The Portrait of a Pioneer: A Look Back at 115 Years of Jane Addams' Work at Hull-House-Her Legacy Still Lives On

By Dieser, Rodney B.; Harkema, Ryan P. et al. | Parks & Recreation, September 2004 | Go to article overview

The Portrait of a Pioneer: A Look Back at 115 Years of Jane Addams' Work at Hull-House-Her Legacy Still Lives On


Dieser, Rodney B., Harkema, Ryan P., Kowalski, Christopher, Osuji, Ijeoma P., Poppen, Laura L., Parks & Recreation


In the recent book Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy, Dr. Elshtain, a professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago, wondered aloud whether Jane Addams has been forgotten. Most serious students of the parks, recreation and leisure profession know that Jane Addams is a pioneer in their profession, and served as the first vice president of the Playground Association of America (PAA). However, it is less known among park and recreation professionals that Addams became an executive member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1909), vice president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (1911), and founded the Women's International League for Peace (1919). As a result of her public service throughout Chicago, the United States and the global environment, Addams was the first American woman to received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981. With numerous like-minded and strong-willed people concerned about social justice (see Table 1 for a sampling of Hull-House colleagues from 18891935), the settlement house Addams created, Hull-House, developed a myriad of "firsts" in human services and recreational programs during the early years of 1889 to 19:35:

* First social settlement in Chicago, Ill.;

* First social settlement in the United States with men and women residents;

* First public playground in Chicago;

* First public baths in Chicago;

* First public gymnasium in Chicago;

* First little theater in the United States;

* First citizenship preparation classes in the United States;

* First college extension course in Chicago;

* First free art exhibits in Chicago;

* First public swimming pool in Chicago;

* First Boy Scout troop in Chicago;

* First sociological investigations and programs in Chicago regarding: sanitation, truancy, typhoid fever, children's reading, cocaine use, tuberculosis, infant mortality and the social/recreational values of saloons; and

* Played a significant role in the creation and enactment of the first factory laws in Illinois. Beyond these human service and recreational programs, Addams was also a prolific writer. Her published works include more than ,500 essays, speeches, editorials and columns. Many of' her books have become classic readings in American history (e.g., Twenty Years at Hull-House), woman studies (e.g., The Women off the Hague: The International Congress of Women and its Results), sociology (e.g., Hull-House Maps and Papers) and leisure and youth services (e.g., The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets).

During Addams' tenure, Hull-House also grew from a large house to a 13 building complex, which included numerous places that housed social and recreational activities, like a coffee house, gymnasium and labor museum. Furthermore, in 1911, Addams and Louise deKoven Bowen purchased 70 acres of land (three miles outside of the town of Waukegan) and developed the Bowen Country Club--a year-round outdoor camp for Hull-House youth and families. Both Addams and Bowen felt that parents and youth needed a place to escape the city.

One hundred and fifteen years ago this September, the doors of Hull-House opened in a poor immigrant district on west side Chicago (Sept. 18, 1889). Addams experiences during her travels to Europe in the 1880's were the antecedents to imagining Hull-House. For example, during an evening in November 188& Addams witnessed a horrifying act--the selling of rotten and decaying vegetables to the poor in an open market auction in the streets of London. In her own word, taken from her book Twenty Years at Hull-House, Addams explained: "... [a successful bidder] had bidden on a cabbage, and when it struck his hand, he instantly sat down on the curb, tore it with his teeth, and hastily devoured it, unwashed and uncooked as it was ... [this poverty-stricken group were] clutching forward for food, which was already unfit to eat. …

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