Once again, Google has stepped up to the plate and included a woman in their series. This time, they’re honoring the 153rd birthday of activist, social reformer, scholar, philosopher, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams.
Addams was born on September 6, 1860, in rural Illinois. She spent much of her young life pursuing wide-ranging education and travel, including formal study of medicine. Addams’ career truly got its start in 1889 when she co-founded the U.S.’s first settlement house. These facilities were part of an international social movement to provide social services and cultural influence in low-income regions. Hull House, opened in Chicago by Adams and Ellen Gates Starr, offered educational programs, medical services, and networking opportunities, and has since been designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
Addams and the Hull House community of residents soon became involved in the wider world of social reform, leveraging their social insight and successful programs to spur change at the city and state level. For instance, Addams advocated for children’s rights to education and a juvenile court system, for sanitation and building codes to protect the urban poor, and for women as leaders and beneficiaries of civic change. She leveraged and built relationships that would help her further her goals of understanding and improving conditions in working class Chicago, including serving on the city’s Board of Education. Over time, Hull House grew and expanded to include such facilities as a gym, public playground, daycare center, summer camp, dining hall, and kindergarten.
In addition to her work at Hull House, Addams was a co-founder of the Progressive Party along with Theodore Roosevelt, served as the president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and was a charter member of the American Sociological Society. She traveled and lectured widely. Addams saw social justice and the peace movement as inextricably linked components of a progressive, public philosophy.
Together, her work in these two fields prompted her win of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. She was the first American woman honored with that prize. To this day, she is regarded as one of the great thinkers and actors of the Progressive Era.