In A Time When Women Were Expected To Spend Most of Their Days As Housewives, She Converted A Run-Down Mansion To Help People, And Her Legacy Still Impacts Chicago To This Day

ID 35194460 - © Juliengrondin - - illustrative purposes only

It’s fascinating and admirable when you see people dedicate their lives to social reform and helping others.

In a time when women were expected to spend most of their days as housewives, Jane Addams founded the Hull House and used her formal education to try and make America a better place for women and immigrants.

Jane Addams was born in Illinois in 1860. Her mother died when she was only two, so her father and older sisters raised her.

Her father firmly believed in social reform and education, so Jane started attending the Rockford Female Seminary as a teenager. She was a very passionate student, a member of the debate team, and participated in other school clubs. While at Rockford, Jane became interested in service and helping others.

After graduating in 1881, Jane set her sights on becoming a doctor, as she wanted to help people but also wanted a career of her own instead of immediately settling down and getting married. She had plans to go to the Philadelphia Women’s Medical College but suddenly fell ill less than a month into her first year there.

Jane suffered from spinal issues she had as a child, which resurfaced and required her to get surgery. She was bedridden, and her mental health started declining as she couldn’t achieve everything she wanted. When her health finally began improving around 1887, she and her good friend from school, Ellen Gates Starr, decided to travel to Europe together.

While in London, Jane and Ellen came across Toynbee Hall, a settlement house located in a poor neighborhood in London’s East End. It was a place that offered charitable services and classes to the local community, and Jane became inspired to open a place like that in America.

After returning from Europe, Jane and Ellen were determined to open a settlement house in Chicago. Around this time, Chicago’s population was massive, with immigrant families making up a large portion of it. Because of this, many immigrant families were suffering due to overcrowding.

In Chicago, Jane and Ellen found a run-down mansion that had been built by Charles Hull in the 1850s. Jane spent a lot of her own money on the first round of repairs needed on the mansion, then began to fundraise with Ellen to help turn it into one of America’s first settlement houses in 1889, which they named Hull House after the mansion’s first owner.

ID 35194460 – © Juliengrondin – – illustrative purposes only

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