International Women’s Day: Revisiting Jane Addams

International Women’s Day: Revisiting Jane Addams

Twitters is alive today with tweets about International Women’s Day.

Since I hadn’t heard of it before, I looked it up to see what’s it’s about. Each country or organization can choose it’s own theme to focus on to celebrate women. The United Nations theme for 2011 is this:

Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women

As I thought about what I could do to participate in celebrating women today and fit the theme, I thought of one incredible woman I read about a year and a half ago: Jane Addams.

Jane Addams didn’t only help women: she helped all the poor immigrants in need. But she shows to me how one woman can make a different for many people. I think her story is worth remembering on this day celebrating women. Below I have an excerpt from my post on Jane Addams, and a link to the full post about her incredible work.

Jane Addams was born shortly before the Civil War to a privileged family in rural Illinois. After graduating from Rockford College, Addams determined to “live with the poor” (page 44). In the coming decades and for the remainder of her life, Addams was an influential leader for Chicago social reform. Beyond her leadership, though, Addams was a friend to thousands of poor immigrants in the Chicago slums.

Twenty Years at Hull-House is Jane Addams’ autobiography until about 1910, a chronicle of the various reforms she brought to life and some of the things that changed the lives of the immigrants (9,000 a year). Hull-House was a non-political, non-religious haven for those that had no other advocate in a busy city. The story is remarkable.

Twenty Years of Hull-House is not written in chronological order (except for the first few chapters covering her childhood) but rather in topical order.  In places, the text did become dry when it discussed people, philosophies, and economic issues I was unfamiliar with. But reading a more difficult book was well worth the effort for me. In a sense, it opened my eyes to the plight of the poor. While the issues have changed in the past 100 years, I believe that the underlying isolation that comes with poverty or immigration is still pertinent today. I liked reading this book both for the historical value and for the interesting perspective of hands-on social work.

Keep reading about Twenty Years at Hull House >>>