Jane Addams

Jane_Addams.jpgJane Addams was a pioneer settlement social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in women's suffrage and world peace. In an era when presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson identified themselves as reformers and social activists, Addams was one of the most prominent reformers of the Progressive Era. She helped turn the US to issues of concern to mothers, such as the needs of children, public health, and world peace. She said that if women were to be responsible for cleaning up their communities and making them better places to live, they needed the vote to be effective in doing so.

Born in Cedarville, Illinois on 6 September 1860, Addams became a role model for middle-class women who volunteered to uplift their communities. She stressed the role of children in the Americanization process of new immigrants, and fostered the play movement and the research and service fields of leisure, youth, and human services. Addams argued in The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (1909) that play and recreation programs are needed because cities are destroying the spirit of youth. She helped pass the first model tenement code and the first factory laws. Addams and her colleagues documented the geography of typhoid fever and reported that poor workers bore the brunt of illness. She identified the political corruption and business avarice that caused the city bureaucracy to ignore health, sanitation, and building codes. Linking environmental justice and municipal reform, she eventually defeated the bosses and fostered a more equitable distribution of city services and modernized inspection practices.  She spoke of the "undoubted powers of public recreation to bring together the classes of a community in the keeping them apart.” Addams worked with the Chicago Board of Health and served as the first vice-president of the Playground Association of America. Addams called on women—especially middle class women with leisure and energy, as well as rich philanthropists—to exercise their civic duty to become involved in municipal affairs as a matter of "civic housekeeping." Addams thereby enlarged the concept of civic duty as part of republicanism to include roles for women beyond republican motherhood (which involved child rearing). Women's lives revolved around "responsibility, care, and obligation," and this area represented the source of women's power. She and Mary Rozet Smith shared a romantic relationship.  Together they owned a summer house in Bar Harbor, Maine. When apart, they would write to each other at least once a day - sometimes twice. Addams would write to Smith, "I miss you dreadfully and am yours 'til death," and  "There is reason in the habit of married folks keeping together".

In 1931 she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States.

LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have contributed significantly in several ways to the advancement of our community. Limited by the number of days on the calendar, showcasing every individual who has made a major impact would be difficult. Yet, across decades and eras, revolutions and wars, and discovery and enlightenment, SPART*A honors past and present LGBT figures in our history this month.


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