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Jane Addams

Jane Addams

The Nobel Peace Prize 1931
Co-Nobelists: Nicholas Murray Butler

Role: International President, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Sociologist

Biography

by Morgan McGuirk

Addams

Photograph of Jane Addams, Peace Nobelist 1931,
source: National Women’s History Museum

Jane Addams was an American social worker, feminist, and activist who was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her extensive social work. She was born in 1860 in Cedarville Illinois, a small town in northern Illinois, as the eighth child out of nine others in her family.i Although Addams came from an affluent family, her family endured many hardships during her youth. Three of her siblings died as infants, one sibling died during his teenage years, and her mother died during childbirth when Addams was two years old. Additionally, when Addams was four years old, she contracted Pott’s disease, a form of tuberculosis found in the spine, that made her less mobile because of the curvature in her spine.ii

Growing up, Addams idolized her father, John H. Addams, who was a businessman and well-known politician. John Addams served fifteen years for the Illinois State Senate, helped found the Illinois Republican Party, and was a close friend and supporter of Abraham Lincoln.iii Jane Addams was encouraged by her father to pursue a college education in order to follow her dream of helping the poor. She attended Rockford Female Seminary, now known as Rockford University in Rockford, Illinois.iv Addams graduated at the top of her class in 1881 as part of a new generation of women with college educations, known to historians today as “the new women”.v

After graduating from Rockford University, Addams traveled with her sister and husband-in-law to pursue a medical degree in Philadelphia, accompanied by her stepmother after her father passed away earlier that year. Unfortunately, Addams became very ill after another spine operation, preventing her from completing her degree. Instead, beginning in 1883, Addams traveled to Europe over the next several years to discover her true calling. Finally, in 1888, while in London with her friend from college, Ellen Gates Starr, Addams found what she wanted to do. The two friends visited Toynbee Hall, a settlement house for poor industrial workers receiving social services. It was there that Addams and Starr decided to establish a place offering these services in the United States.vi

In 1889, Addams and Starr founded Hull House, named after Charles Hull, who originally built and owned the home.vii Located in Chicago, Illinois, Hull House was the first settlement house in the United States for poor industrial workers on the west side of the city.viii

Addams

Hull House, 1889, West Polk Street and South Halsted Street, Chicago, IL,
source: Wikimedia Commons

The goal of Hull House was for educated women to provide basic skills and care for those needing services and to develop philanthropic efforts to improve the local living conditions.i By its second year, Hull House provided services to over 2,000 people a week. Many women from affluent families volunteered their time to care for children and those who were sick, provided educational clubs for children, and ran night schools for adults. Hull House quickly expanded, adding new buildings including a gymnasium, swimming pool, library, art studio, and employment resource office.ii Addams had a variety of additional philanthropic efforts she pursued during the 1900s. She helped establish a juvenile justice system; improved city sanitation and factory laws; and investigated various social problems including midwifery, the use of narcotics, and problems with the local milk supply. In 1905, Addams was appointed the chairman of the Chicago Board of Education.iiiv

Another great contribution was Addams’ work for the women’s suffrage movement. She advocated for women to have the right to vote and for women to seek out opportunities for their own advancement. Addams worked as a presiding officer and columnist for the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA), while also founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as NAWSA was segregated during this time.vi

Addams

Women advocating for women’s suffrage during the 1910s,
source: Crusade for the Vote

Addams was also a passionate pacifist, opposing the use of war and violence in conflicts. She wrote a book while teaching at the University of Wisconsin in 1907 on the subject, titled Newer Ideals for Peace. She also traveled giving speeches on world peace in the United States and internationally.i During World War I, Addams protested against the United States entering the war, believing the dispute could be resolved without violence. An unpopular opinion of the time, she was attacked in the press. However, she did help provide food to civilians caught in the cross-fire of the war and later wrote a book about her experience in 1922, titled Peace and Bread in Time of War.ii Additionally, in her efforts for peace, Addams was a leader of the Women’s Peace Party and the International Congress of Women, and founded the League for Peace and Freedom.iii

Addams

Nobel Prize Pax 193, bronze medal of Jane Addams,
source: Worth Point

Due to her many great humanitarian efforts, particularly for Hull House and international peace, Addams was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, becoming the first American woman to receive this awarded. The other awardee was Nicholas Murray Butler for his related work on international law and peace.i Unfortunately, due to a prior heart attack in 1926, Addams health began to deteriorate, leading to her death in 1935. Overall, Addams’ legacy founding Hull House and advocating for international peace are still well-known and admired today.ii

  1. “Jane Addams Biographical.” The Nobel Prize.
  2. “Pott’s Disease.” Physiopedia.
  3. Knight, Louise W. (2005). Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  4. Ibid. “Jane Addams Biographical.”
  5. “Jane Addams.” National Women’s History Museum.
  6. Ibid. “Jane Addams.”
  7. Ibid. Knight
  8. Ibid. “Jane Addams Biographical.”
  9. Ibid. “Jane Addams.”
  10. Ibid. “Jane Addams Biographical.”
  11. Ibid. “Jane Addams Biographical.”
  12. Ibid. “Jane Addams.”
  13. Ibid. “Jane Addams Biographical.”
  14. Suffragists Unite: National American Woman Suffrage Association.” National Women’s History Museum.
  15. Ibid. “Jane Addams.”
  16. Ibid. Knight.
  17. Ibid. Knight.
  18. “Nicholas Murray Butler.” The Nobel Prize.
  19. Ibid. “Jane Addams Biographical.”

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Photo Library of Congress, Wiki. Painting Tim Tompkins PaintHistory.com

Name: Jane Addams
Birth: 6 September 1860, Cedarville, IL, USA
Death: 21 May 1935, Chicago, IL, USA
Residence: USA
Role: International President, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Sociologist
Portion of Cash: 1/2
Biography
Nobel Prize Cash and Charity