lillian. “Social Housekeeping: The Inspiration of Jane Addams.” To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America—A History. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. p. 121.
57. Polacheck, Hilda Satt. I Came a Stranger: The Story of a Hull-house Girl. Dena J. Polacheck Epstein, ed. ; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989. pp. 77, 86-87.
58. Bettman, Otto L. The Good Old Days—They Were Terrible! New York: Random House. 1974.p. 129.
59. Adams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House. p. 102.
60. Reynolds, Moira Davison. Women Champions of Human Rights: Eleven U.S. Leaders of the Twentieth Century. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1991.p. 11.
61. Adams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House. p. 221.
62. Reynolds, Moira Davidson. p. 11.
63. Polachek, Hilda Satt. p. 74.
64. Meigs, Cornelia. pp. 76-78.
65. idem. p. 78.
66. Addams, Jane. “The Process of Social Transformation.” p. 243.