Jane Addams

Who was Jane Addams?

Jane Addams (1860-1935) was the first woman public intellectual in the United States. She was a close colleague of both John Dewey (1859-1952) and George Herbert Mead (1863-1931). In 1931 Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her progressive public activities in beginning the settlement house movement. The settlement movement involved locating places for assisting members of impoverished immigrant communities, directly in their neighborhoods. Addams began the services of Hull House with art appreciation classes and quickly developed a program of education for youth, child care, instruction in domestic skills, and adult education. She was only "recovered" as a philosopher and feminist in the late-twentieth century. Her main works include Democracy and Social Ethics (1902), Newer Ideals of Peace (1906), Twenty Years at Hull House (1910) and

Second Twenty Years at Hull House (1930), The Long Road of Woman's Memory (1916), and Peace and Bread in Time of War (1922).

Famous for founding Hull House in Chicago, Jane Addams won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work helping the impoverished (Art Archive).

Famous for founding Hull House in Chicago, Jane Addams won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work helping the impoverished (Art Archive).

What are some highlights of Jane Addams' life that led her to found Hull House?

Addams' father was a mill owner and politician in Cedarville, Illinois. Her mother died when she was two, while giving birth to her ninth child. Addams attended Rockford Seminary (a women's college), failed in medical school, and became depressed for a decade, during which she traveled throughout Europe. Along the way she visited London's Toynbee Hall, which was a young men's community that helped poor Jewish and Irish immigrants in East London by working within these people's neighborhoods. Addams resolved to duplicate this plan, and in 1889 she founded Hull House in the Near West Side community of Chicago. Hull House was run and operated by women. Addams had long-term relationships with her cofounder and college friend, Ellen Gates Starr, and, later on, with her colleague Mary Rozet Smith.

Addams' work at Hull House, and other settlement houses based on it, made her well known; she became a very popular public speaker. She was involved in the founding of other progressive organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Former President Theodore Roosevelt asked her to second his nomination for the presidency by the "Bull Moose" Progressive Party in 1912. (Roosevelt had served three years as U.S. president after 1901, and a full term after 1904.) The Progressive Party strongly supported women's rights and suffrage.

However, Addams became a target for intense public criticism when she expressed both pacifist and feminist views before World War I. Toward the end of her life, she dedicated herself to world peace and African American civil rights.

How did Hull House fulfill pragmatist ideals of knowledge?

Addams saw Hull House as an epistemological (theory of knowledge) project, as much as a charitable program. She wrote: "The ideal and developed settlement would attempt to test the value of human knowledge by action, and realization, quite as the complete and ideal university would concern itself with the discovery of knowledge in all branches."

George Herbert Mead

Who was George Herbert Mead?

George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) was a philosopher, social theorist, and reformer whom John Dewey (1859-1952) described as "a seminal mind of the first order." (Dewey brought him to the University of Chicago when he accepted his position there.) Mead had been raised in a New England Puritan community, but in his mature thought he became an empiricist.

Mead's most important contribution to both pragmatic theories of education and sociology was his idea of "symbolic interaction." He offered an explanation of the development of the human mind and self, through the development of language and role playing. Although something of a behaviorist in his insistence on the social nature of individual mental development, Mead also believed that there were different developmental stages of adjustment to the external environment. Mead worked with Dewey in the Chicago Laboratory School and was a friend of Jane Addams (1860-1935) and a close observer of her work at Hull House.

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