Jane Addams


Jane Addams was a pioneer in the field of social reform involved in the Settlement House Movement. She is most famous for founding Hull House and for being the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jane Addams, 1906, Portrait, NPG

Jane Addams. Image Source: National Portrait Gallery.

Essential Facts

  • Jane Addams was born into a prosperous Illinois family and was among the first college-educated women of her generation
  • She sought outlets for her talents beyond traditional roles like teaching or charitable volunteer work.
  • Addams helped found Hull House Settlement in Chicago (1889).
  • She was an advocate for progressive labor laws and social reforms.
  • Addams was active in politics, contributing to the Progressive Party’s platform.
  • She campaigned for women’s suffrage and world peace.
  • Addams co-founded the Woman’s Peace Party.
  • She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (1931).

Significance to American History

Jane Addams is important to American History for her contributions to social work, labor reform, and women’s rights, which significantly impacted American society. Her establishment of Hull House supported immigrants and the poor, and her advocacy for labor laws improved working conditions nationwide. As a political activist, Addams played a key role in shaping the social reforms of the Progressive Era. Her dedication to her work and peace earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Life and Career

Jane Addams rose to prominence during the Progressive Era and founded Hull House, a neighborhood center in Chicago designed to support poor urban residents. Addams was raised by her widowed father, a businessman and local political leader who valued education and encouraged her studies. 

Although she wanted to become a doctor, health issues with her spine forced her to abandon this path. After completing her college education, she traveled through Europe and was inspired by the efforts she witnessed in London to help the poor. 

Upon her return to the United States in 1889, Addams, along with her friend Ellen Gates Starr, established Hull House in a former suburban home of Charles J. Hull. By then, this area of Chicago’s Near West Side had become densely populated with immigrant families.

The Growth and Impact of Hull House

Addams intended to gain an understanding of the needs of the poor and to address them by directly engaging with them. Over time, Addams and the staff at Hull House developed various programs and activities, such as day nurseries, clubs, and lectures, to serve the community. 

Hull House, Exterior, 1906
Hull House. Image Source: Hull House Year Book, 1906-1907.

Support and Praise for Addams and Hull House

These efforts earned Addams praise from social commentators and philanthropists, allowing her to expand Hull House’s services:

  • Helen Culver, the heir of Charles Hull, gifted the mansion to Addams and contributed $50,000 to construct a building for boys on the grounds. 
  • Mary Rozet Smith, a close friend of Addams, became the largest financial supporter of Hull House. 
  • Local professionals, including University of Chicago philosophy professor John Dewey and lawyer Clarence Darrow, also provided support. 
  • Additional funding for salaries, buildings, and programs came from wealthy members of the Chicago Woman’s Club and the Chicago Kindergarten Association.
  • Investigative reporter and photographer Jacob Riis praised Addams for her work in his 1902 book, The Battle with the Slum.

The Expansion and Influence of Hull House

As the chief resident of Hull House, Jane Addams managed a large facility that grew to include 13 buildings. The campus offered a variety of facilities such as a playground, art gallery, gymnasium, swimming pool, library, employment bureau, labor museum, handicraft shops, and an apartment house for working girls. Over time, Hull House became the model for other Settlement Houses throughout the United States.

Establishment of Professional Social Work

Jane Addams’s work at Hull House brought her international recognition and established her as one of the founders of the professional field of Social Work. Her efforts were instrumental in the passage of progressive labor laws in the United States, including those for workmen’s compensation, improved working hours and wages for women, and the abolition of child labor. 

Addams and the Progressive Party

In addition to Social Work, Addams became actively involved in politics. She contributed significantly to the Progressive Party’s social reform platform, advocating for Woman Suffrage and better working conditions. 

In 1912, she campaigned in support of Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party’s candidate. Her efforts helped Roosevelt, however, he finished second in the Election of 1912 to the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson.

Political Activist and Author

As World War I approached, Addams campaigned for world peace and co-founded the Woman’s Peace Party.

Beyond her activism, Addams was a prolific writer, publishing numerous articles and books, including her autobiography, interpretations of immigrant life, and philosophical works on democracy.

Nobel Peace Prize

During the 1910s and 1920s, many Americans viewed Jane Addams’s pacifism as unpatriotic, leading to criticism and expulsion from organizations like the Daughters of the American Revolution.

