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Jane Addams and Her Contributions to Social Work

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For this assignment, I chose to do Jane Addams who was born in the 1860. Around this time, the abolition of Slavery in the United States led to the breakdown of the Atlantic slave trade. Abraham Lincoln Assassinated, The Thirteenth Amendment Ratified, Wyoming Gives Women the Vote just to name a few. One quote that Jane Addams said that I like is “Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world”. This resonated with me because she was one of the first social workers that came about in that period. Jane was destined for greatness as she was one of the five children her parents had that survived infancy out of the nine children from her parent John Huy and Sarah Weber Addams. Jane was born in a small farming town of Cedarville Illinois. She grew up with privilege as her father owned a mill, fought in the civil war and was a local politician. A founding member of the Republican party and supporter of Abraham Lincoln, he was elected to the Illinois State Senate as a Republican in 1854 and served in that capacity until 1870.

In 1881 Addams graduated top of her class from Rockford female seminary. In part of their new generation of college educated independent women which would later be known as the “new Women” era as before women were expected to cook clean and do all house duties while the man provided for the household. Before her success as a social worker Jane Addams attempted to study medicine, but failure in her own medical history derailed her from doing so. Addams later then migrated to Europe where she visited Toynbee Hall which was establish to response to a growing realization that enduring social change would not be achieved through the existing individualized and piecemeal approaches. Once Addams saw this, she vowed to establish something similar to the United States which around that time was escalating industrialization and immigration issues. Once she returned stateside she planted her feet in Chicago underprivileged area, where herself and friend Starr leased a home which later turned into the Hull House being named after the buildings original owner where the purpose was to provide a center for a higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago. Where they established kindergarten and day-care for working mothers; provided job training; English language, cooking, and acculturation classes for immigrants; established a job-placement bureau, community center, gymnasium, and art gallery. Addams was a feminist in that era before women suffrage she believed that women should make their voices be heard in legislations and therefore have the right to vote which during that time Wyoming was the first state to give women that right. Jane Addams had an army of women support behind her that included Florence Kelley, Alice Hamilton, Julia Lathrop, Ellen Gates Starr. That helped Jane Addamns launch multiple important social programs including the Immigrants’ Protective League, the Juvenile Protective Association, which was the first juvenile court in the U.S., and the Juvenile Psychopathic Clinic, later called the Institute for Juvenile Research. Overall these women helped create protective legislation for women and children, child labor regulations, and mandatory minimum education laws. In addition to her work and being the first to establish such organization in United States, Jane served on Chicago Board of Education. Addams also became the first female president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections (later renamed the National Conference of Social Work). Jane also received the first honorary degree ever award to a woman by Yale University. Addams is also known for advocating for peace and women’s rights. Her work and advocating for this paid off as she became the first American woman to win a Nobel peace prize. Like Addams social workers must expose and challenge oppressive and unjust systems. Doing so requires us to actively engage in public discourse.

Addams is known as the Mother of social work and if it wasn’t for her trip to Europe. I don’t think any of this would have happen as she struggled with what she desired to be in life. Opening of the Hull House played a role in this that later years it had expanded from one building to thirteen. She expanded her efforts to improve society as a whole by lobbying child labor laws, factory laws, court systems for juvenile. All these played an important role as it helped pass the federal child labor law in 1916. Addams also took the initiative to establish school of social work which created institutional support for new professions for women. As her reputation grew, she was drawn into larger civic responsibilities where she cofounded the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and supporting the efforts of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) both of which still exist today. She advocated for women’s suffrage because she believed that women’s votes would provide the margin necessary to pass social legislation she favored to be passed. During World war one Addams found her second major calling: promoting international peace. A pacifist, she protested US entry into World War I, which dinged her popularity and prompted harsh criticism from some newspapers. Addams, however, believed human beings were capable of solving disputes without violence. Addams made an uncommon partisan attack into national politics in 1912 when she supported Theodore Roosevelt for president on the Progressive party. The campaign tested Addams’s commitment to compromise because her social welfare agenda had to coexist with Roosevelt’s racism, militarism, and approval of big business. They later became bitter opponents in a debate over the US participation in the war in Europe. With doing so she was denounced as a traitor and fool and dismissed by Roosevelt as a Bull Mouse.

In today’s world leaders owe it to Jane, who paved the way for immigrant housing communities, women suffrage. The legacy of Hull house still lives among us, from juvenile courts and labor laws to public sanitations and playgrounds for our children. The woman branded Mother of social work lives on base on the set of standards on how to help others came about. Her influence on us women stated as not many women are housewives instead many are in fields that are prominently male dominated like doctors, lawyers, running for presidents, house of parliament just to name a few. Jane Addams and other women opened the door for women to see that there is much more than being a domestic wife and wanting to be a change in the world. Addams later died in May 1935 from possible cancer 10 days after a banquet in Washington, D.C., honored her and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. 

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