Affordable housing and health care. Quality education and youth development. The realization of full rights and participation in society for those new to our country.
These are issues you champion in your mission-driven work every day.
And National Women’s History Month is all about acknowledging the stories of people like you. So today’s #WomenWednesday blog recognizes a woman dedicated to all these issues and more – before she even enjoyed the right to vote herself!
“How we might collectively create a better world…”
Born to a life of comparative privilege in 1860, Jane Addams was part of the first generation of women in the U.S. to attend university. But Addams forged a unique path after receiving her education.
Addams visited the Toynbee Hall settlement house in London with her friend Ellen G. Starr. There they witnessed a new approach to making social change: a center that brought future leaders face to face with poverty in the hopes of inspiring dialogue and practical social reform to improve life for all.
The visit inspired the friends to lease a large home built by Charles Hull in Chicago, in order to create “a center for higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.”
Hull House: A Model Settlement House
Addams and Starr moved into the Hull House in 1889 and began listening to the concerns of local residents who were largely Italian, Irish, German, Greek, and Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants. Soon they were offering kindergarten and daycare facilities to support working women, as well as English and citizenship classes, and creating meeting spaces for trade unions.
Beyond offering social services, Addams and those affiliated with Hull House worked tirelessly for protective legislation, which eventually resulted in the passage of a federal child labor law in 1916.
The Institute for Social Entrepreneurs even calls Addams’ Hull House the “forerunner of non-profit social enterprise” – pointing to the settlement’s public kitchen selling soups and stews, coal cooperative and book bindery that supported the work of Hull House!
Suffrage, Reform and Peace
Addams’ work for social change spanned a number of sectors, earning her the title “mother of American social work.”
She was also the first vice president of the National American Suffrage Association and helped found the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. She founded the Women’s Peace Party and served as the president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for ten years, and actively supported the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
For all this and more, Jane Addams was the first American woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
A Woman’s Legacy: Inspiring Changemakers Everywhere
Hull House still stands in Chicago, now a living memorial to Addams and the reform movement. The Hull House Museum still promotes social and civic engagement on the issues you care about like labor, education, women’s and children’s rights, and immigration.
This National Women’s History Month, we here at CiTTA are so inspired to learn more about the mission-driven work of women. And we’re always honored to work with clients engaged with issues that inspired Jane Addams years ago!
Keep checking back for more inspiration throughout Women’s History Month!