Jane Addams, World's 'Best-Loved Woman,' Honored with Google Doodle

By Barber, Elizabeth | The Christian Science Monitor, September 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

Jane Addams, World's 'Best-Loved Woman,' Honored with Google Doodle


Barber, Elizabeth, The Christian Science Monitor


In September of 1889, Jane Addams, just 29 years old, opened a red house at 800 South Halsted Street in Chicago as a place of refuge for the new immigrants to the blighted neighborhood. That home, pictured today in a Google doodle that celebrates Ms. Addams, would become the tangible epicenter of Addams's work and her vision for a fairer, more peaceful world.

Addams, who is credited in the New York Times 1935 obituary for her work in developing "a scientific approach to the relief of poverty and suffering," is difficult to categorize. That's perhaps due to the sheer number of titles that have been given to her - feminist; social activist; internationalist; philosopher; author; and sociologist.

Addams was born to Quaker parents in Cedarville, Illinois on Sept. 6, 1860. Her father, a miller, was a former congressman and friend to Abraham Lincoln, and Addams would later credit the belief both men had in the equality of man as underpinning her own hope for the equality of all people, women included.

Addams, an 1881 graduate of Rockford College for Women, moved with Ellen Gates Starr (the two were a couple) to Chicago in 1889. There, she founded Hull House and began receiving Chicago's new immigrants from all around the world into the home.

At Addams's leased mansion, where numbers burgeoned to around 2,000 each week after just a year of operations, immigrants paid rent to receive lessons in the English language and American government, as well as practical skills like cooking and sewing. Addams's goal was assimilation - an iconoclastic goal at a time at which immigrants were often ghettoized and de facto barred from middle class life.

That home soon became the locus of Addams' broader social activism. No topic, so long as it gestured toward broader fairness for all people, was outside the bounds of Addams' advocacy: Her work included pushing for more opportunities for women, for the poor, and for immigrants; She was a pacifist and fought against war with Germany and, later, for generous peace terms; She pressed for better sanitary conditions in Chicago, taking up the official post of garbage inspector of the Nineteenth Ward, and for more sensitive care for the mentally ill, disabled, and sick. She wanted better milk, better midwife training, and better childcare. …

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