Jane Addams was born in Cedarville, Illinois on September 6, 1860. She grew up in Cedarville, but later moved to Chicago where she died on May 21, 1935 of cancer. Being a woman, she made up about fifty percent of the population. Addams was very well known. Addams was quoted by President Theadore Roosevelt as ?America?s most useful citizen.? She was a social reformer, internationalist, and feminist, but she was most well known for founding the Hull House. For the most part, she did live the ?American Dream,? if you interpret the ?American Dream? as wealth and success. She never had financial problems at all. Her father was a wealthy businessman and Illinois senator for eight consecutive years. He was a friend of Abraham Lincoln and he was a widely respected leader in his community. He also helped to bring a railroad into the country. She was also a very prominent member of society, and was very widely respected.
In some ways, though, she did not live the ?American Dream.? She did not strive to be wealthy and successful, she spent more of her time giving back to society than trying to become wealthy, prosperous and successful, which was what many people wanted. She worked for gaining the rights for everyone in society including the right for women to vote and anti child labor laws. This was not true for most people of that time. Many people were very poor and tried to become prosperous, but could not. There were many immigrants, especially around Chicago where Addams was. They came here in hope of prosperity, but instead had to work long hard hours for very low wages.
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Addams was greatly influenced by her father?s strong morals. She was the eighth of nine children. Her parents were Sarah and John Huy Addams. Addams? mother died when she was only two while in childbirth. Addams attended public schools in her neighborhood until she went to Rockford College (then Rockford Women?s Seminary).
It was here that her foundations for feminism were laid and she learned to uphold the ?women?s cause.? In 1881, she graduated the Valedictorian of her class of seventeen. She studied medicine in Europe over the next six years, but realized that there were limited career options for women. At this, she decided to help society. While touring Europe, she and Ellen Gates Star, a college friend visited a pioneering settlement house called Tonybee Hall. This was in a very poor area of London. This led Star and Addams to the idea of opening a similar facility in the poorest area of Chicago.
When the two friends returned to Chicago, they acquired a large mansion and started Hull House, which was a settlement house. This was mostly aimed at helping immigrants that moved to Chicago. About eighty percent of the population of Chicago was immigrants. It was an immediate success. It provided services for the community. Some of these were: the city?s first kindergarten and day care facilities for children of working mothers; employment bureau; libraries; music and art classes; and many other things. Out of all of her efforts, the Illinois legislature passed strong child labor laws and protection for women. Because of the Hull House, Addam?s reputation was increased. She used this to society?s benefit. She focused on many crucial social issues of the time. Activities at the Hull House soon became national activities on behave of the underprivileged. The Hull House became a meeting place for people like herself who wanted to reform society. She and other reformers who met at the Hull House became leaders of national campaigns for protective labor legislation for women, for elimination of child labor, for factory inspection laws, and for women?s suffrage. Addams gave lectures and wrote articles and books publicizing her ideas of social morality.
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Addams became the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections in 1906. She led many investigations on midwifery, narcotics consumption, milk supplies, and sanitary conditions. Because of her work, she received the first ever honorary degree ever awarded to a woman by Yale University. Addams was also a major peace advocate. In 1914, when world tensions erupted into war, Addams focused her energy into peace. Since 1906, she had tried to find a ?moral substitute? for war. In 1915 she joined other reform and peace-minded women in forming the Women?s Peace Party, which was dedicated to finding a quick peace settlement and establishing a permanent international peacekeeping organization. Addams was a woman with strong values that she worked to uphold. She did many good things for society and worked for many good causes. We can thank her now for working towards anti child labor, woman?s suffrage and many other things. She was very accomplished and well liked by many people.