Jane Addams The Women Fighting For Change In America

1890s, a time period in which the United States started entering the Progressive Era, in which the movement focused on eliminating certain problems such as industrialization, urbanization, and government corruption in the nation. Many immigrants were entering the United States hoping to live the American dream but would find opportunities for jobs really hard and majority of the immigrants were living in tenements, which were housings that were in terrible condition, with no clean water and electricity. Families who had jobs were working twelve hour shifts and with the low wages they were making, their children would also work in order to support the families to pay their landlords and to provide food on the table.

Factory workers during the Progressive Era
Statistics showing the increase of immigrants moving to the United States from 1880-1930 during the Progressive Era

Historical Context

Chicago, Illinois 1889, A women activist by the name of Jane Addams rose up when she opened up Hull House in which it provided different activities such as education and organized events to help fight women's rights. Inspired by her visit to Toynbee Hall in London with her friend Ellen Gates Starr, she witnessed how the poorest neighborhood provided educational and recreational programs and how the whole community came together to help out. She believed that it would be a great idea to bring that similar vision over to the United States and place Hull House in the poorest part of Chicago.

As a women activist, Jane Addams believed that women deserved the same equal opportunity as men and be treated equally. Women were only known as the ones who would stay at home and clean. She wanted women suffrage to come to an end as she felt that women should have the right to vote as well. Women started to play a big role during the Great War as they stepped in jobs that required them to create enough fire power and ammunition to ensure a victory for the Americans.

Women holding up a sign to let women vote
Propaganda poster that shows that women can also do what men can do

As Hull House was building it's reputation, many questioned who Jane Addams was. Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860 in Cedarville, Illinois to a high middle class and evangelical Christian household in which she lost her mother at the age of two and half years old due to internal bleeding. Her father, John Addams was a very well known businessman and politician. Addams was inspired by her father as he was once an Illinois state senator. As a young girl, Addams found passion in reading and would read books, in which her first ever book would be a private collection from her father in a public library in Cedarville that focused on history and Christianity.

John Addams the father of Jane Addams

(3:19-5:19) The video above gives a brief documentary of Jane Addams and her fight for equality for women. Although it wasn't easy for her to achieve she would gain recognition by receiving the Noble Peace Prize and would be one of founders of the Women's Peace Party (WPP).

Although Jane Addams focused on equality for women she also fought for child labor and poverty. Addams believed that education was the main priority for children as they were working 12 hour shifts around dangerous machines. Kids as young as age ten were already working and by having the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), It will help people realize the terrible conditions children are going through by working around machines that can cause them harm everyday. The other topic was poverty in which many people were unemployed, especially the immigrants. Addams wanted the world to notice the conditions the lower class people were living in as the tenements weren't the most sanitary places. Many families were in one small room where the conditions were horrific and catching a disease was common.

Statistics showing how kids from the age of 10-14 years old were working between 1870-1930

As Jane Addams became well known towards others and many people looked up to her, she would give speeches about different situations that she was focusing on. One in particular though sparked a controversy where Addams wanted to express her opinions on World War 1 in which the country entered the war in 1914. When she expressed that she was against the United States entering the war, many people started to question her patriotism where the press started to attack her and she would then be expelled from the Daughter of the American Revolution, an organization that focused on women who were descended from a person involved in the United State's struggle for independence.

(0:57-2:57) This video gives more information about Jane Addams and how times were like during the Progressive Era as many immigrants were moving in to United States as technology was advancing, how Jane Addams wanted to find a way to help the poor and how she would invite speakers such as John Dewey and Susan B. Anthony to Hull House to give public lectures.

As Addams was giving lectures across the world and her popularity rose, The time came when she would stop giving out many public lecture starting in 1926. She was extremely ill and was not feeling well at all. She suffered a heart attack and once she received help, she never fully recovered. Her health kept causing her problems as she would then be sent to the hospital on December 10,1931 the same day she was going to receive her Nobel Peace Prize. Then on May 18, 1935 an operation showed that Jane Addams was diagnosed with cancer and three days later she would pass away on May 21, 1936. Her funeral was held in Hull House and she would then be buried in Cedarville, her hometown when her journey all started.

In conclusion, Jane Addams was a leader who fought for what she believed was right and wanted to see a change in America. With many people criticizing her and her ideas she never gave up and proved that she can end women suffrage by giving women the right to vote after the 19th Amendment was signed on August 18, 1920. She help end child labor after the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938 in which the minimum age to get a job is 16 years old. Overall, Jane Addams is one of the many reason our country has changed for the better.

Jane Addams burial site located in Cedarville Cemetery

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