Jane Addams was a true trailblazer when it comes to social work. She was a peace activist with the desire to help people in the best way she knew how. She was the first woman to ever receive an honorary degree from Yale University and she was also the first woman to ever accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Further exploration into the last of Jane Addams will help to uncover how she became one of the greatest social workers before the social work degree even existed.
See our ranking of the Top 25 MSW Online Programs.
Born on September 6th, 1860 Jane Addams was the eighth out of nine children. Her mother actually died in childbirth when she was only two years old. Her father fought as an officer in the civil war and served as a state senator for 16 years. Despite the odds, Jane Addams made education a top priority and managed to graduate from the Rockford Female Seminary at the top of her class. Soon after, the school received the proper accreditation and became the Rockford College for Women which allowed her to receive a bachelor’s degree for her previous studies.
The Hull House
Jane Addams eventually took a trip to Europe with a good friend named Ellen G. Starr. During that trip, they had the opportunity to visit a settlement house called the Toynbee Hall which motivated her to open a similar home in the United States. In 1889, they leased a large home together in an underprivileged area in Chicago. They used this home to take care of those in need and gave back to the community. They gave speeches and raised money so that they could continue to build and help more people.
According to Nobel Media’s Jane Addams Biographical, this place became known as the Hull House. In as little as two years, they were capable of hosting around two thousand people every week. The mornings were dedicated to kindergarten classes while the afternoons catered to meetings and clubs for older children. The evenings allowed adults to attend clubs and classes which basically served as night school. As they built onto the home it grew into more of a campus including a public kitchen, a cooperative boarding school for girls, a gymnasium, a music school, and more.
In 1905, Jane Addams was appointed to the board of education and became chairman of the school management committee. She went on to become a founding member of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy as well as the NAACP. according to the Social History Welfare Project, she became the first female president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections and went on to become president of the International Congress of Women. She assisted Herbert Hoover in providing relief supplies to women and children enemy nations. She wrote a book called Peace and Bread in Time of War that goes into detail about these experiences.
Jane Addams has so much passion for helping others that she dedicated her life to it. Before it was even possible to earn a social work degree, Jane Addams showed everyone how social work was meant to be done. She is now known as one of the most influential women in the history of social work.