Last time we featured Nobel Prize winner Jane Addams who founded the world famous social settlement Hull House on Chicago’s Near West Side.
She is a fascinating person to study because there are so many lessons to be learned from her life and work.
The first lesson is an important one: it is the power of one! The power of one person to bring about change that improve the lives of many others. While Jane had some advantages over other women of her time, she was educated and of a financially-comfortable family, she was still only a woman at a time when women were not expected to be more than wives and mothers. Yet she managed to make her dreams come true and spread her message throughout the world.
Lesson 2: Don’t let reality get in your way! The reality of Jane’s young womanhood could have gotten in the way of her achievements. She was not physically strong or healthy yet she persevered and overcame her physical challenges. She was a woman when that gender?s life-role was limited and yet she reached beyond the boundaries of expectations. She and her family did not personally have the money to achieve her goals so she pursued it and made her dream come true.
Lesson 3: Don’t let failure get you down! It is interesting that her greatest achievements came only after she failed to become a doctor as she?d hoped. For many people that would have meant the end of being different. Many other women of her time would have given up and married or simply stayed home to lead a quiet life. Instead, Jane went out to find another way she could make a difference in the world?and found it!
Lesson 4: Dream big! It is amazing to look at the scope of Jane?s achievements with Hull House. She and her friends were only young women with no management experience and yet they started, developed, and ran an enterprise such as the Hull House on a very large scale. By its second year of existence more than 2,000 people a week were visiting the Settlement House. Eventually, Hull House came to include 13 buildings and became one of the largest institutions of its kind in the United States. This was only possible because Jane refused to limit the size and scope of her dreams.
Lesson 5: The power of why not! Because she did not accept the status quo, because she challenged existing systems, Jane was able to achieve and/or incite powerful changes in her world. Some of the projects initiated from Hull-House include the Immigrants’ Protective League, the Juvenile Protective Association, the first juvenile court in the nation, and a Juvenile Psychopathic Clinic (later called the Institute for Juvenile Research) as well as protective legislation for women and children including a strong child labor law and an accompanying compulsory education law. This reach extended to the national level with the creation of the Federal Children’s Bureau in 1912 and the passage of a federal child labor law in 1916.
Lesson 6: Get your hands dirty! Jane did not consider any area beneath her notice. If it impacted the lives of the people she was trying to help then she got involved. This led her to investigate areas as diverse as midwifery, narcotics consumption, milk supplies, and sanitary conditions, even going so far as to accept the official post of garbage inspector of the Nineteenth Ward. These issues are still troubling many people today however at the time it was revolutionary for a woman of good family to trouble herself with these topics.
Lesson 7: Inspire others! Jane did not spend all her time and energy working solely on her own projects. She constantly strove to encourage and help others to foster still more positive programs. She was an active writer and speaker but also founded the Chicago Federation of Settlements and helped establish the National Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers. She also actively supported the campaign for woman suffrage and the founding of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Lesson 8: Stand up for what you believe! Jane was a strong advocate for World Peace and continually wrote, spoke, and worked to achieve this end. She belonged to many world peace organizations and served in a leadership role. She also took an active stance against war which was often unpopular and brought attacks on her character and work. Although opposed to the war, she worked as an assistant to Herbert Hoover during World War I by providing relief supplies of food to the women and children of the enemy nations. As a result of her work, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
Jane Addams was a fascinating woman whose interesting life and work touched many people throughout the world. Many of her achievements are still impacting lives for the better today. Learn more by visiting the Jane Addams Hull House Museum Web Site at http://www.uic.edu/jaddams/hull/hull_house.html.
Copyright 2004 Dawggone Communications