However, her reputation was restored when she became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee commended her for her 25-year effort to promote peace among Americans and globally.


  • 1860 — Jane Addams was born in Cedarville, Illinois.
  • 1881–1882 — Graduated from Rockford Female Seminary with a B.A.
  • 1889 — Founded Hull House settlement in Chicago with Ellen Gates Starr.
  • 1909-1910 — Served as the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections.
  • 1912 — Campaigned for Theodore Roosevelt.
  • 1919 — Founded the International Congress of Women, The Hague, and became the first president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
  • 1931 — Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • 1935 — Jane Addams died in Chicago.



Jane Addams was a pioneering social worker, activist, and reformer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She co-founded Hull House in Chicago in 1889, one of the first Settlement Houses in the United States. Addams was a key figure in the Settlement House Movement, and an advocate for the rights of immigrants, women, and children. Her efforts contributed to social reform, public health, and women’s suffrage.


Jane Addams is part of the following in the APUSH curriculum:


These terms and definitions are relevant to the life and career of Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House and Pioneer of Social Reform.


  • Helen Culver — Heir of Charles Hull who donated the mansion and funds to Hull House.
  • Clarence Darrow — A reform lawyer who contributed to Hull House.
  • John Dewey — A philosophy professor at the University of Chicago who supported Hull House.
  • Charles Hull — Original owner of the house that became Hull House.
  • Florence Kelley — Head of the National Consumers’ League and a prominent social reformer associated with Hull House.
  • Theodore Roosevelt — The 26th President of the United States who was supported by Jane Addams during his 1912 presidential campaign.
  • Mary Rozet Smith — A close friend of Jane Addams and the largest financial contributor to Hull House.
  • Ellen Gates Starr — Jane Addams’ friend and co-founder of Hull House.
  • Jacob Riis — An investigative reporter and photographer known for his work on urban poverty.


  • Progressive Era — A period of widespread social activism and political reform in the United States from the 1890s to the 1920s.
  • Settlement House Movement — A movement during the Progressive Era that was driven by groups of young people who wanted to provide services to poor urban communities.


  • Apartment House for Working Girls — A residential facility provided by Hull House for young working women.
  • Art Gallery — A space for displaying and appreciating art.
  • Gymnasium — A facility for physical exercise and sports.
  • Handicraft Shops — Workshops where people could learn and practice crafting skills.
  • Hull House — A Settlement House in Chicago established by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr to provide social services to immigrants.
  • Labor Museum — A museum focused on the history and conditions of labor.
  • Library — A place where books and other materials for reading and research are available.
  • Playground — An outdoor area for children to play.
  • Swimming Pool — A facility for swimming.


  • Chicago Kindergarten Association — An organization that supported educational initiatives, including those at Hull House.
  • Chicago Woman’s Club — A group of affluent women who supported various charitable causes, including Hull House.
  • Employment Bureau — A service that helps people find jobs.
  • Progressive Party — A political party in the United States that advocated for social reform in the early 20th century.
  • Woman’s Peace Party — An organization founded by Jane Addams and others to promote peace and oppose World War I.


  • Autobiography — A person’s life story written by themselves.
  • Child Labor — The practice of employing children in any form of work.
  • Equal Suffrage — The right of all citizens to vote, regardless of gender or race.
  • Fraternity Among Nations — The promotion of brotherhood and mutual support between countries.
  • Immigrant — A person who moves to another country for permanent residence.
  • Labor Laws — Laws that regulate the conditions and rights of workers.
  • Nobel Peace Prize — A prestigious international award given annually to individuals or groups who have made significant contributions to peace.
  • Pacifism — The belief in and advocacy for peaceful resolutions to conflicts rather than using violence or war.
  • Patriotism — Love for or devotion to one’s country.
  • Social Reform — Efforts to improve society by addressing issues such as poverty, education, and workers’ rights.
  • Social Work — A professional field focused on helping individuals, families, and communities to enhance their well-being.
  • Woman Suffrage — The right of women to vote in elections.
  • Workmen’s Compensation — A form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Jane Addams
  • Date 1860–1935
  • Author
  • Keywords Jane Addams, Who was Jane Addams, What did Jane Addams do, When did Jane Addams start Hull House, Where did Jane Addams work, Why did Jane Addams start Hull House, How did Jane Addams contribute to the establishment of professional Social Work
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 22, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 2, 2024