Monday, September 06, 2010

Jane Addams: The Great Lady of Halsted Street

When Jane Addams co-founded Chicago's Hull House in 1889 with her life's companion Ellen Gates Starr, it would have been a rarity. Indeed, it was one of the first settlement houses in the United States, which facilities were slightly more common in England.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFirstly, for any charitable outreach to not be tied to some church or other must have seemed strange, not least of all to its recipients. Secondly, the array of services offered there would have easily outshone the 'soup and sermon' approach favoured by churches in their treatment of poverty. Hull House attended to the social, artistic, and educational needs of its clients, as well as their economic woes.

It is highly unlikely that Jane Addams imagined poverty was either a result of sin or fore-ordained by some hierarchical deity. Approaching the problem sociologically, she seems to have realized that a lack of education, first and foremost, was to blame for much suffering, be it poverty, substance abuse, or crime.

A certain committee in Sweden must have concurred, because in 1935 they awarded Jane Addams the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with America's settlement houses, which by 1920 numbered more than 500 in the US alone.

Born on this day in 1860, Jane Addams died in May 1935.
share on: facebook

No comments: