The Enduring Legacy of Jane Addams – Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month and March 8th marks International Women’s Day. The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on February 28, 1909 by the Socialist Party of America in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York. While this was the first official observance of any kind, the movement for women’s rights was born much earlier in 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott held the first women’s rights convention in the US. From that convention in 1848, this celebration of the vital role of women in American history would progress over the next 139 years from an official day to an official week, to finally being a federally designated month in 1987. In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, the IDHH is featuring Jane Addams, an agent of change in Illinois history. 

Born in Cedarville, Illinois in 1860, Jane Addams was an influential social reformer and activist who established the historic Chicago settlement house Hull House in 1889 with Ellen Gates Starr. Jane Addams would build Hull House into a hub of social and cultural opportunities for the largely immigrant residents on the Near West side of the city. In addition to her efforts with Hull House, Jane Addams worked with reform groups towards creating the first juvenile-court law, establishing an eight-hour working day for women, and advancing the cause of women’s suffrage. She would eventually help form the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919, serving as the inaugural president of the international organization. In recognition of her unwavering dedication to the ideal and objective of world peace, Jane Addams was the co-winner of the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize, the second woman to ever receive the Prize. 

Below are a few of our favorite items featuring Jane Addams and her pioneering work with Hull House:

Jane Addams. 1922. I. P. E. U. [International Photo-Engravers Union of North America 371]. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Picture Chicago. Courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library.
Ellen Gates Starr. 1922. I. P. E. U. [International Photo-Engravers Union of North America 371]. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Picture Chicago. Courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library.
Hull House, Chicago. June 1, 1915. Eastern Illinois University. Booth Library Postcard Collection. Courtesy of Eastern Illinois University.
Courtyard of Hull House. 1920. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Picture Chicago. Courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library.
Hull House Kindergarten. circa 1906. National Louis University. Elizabeth Harrison-Chicago Kindergarten Movement. Courtesy of National Louis University.
The Textile Room. May 1902. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Picture Chicago. Courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library.

Want to see more? 

Visit the IDHH to view even more items related to Jane Addams and Hull House, as well as other notable women of Illinois, such as Gwendolyn BrooksMary G. Harris Jones, and Jane Byrne.

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