Jane Addams is a personal heroine of my college professor/mentor, so I know a thing or three about her. She was pretty awesome. Observe:
Jane was born in 1860 in Illinois, the sixth child in a prosperous family. Her mother died when she was two, and her father remarried soon after, his second wife bringing with her two stepbrothers. She was educated in both the U.S. and Europe, graduating from Rockford College in 1882. She wanted to go on to medical school after college, but was not allowed by her parents, who felt too much education would make her a bad prospect for marriage.
In her 20s, Jane traveled extensively in Europe, visiting, among other places, Toynebee Hall, a settlement house in London. Though Jane was not immediately convinced that she should also start a settlement house, it must have sparked a notion in her head.
In 1889, Jane and her friend Ellen Gates Starr opened Hull House in Chicago. Hull House was one of the United States' first settlement houses. Hull House 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, a swimming pool, a book bindery, a music school, a drama group, a library, and an employment bureau. Projects that branched out from it included a protective service for immigrants and nation's first juvenile court. At its peak, Hull House served more than 2,000 patrons a week.
Jane wrote a lot about Hull House projects, including eleven books and countless articles. She also spoke widely and agitated for legislation, and was invaluable in passing protective legislation for working women and children, including the Federal Child Labor Law in 1916.
Jane was also the first vice-president of the National Women's Suffrage Association, in 1911. She was active in the Consumer's League, and was the first woman president of the National Conference of Social Work. She also helped found the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920.
Later in her life, Jane was active in the peace movement. She participated in the International Congress of Women at The Hague in 1915 and worked with the Women's Peace Party (later the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, of which she was the first president). In 1931, she was given a Nobel Peace Prize for her work.
Jane lived and worked at Hull House until her death in 1935.