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Jane Addams

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Jane Addams, which was also known as Laura Jane Addams was born to John Huey Addams and Sarah Addams in Illinois. She had eight siblings. (6) Her father was a prosperous miller and local political leader who served for sixteen years as a state senator and fought as an officer in the Civil War. (2) He also founded the Illinois Republican Party, and between 1855 and 1870, he was the Illinois State Senator. As a child, she went to Sunday school and spent most of her time playing and reading. This political activist was also an avid reader. Jane Addams was affected by tuberculosis of the spine when she was four years old. She developed a curve in her spine, and consequent lifelong health problems. In 1881, she obtained a collegiate certificate from the Rockford Female Seminary in Rockford, Illinois. She finished her first year in medicine from the Woman’s Medical College of Philadelphia, but she had to discontinue and stop her education because of her illness and a nervous breakdown. In the course of the next six years she began the study of medicine but left it because of poor health, was hospitalized intermittently, traveled and studied in Europe for twenty-one months, and then spent almost two years in reading and writing and in considering what her future objectives should be. In 1883, Jane Addams left for a tour to Europe along with her stepmother for a period of two years. (6) It was in the summer of 1887, Addams returned to Europe with a Rockford classmate, Ellen Gates Starr. On a visit to the Toynbee Hall settlement house which was founded by 1884 in the White chapel industrial district in London, Addams’s vague leanings toward reform work crystallized. Upon returning to the United States, Addams and Starr determined to create something like Toynbee Hall. This visit helped to finalize the idea then current in her mind, that of opening a similar house in an underprivileged region of Chicago. In a working-class immigrant region in Chicago, they acquired a large vacant residence built by Charles Hull in 1856; they called this “Hull House”. They moved into it on September 18, 1889. Later, about 25 women made it their residence, and close to two thousand people visited it weekly when the settlement was at its peak. In the Hull House, there were kindergarten classes, a public kitchen, an art gallery, a coffeehouse, a gym, a book binder, a bathhouse, a music school, a girls’ club, a drama group and a library. In addition to these, there were also clubs for older children and labor-related divisions. As her reputation grew, Miss Addams was drawn into larger fields of civic responsibility. In 1905 she was appointed to Chicago’s Board of Education and subsequently made chairman of the School Management Committee.

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