Jane Addams was the daughter of one of Illinois’ richest men, but instead of leading a life of leisure, she dedicated her life to aiding the urban poor. She struggled to make the ideal of civic equality embodied in the Declaration of Independence a reality. She sought to assimilate the immigrant poor into American society and became a pioneer social worker. In 1889, Addams and a friend, Ellen Starr, established Hull House in Chicago, Illinois. which offered classes in cooking, hygiene, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Addams’ example inspired more than 400 other settlement houses around the country.

From Hull House, Addams tirelessly campaigned for an end to sweat shops and a ban on child labor. She convinced many professors at the University of Chicago to produce empirical, social scientific data. She advocated an eight-hour day and legal protections for immigrants, and called for compulsory education, women’s suffrage, and improved sanitation. She also sought to organize unions for female workers, establish a state bureau to inspect factories, and create the nation’s first juvenile court. She helped create the career of the social worker. Her memoir, Twenty Years at Hull House, was a best seller when it appeared in 1910. But in 1915, public opinion began to turn against her when she founded the Women’s Peace Party, an international organization dedicated to waging “a women’s war against” World War I. Elected president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919, she opposed the peace treaty ending the war as vindictive. In 1931, four years before her death, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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