In February 1889 Jane came to Chicago to join Ellen, who was again teaching at the Kirkland School. The previous April they had discussed starting a settlement house; now, ten months later, they were doing it. Addams's mood may be gauged from the letters she was sending her sisters, Alice and Mary. She did not step back to comment on the momentous nature of the new undertaking or share her fears or doubts. Instead she filled her correspondence with news of past and future meetings and the names of people she met and the organizations she visited. Already she was fully absorbed in the work.
The plan had become more specific. She and Ellen wanted Toynbee Hall, with its classes and clubs, to be their model, and they had embraced the Barnetts' theory that the classes could benefit each other. But they had also decided that their settlement would be “very unlike its English prototype” in certain ways.1 Three differences were already obvious, all of them adaptations due to circumstance.
First, their settlement would specialize in working with immigrants. As Addams later put it, she “found no precedent at Toynbee Hall for dealing with foreign life.” Toynbee had immigrant neighbors, to be sure, but in modest proportions. In 1888 about 24 percent of the people of Whitechapel were immigrants. By contrast, Chicago's one million people were, remarkably, 78 percent foreign-born or the children of the foreign-born. More than half of Chicago's immigrants, who tended to concentrate in certain neighborhoods, came from northern and central Europe (Germany, Ireland, England, Scotland, and Sweden), but a rising proportion came from eastern and southern Europe (Poland, Bohemia, Italy, and Russia). The immigrants of greatest interest to Addams and Starr were the Germans and Italians because Jane and Ellen spoke those languages, had visited those countries, and had studied their cultures, both as tourists and as students