Jane Addams was a pacifist, becoming involved with peace movements as early as 1898, according to Cimbala and Miller in Against the Tide: Women Reformers in American Society. She opposed the involvement of the United States in World War I and was deeply involved in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
Jane Addams was a prolific writer. Elshtain, in Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life, provides a list of books written by Jane Addams, including Democracy and Social Ethics (1902); Newer Ideals of Peace (1907); The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (1909); Twenty Years at Hull House (1910); A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil (1912); Women at the Hague: The International Congress of Women and Its Results (1915), which was co-authored with two other women; The Long Road of Women's Memory (1916); Peace and Bread in Time of War (1922); The Second Twenty Years at Hull House: September 1909 to September 1929 with a Record of Growing Consciousness (1930); The Excellent Becomes the Permanent (1932); My Friend, Julia Lathrop (1935); and Forty Years at Hull House (1935). Elshtain reports that, in addition to Addams' long list of published books, she also wrote more than 500 essays, editorials, columns in periodicals, and speeches.
The breadth of Jane Addams' achievements was explored in describing her personal background, ideals, and writings. Perhaps the list of "Hull House firsts" furnished by Elshtain in Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life (xix) provides the greatest insight into the depth and impact of her work. These "firsts" include the first social settlement, the first public baths, the first public playground, the first public gymnasium, the first public swimming pool, the first little theater in the United States, the first classes for preparing for citizenship in the United States, the first public kitchen, the first college extension courses, the first group work school, the first loan program for paintings and free art exhibits, the first fresh-air school, and the first Boy Scout troop. She also initiated the first exploratory investigations into wide ranging issues involving truancy, typhoid fever, cocaine, children's reading, newsboys, sanitation, tuberculosis, midwifery, infant mortality, and the social value of the saloon. She initiated investigations which later produced the first model for a tenement code and provided support for establishment of several labor unions. Except where noted, the foregoing achievements were firsts for the city of Chicago.
Jane Addams' legacy has been sullied by several factors including, as stated earlier, her opposition to the entry of the United States into World War I. According to Elshtain, in "Jane Addams and the Social Claim," the government's New Deal welfare programs replaced Addams' settlement house concept. Settlement houses that were left were changed significantly. In Creating the American State: The Moral Reformers and the Modern Administrative World They Made, Stillman provides additional insight into the fate of settlement houses. He writes that from the 1930s to the 1960s, the country established federal social insurance programs that were usually under-funded, were diminished in relative importance as they were subordinated to other programs, were administered in a poor fashion, and did not exhibit comprehensive approaches for challenges posed by family issues. Elshtain, again in "Jane Addams and the Social Claim," writes that Addams' anti-war, pacifist views were considered to be naive as the United States was in conflict with Nazi and Soviet tyrannies. Her desire to help immigrants was attacked by people who harbored hostilities against those from other lands. And some criticized her for her efforts to "homogenize" cultures rather than demonstrating respect for multiculturalism.
In the introductory comments, Jane Addams was described as a pioneer in social work, an active opponent of war, and a driver of reforms in politics and education during the last quarter of the nineteenth and first quarter of the twentieth centuries, and the comment was made that many of the social problems she fought so fiercely to overcome still exist today. Societal challenges in the United States at the start of the twenty-first century are not all that different from those Addams confronted a century ago: increasing numbers of families falling into poverty, declining morality, increasing militarism by the United States such as that being exhibited in Iraq and Afghanistan, and increasingly negative views of immigrants. Perhaps a return to and revitalization of Jane Addams' ideals would be of value in achieving positive social change today.
Addams, Jane. The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1909, 8.
Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1910. Quoted in Stillman, 1998.
Cimbala, Paul A., and Miller, Randall M. Against the Tide: Women Reformers in American Society. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1997.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life. New York: Basic Books, 2002, xxii…