Jane Addams Essay

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Jane Addams made important contributions to education, sociology, social work, human rights, and labor reform based on knowledge gained through activism in these areas. She was cofounder of Hull House, an 1891 social settlement established in Chicago. Like many well-educated progressives of her era, Addams believed that living in a community with the poor was the best way to work with them to address negative consequences of living in poverty. Even though Addams believed education could alleviate poverty, she was critical of esoteric aims for education. She focused on tying education to community needs by offering classes at Hull House in areas such as literacy, health, nutrition, the arts, and education for the trades.

Whereas Addams was heralded as a saint for her work with poor and immigrant communities, she was criticized heavily for efforts toward other social causes reflecting the humanitarian perspective that pervaded her thoughts and actions. She worked with John Dewey to promote progressive education and joined W. E. B. Du Bois as one of the many cofounders of the NAACP. Addams was among the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union, a proponent of women’s suffrage, and a pacifist who campaigned against World War I. She was also involved in economic reform and children’s rights, based on her disdain for the exploitation of workers.

Addams was a prolific writer, Twenty Years at Hull-House With Autobiographical Notes (1910) being one of her best-known works. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, four years before her death.


  1. Lasch, C. (Ed.). (1965). The social thought of Jane Addams. New York: Bobbs-Merrill.

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