Jane Addams Term Paper

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Jane Addams should be based on her position as a leading light of her times. She was born in 1860 at Cedarville, in Illinois on 6th of September. She became a graduate from Rockford Female Seminary in 1881 and became a graduate only the year after when the institution was recognized as a College. Her father passed away in 1881, and she was not successful at Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania left her depressed and aimless for some years. She went to Europe for the period from 1883 to 1885 but did not choose a suitable vocation. This also happened due her stay in Baltimore from 1885 to 1887. (Addams, Jane (1860-1935), Social Reformer) Yet she was aware of the needs of helping persons who were in a worse situation than she was as she had enough experiences of meeting the vagaries of nature. Her mother passed away when she was two and she herself was infected with tuberculosis which left her with a deformed spine. These incidents probably gave her an inherent sympathy for disadvantaged people. (Jane Addams of Hull House)

After her trips to Europe she returned with a classmate from her Rockford days, Ellen Gates Starr. During her visit to Europe, she had visited the Toynbee Hall settlement house in East End of London as that had been set up in 1884. This visit cleared her own mind regarding what she wanted to do. This made the two women decided to settle down in Chicago on their return. Slowly they moved into the half broken down house by September 1889 which had been built by Charles Hull in 1856 and was accordingly called the Hull house. This building was surrounded by a large immigrant population but it was developed by them and finally had 13 buildings and a playground. They also developed a summer camp in Wisconsin. The location gained fame and residents -- Julia Lathrop, Florence Kelley, Grace and Edith Abbott. All the residents were involved in arts while helping Addams in other activities. (Addams, Jane (1860-1935), Social Reformer)

Gradually the importance of social work was being recognized and became a course for charity workers. Addams however continued on her own path by providing help to those in need with temporary shelter, food and medical services. This was the form of social help in that age. (Historical Perspectives of Human Services) She had understood that creation of institutions for correcting the ills of a society suffering from the troubles of an industrial society were not enough. It was more important to stop the ills from happening. This led her to the path of pushing correct labor laws, creation of the juvenile court system, set up playgrounds in schools, try for the enforcement of housing and immigration laws, establish women's suffrage, and try for the protection of immigrants and so on. (Jane Addams: www.teaching.com)

The facilities at Hull house also continued developing and included a day nursery, gymnasium, community kitchen, and a boarding club for working girls. It also had college level courses for girls, and facilities for training in art, music and crafts like bookbinding. They also sponsored one of the little theatre groups of that time. All these facilities were for the immigrant population who stayed in the area. The importance of social workers was recognized by them through training of social workers. The attempts of Addams for setting up the first juvenile court, regulation for tenement houses factory inspection, worker's compensation and eight hour working day for continued simultaneously. (Addams, Jane (1860-1935), Social Reformer)

The importance of these efforts can be easily understood when one remembers the slums of Chicago of those days. Even children of 14 were in the factories! Younger children were sent to work at home through help to parents in preparation of clothes to be sold. The conditions of these workplaces were very bad and they were named as the sweatshops. Addams wanted better conditions for the workers there. She met a lot of opposition from the factory owners, politicians, and even the parents of some of the children as the income of the children was helping the parents with the family, it went to the level where a manufacturers association offered the group $50,000 for stopping the attempt for a sweatshop bill. Addams was ready to close down Hull hose before accepting a bribe. Her efforts were rewarded with Illinois passing a workshop and factories bill in 1893 which stopped minors from working. The juvenile court of Chicago was instituted in 1893, and part of the reason was Addams. This was the first such court in the country and the juvenile court tried the young offenders. When found guilty they were placed under probation officers or to a detention center. The first probation officers came from Hull house staff. (Jane Addams of Hull House)

As a lady of that time, she achieved a lot as she became the first woman president of the National Conference of Social Work, and in 1912 she was an active participant in the presidential campaign of Theodore Roosevelt. In 1915 she became the chairman of the International Congress for Women and also took active part in the establishment of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She was actively involved in the first stages of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. She was the joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1931. Yet a lot of her work has now shifted from Hull hose as the University of Illinois established the Chicago campus there in 1963. The original Hull residence still exists as a memorial to this indomitable lady. She was also a good writer and among the books she wrote are Democracy and Social Ethics in 1902, Newer Ideals of Peace in 1907, Twenty Years at Hull-House in 1910, and The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House in 1930. (Addams, Jane (1860-1935), Social Reformer)

Her efforts were clearly directed at removal of the main reasons for poverty and for changes to legal systems which hurt the exploited. The legislation that she tried to introduce was again for the people generally viewed as helpless -- immigrants, workers in factories, children, labor unions, industrial safety and so on. These are a part of the society today. It has been demonstrated by her that social ills cannot be treated without fighting the causes. Her ultimate aim was to form a civil society. (Building a Culture of Advocacy in Nonprofit Organizations) Are we there even today?

Another important question to ask is the advantages that she had. The place from where she started the movement had been a home. Yet this home did not match to the traditional concept of a lady's place being at home, as these ladies were not of that type. It was private, but not shut down in its own privacy. Instead it felt the society to be its home and this started with expansion into the neighborhood and even beyond. The aim was to find out social reform as a part of settlement and give familial love, neighborliness, and management of the house. At the same time, she was a moral person, and this led her to live the life of a Christ, but not only talk about the truths of Christianity. She did not think that piety could be practiced without living it in real life and for her Christianity itself was secular. This was somewhat like the true democracy of early church. She rejected political social propaganda and this is probably a part of her as a feminist. (A View of Jane Addams' Hull House as a Feminist Initiative)

When there were economic discussions at the Hull house, she clearly showed that she did not political theories. She felt that such discussions were not related to practical operation and did not also give any ideas as to how the changes will come from the present conditions. Remember that at that time, theorizing was still dominated a lot by men and the exceptions were only ladies like Harriet Martineau and Margaret Fuller. She also felt that science should be the guide for social reform as the requirement was to seek the transformation of an industrial society to a society that will seek public good. Yet she did not forget the importance of social values which had to be taken into account in all changes. (A View of Jane Addams' Hull House as a Feminist Initiative)

She also realized the problems of America which had lost a common identity due to the civil war and led to a deep division in thinking within the country. The effects of industrial revolution led to a large difference between those who benefited from industrialization and those who had to work like slaves was also known to her. There was also a disdain for the Negroes who had come in but their labor was very important for the development of the country. The working class had conflicts with the concept of college going young…[continue]

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