Jane Addams

Virginia Yans and Ji-Hye Shin

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Jane Addams

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Jane Addams (b. 1860–d. 1935), along with Ellen Gates Starr, was cofounder of Chicago’s Hull-House, a model American settlement. Addams was a social reformer, author, and public intellectual. During her Hull-House residence from 1889 until her death, Addams led national and local childhood reform efforts for child labor, juvenile court, and public health legislation, the playground movement, public-school teaching innovations, and the abolition of childhood prostitution. When Addams and her friend Ellen Gates Starr arrived in Chicago, European immigrants and their children constituted three-quarters of its population. Hull-House, located in an immigrant slum, offered innovative well-babies clinics, a day nursery, a playground, and children’s art, drama, and music classes to neighborhood residents. Addams passionately insisted that the future of American democracy depended on the education, protection, health, and well-being of its youth, including immigrant and minority youth. Hull-House attracted many middle- and upper-class professionals: juvenile justice reformer Julia Lathrop, labor reformer Florence Kelley, and educator and philosopher John Dewey were drawn to Addams’s settlement as a hands-on reform experiment designed to “test the value of human knowledge by action” (see Lasch 1982: p. 187, cited under Papers, Autobiographies, and Collected Writings). They saw themselves involved in a mutually beneficial reciprocal relationship with immigrants and their children intended to make both sides of the Hull-House democratic experiment better citizens. Addams and Dewey maintained that democracy required continuing moral responsibility and receptivity to others—whatever their class, race, or gender. Far from a simple matter of individual freedom or a particular set of political institutions, they understood democracy as a way of life. In her Hull-House programs, her writings, her educational and juvenile delinquency reforms, and her suggestions for training immigrant children for industrial labor—indeed in all her efforts—Addams consistently argued the importance of the child’s potential and value as a participant in social democracy. Aware that children of poor families faced dull, unrewarding futures as unskilled factory laborers, Addams called on educators to assist students to appreciate their “social and industrial value.” At the same time, Addams cajoled industrial employers for their abuse of child laborers and, far ahead of her time, insisted on the propriety of federal powers protecting children (see Addams and Lagemann 1985: 124–135, cited under Writings on Children and Education). During her lifetime and even in the 21st century, Jane Addams is regarded as one of the United States’ most outstanding citizens and child advocates.

Article.  4208 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

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