I’ve alluded to this is several posts but I’m going to be hosting the America Association of University Women – Chicago Chapter’s Jane Addams Day on December 14th at the Hull House Museum’s Resident Dining Hall. Few people are aware that there is a Jane Addams day; it’s December 10th. Sadly there are few women who have any day at a local level, much less a national one. So It’s really important to commemorate these days because so often women’s history is invisible. I’m a historian by training and women’s history has fascinated me so much. Partly because women have been so long written out the main narrative and there is so much to explore and frankly, brag about. Nothing will make me prouder than bringing Jane Addams to life if only for an hour.
Jane Addams was an incredible, forward thinking woman who changed the fabric of American life. She started the Hull House, the first settlement house in the US where “residents,” educated men and women, lived in the home and interact with their neighbors. Many undertook sociological studies about the men and women in the 19th ward. The first kindergarten in the US was started at Hull House. There were many educational programs for all ages, social services and much more. She worked for peace internationally and eventually won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work. If you want to learn more Louise Knight’s Jane Addams: Spirit in Action.
The event will focus on one aspect of Jane Addams’ work: The Pullman Strike. Basically, she was part of the Civic Federation Association and actually worked to try to convince the strikers and George Pullman to arbitrate the strike. She tried to stay neutral, feeling that her duty was to resolve the strike, not take sides. She managed to convince the Striker’s Committee to arbitrate but George Pullman refused to even see her. Years later, she reflected on the experience in “A Modern Lear” where she compares the folly of Pullman to those of Shakespeare’s King Lear, basically indicting the paternalist notion of philanthropy. She had difficulty getting it published but it’s an important and interesting work.
I’m really pleased to be celebrating Jane Addams with AAUW. If you are in the area, please consider stopping by. It’s December 14th at 2-3:30pm at the Hull House Museum’s Residents Dining Hall.