Image of Jane Addams


Lifetime: 1860 - 1935 Passed: ≈ 89 years ago


Author , Lecturer, Sociologist


United States

Jane Addams

Laura Jane Addams was an American settlement activist, reformer, social worker, sociologist, public administrator and author. She was an important leader in the history of social work and women's suffrage in the United States and advocated for world peace. She co-founded Chicago's Hull House, one of America's most famous settlement houses. In 1910, Addams was awarded an honorary master of arts degree from Yale University, becoming the first woman to receive an honorary degree from the school. In 1920, she was a co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union .

In 1931, she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States. She was a radical pragmatist and the first woman "public philosopher" in the United States. When Addams died in 1935, she was the best-known female public figure in the United States.

Born in Cedarville, Illinois, Jane Addams was the youngest of eight children born into a prosperous northern Illinois family of English-American descent which traced back to colonial Pennsylvania. By the time Addams was eight, four of her siblings had died: three in infancy and one at age 16. In 1863, when Addams was two years old, her mother, Sarah Addams died while pregnant with her ninth child. Thereafter Addams was cared for mostly by her older sisters.

Addams spent her childhood playing outdoors, reading indoors, and attending Sunday school. When she was four she contracted tuberculosis of the spine, known as Potts's disease, which caused a curvature in her spine and lifelong health problems. This made it complicated as a child to function with the other children, considering she had a limp and could not run as well. As a child, she thought she was ugly and later remembered wanting not to embarrass her father, when he was dressed in his Sunday best, by walking down the street with him.

Jane Addams adored her father, John H. Addams, when she was a child, as she made clear in the stories in her memoir, Twenty Years at Hull House. He was a founding member of the Illinois Republican Party, served as an Illinois State Senator and supported his friend Abraham Lincoln in his candidacies for senator  and the presidency. He kept a letter from Lincoln in his desk, and Addams loved to look at it as a child. Her father was an agricultural businessman with large timber, cattle, and agricultural holdings; flour and timber mills and a wool factory. He was the president of The Second National Bank of Freeport. He remarried in 1868 when Addams was eight years old. His second wife was Anna Hosteler Haldeman, the widow of a miller in Freeport.

During her childhood, Addams had big dreams of doing something useful in the world. As a voracious reader, she became interested in the poor from her reading of Charles Dickens. Inspired by his works and by her own mother's kindness to the Cedarville poor, Addams decided to become a doctor so that she could live and work among the poor.

Books by Jane Addams

The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets  Cover image

The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets

History Political Science Non-Fiction
Youth Politics Culture Society Civil and Political Rights America Social Analysis Policies Labour

It is here presented in book form in the hope that it may prove of value to those groups of people who in many cities are making a gallant effort to minimize the dangers which surround young people and to provide them with opportunities for recreati...

Twenty Years at Hull House  Cover image

Twenty Years at Hull House

History Education political America Responsibility Historical Memory Communism United States

Hull House was a settlement house in Chicago, Illinois, United States that was co-founded in 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr. Located on the Near West Side of the city, Hull House (named after the original house's first owner Charles Jerald...

The Long Road Of Woman's Memory Cover image

The Long Road Of Woman's Memory

History Equality Gender America Feminism Empowerment Women's right Women's education Suffrage Independent Social Justice

It is the book that explores the history of women's rights in America. This book was first published in 1916 and has since become a classic in feminist literature. In this book, Addams shares her thoughts and experiences on women's suffrage, the str...