20 Years at Hull-House, by Jane Addams, stands as one of the greatest books against social injustice of the 20th century. Quite arguably, Addams stands on par with Gandhi or Mother Teresa in terms of a commitment to social justice. Addams' settlement house (or Hull House, as it was called) was like an ashram built in the middle of Chicago's dirtiest late 19th century slum. She pioneered in social work of a type that had never been done before - helping immigrants, single mothers, orphans, troubled youth and the unemployed. The scope of Addam's sociological experience has never been matched. Politically, Addams was an anti-war advocate. Her views on the abolition of military conflict secured a Nobel Prize, but also a black-listing with the House of Un-American Activities. Larger than life, Jane Addams story involves ethics, social work, sociology, social justice, and democracy, Her story is more than inspiring: it is a truly amazing example of excellence. Though Addams' prose often gets mired in the florid and highly mannered style of her era, her book remains compelling even today. Free of the ethnic racism and stereotyping that blight many similar works of the era, Addams' account of her groundbreaking community center in one of the worst parts of late 19th-century Chicago fairly overflows with compassion and almost unbelievable fairness. Addams's intelligence is evident: many of her ideas and attitudes seem decades ahead of their time. Though t light reading, 20 Years at Hull-House contains many gripping portraits of the desperation of immigrant life and the simple power of human decency. Like many of her fellow Progressives, Jane Addams was born in the Midwest and received an exceptional scholastic and religious education. She was strongly devoted to her father and shared with him a reverence for Abraham Lincoln. Like many reformers of her era, Addams was t attracted to evangelical duty. Missionary work left her with a sense of futile detachment from the wretched social conditions she witnessed in East London. After visiting Toynbee Hall, Addams decided to establish a similar settlement house in the rapidly-growing city of Chicago, where the evil and vices of American life seemed to be exaggerated. Her experiences at this settlement house are the subject of this book. Progressive without being radical, Addams refused to be swayed by the claims of certain social movements and untried panaceas. Though she greatly admired Tolstoy, Addams found his message confused and contradictory and doubted its suitability to the situation in Chicago. She deplored any violent tactics associated with socialist and anarchist groups despite their ble motives. Addams demonstrated an understanding of detrimental impact of labor uion strikes on people outside of the labor movement (her own dying sister was unable to see her family because the transportation system was blocked due to the Pullman strike). Unlike most reformers, she also had respect for the immigrant cultures represented at Hull House, where a labor museum put native sewing machines and other instruments and crafts on display for all to enjoy. After attending Rockford College, Addams toured London. It was there that she came up with the idea of the Hull House. As part of her work at Hull House, Addams advocated reasonable working hours for women, child labor laws, and juvenile court. Considered to be an early feminist, Addams was t satisfied with simply founding Hull House-she wanted to change society so that a Hull House would t be needed. A wonderful reformer, Jane Addams contributed much to the betterment of this country, and her classic book continues to offer valuable social insights into one of America's most interesting time periods.
In 1889 Jane Addams and friend, Ellen Gates Starr, co-founded Hull House in Chicago, Illinois, the first settlement house in the United States. The house was named after Charles Hull, who built the building in 1856. When starting out, all of the funding for the Hull House came from the $50,000 estate she inherited after her father died. Later, the Hull House was sponsored by Helen Culver, the wealthy real estate agent who had initially leased the house to the women. Jane and Ellen were the first two occupants of the house, which would later be the residence of about 25 women. At its height, Hull House was visited each week by around 2000 people. Its facilities included a night school for adults, kindergarten classes, clubs for older children, a public kitchen, an art gallery, a coffeehouse, a gymnasium, a girls club, bathhouse, a book bindery, a music school, a drama group, a library, and labor-related divisions. Her adult night school was a forerunner of the continuing education classes offered by many universities today. In addition to making available services and cultural opportunities for the largely immigrant population of the neighborhood, Hull House afforded an opportunity for young social workers to acquire training. Eventually, the Hull House became a 13-building settlement, which included a playground and a summer camp.