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Jane Addams' Significance in History and Education

Updated on December 31, 2016
Diane Lockridge profile image

Lockridge holds an EdS in Curriculum and Instruction, an MS in Elementary Education, and a BA in History. She also homeschools her children.

Jane Addams helped women and the poor overcome their social status through educating them at her Hull House.

Source

What Addam's Is Most Noted For:

Jane Addams founded the Hull House in Chicago in the year 1889, with the purpose statement “Aid in the solutions of life in a great city, to help our neighbors build responsible, self-sufficient lives for themselves and their families”. Jane Addams established the Hull House upon three basic principles:

1) In order to make a change you must live where you work so that you better understand the problems of the people.

2) Everyone should be treated equally with respect.

3) Poverty and the lack of opportunity bread ignorance.

Addams' Biographical Information:

Addams was born into a family of wealth and affluence, where her culture and upbringing made her believe that her class was superior to others without an advanced education. After touring Europe and visiting the Toynbee Hall, where educated people lived among and helped the poor, she created and ran the Hull House, along with her friend Ellen Gates Star. The Hull House was the first kind of “settlement” house in the United States.

Addams created the Hull House, as a way to help reform and educate groups that would not normally have access to quality education, she called this a “cooperative experiment”. In addition to the Hull House, Addams was also known for her help in reform groups such as the Women’s’ International League for Peace and Freedom.

Life and Work of Jane Addams

Addams' Biographical Information:

Addams was born into a family of wealth and affluence, where her culture and upbringing made her believe that her class was superior to others without an advanced education. After touring Europe and visiting the Toynbee Hall, where educated people lived among and helped the poor, she created and ran the Hull House, along with her friend Ellen Gates Star. The Hull House was the first kind of “settlement” house in the United States.

Addams created the Hull House, as a way to help reform and educate groups that would not normally have access to quality education, she called this a “cooperative experiment”. In addition to the Hull House, Addams was also known for her help in reform groups such as the Women’s’ International League for Peace and Freedom.

Addams' Beliefs on Education:

According to Siegfried Addams suggested that educators work with others to promote a change in attitude and habits and she did just that by working and living with the people she was most concerned. She believed in citizenship for everyone, regardless of class or color, and worked towards this goal through education and the public school movement. According to Deegan, Addams “dedicated her life to make this liberty a reality, particularly for the poor, women, laborers, children the elderly, and African Americans”. Advanced education, she believed, would cause people to be better citizens and more concerned with democracy. Nonviolence through education and citizenship eventually helped turn people’s opinions of women and other underprivileged persons in society.

Addams' Historical/Political Context:

The educated people in Addams’ social circles looked down on the poor because they believed they were perceived to be ignorant, disease-ridden and morally corrupt, notes the Jane Addams Hull House Association. Looking past their problems, Addams created the Hull House to work with the people who would need the assistance the most. Addams was considered a progressive for her forward-thinking ideas on education.

Addam's Beliefs on Education:

According to Siegfried, Addams suggested that educators work with others to promote a change in attitude and habits and she did just that by working and living with the people she was most concerned. She believed in citizenship for everyone, regardless of class or color, and worked towards this goal through education and the public school movement. According to Deegan, Addams “dedicated her life to make this liberty a reality, particularly for the poor, women, laborers, children the elderly, and African Americans”. Advanced education, she believed, would cause people to be better citizens and more concerned with democracy. Nonviolence through education and citizenship eventually helped turn people’s opinions of women and other underprivileged persons in society.

Addams' Impact on Education:

Although Addams originally thought the Hull House would help women who wanted to be more than homemakers, she eventually developed other social services such as a theater, day nursery, boys’ club, as well a kindergarten program. A common philosophy of modern education was to create people who were loyal to their country and supportive of the democratic process, which is what Addams promoted through her Hull House. Her works toward peaceful coexistence and work with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, eventually lead her to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

“Addams merged citizenship, democracy, nonviolence and education into one argument” notes Deegan, who stressed the importance of citizenship because only educated citizens could fully realize their potential worth to society, and tend to “follow and renew the customs of their communities and the laws of their states”.

Jane Addams' Hull House

Criticism/Critiques on Addams'

Addams was criticized by her contemporaries because of her work with women in the African American communities. Conversely, Siegfried notes that Dewey called upon the Hull house as “his model of an ideal community” because of the cooperation between the different societal classes; Addams both exposed the differences in social strata while enabling them to coexist together.

By working and living with the people she wanted to help in the slums of Chicago, Addams exhibited a form of servant leadership. She showed genuine interest in their plight and showed that she was not above this situation and could see beyond people’s circumstances to their value as a human being.

References

Deegan, M.J. (2010). Jane addams on citizenship in a democracy. Journal of Classical Sociology, 10 (3), 217- 238. doi: 10.1177/1468795X10371714

Encyclopedia of World Biographies. (2011). Jane addams. Retrieved on Aug 25, 2011 from http://www.notablebiographies.com/A-An/Addams-Jane.html

Gross, M. (2009). Collaborative experiments: Jane addams, hull house and experimental social work. Social Science Information, 48, 81-95. doi: 10.1177/0539018408099638

Gutek, G. (1995). A history of the western education experience. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press Inc.

Knight, L.W. (2006). Changing my mind: an encounter with jane addams. Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, 26 (1), 97-102. doi: 10.1177/0886109905283138

Pfannkoch, T. (2010). Jane Addams. Cobblestone, 31(1). Retrieved September 7, 2011, from 360 Link.

Siegfried, C. (1999). Socializing democracy: Jane addams and john dewey. Philosophy Of the Social Sciences, 29, 207-320. doi: 10.1177/004839319902900203

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    • Debbie Cordwell profile image

      Debbie Cordwell 

      15 months ago

      Really interesting article. Thank you.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      4 years ago from Auburn, WA

      I had known about Hull House and heard the name Jane Addams, but knew nothing else. Thx for such an informative piece. Voted up.

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