The portrait of a pioneer: a look back at 115 years of Jane Addams’ work at Hull-House—her legacy still lives on

Rodney B. Dieser

In the recent book Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy, Dr. Elshtain, a professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago, wondered aloud whether Jane Addams has been forgotten. Most serious students of the parks, recreation and leisure profession know that Jane Addams is a pioneer in their profession, and served as the first vice president of the Playground Association of America (PAA). However, it is less known among park and recreation professionals that Addams became an executive member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1909), vice president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (1911), and founded the Women’s International League for Peace (1919). As a result of her public service throughout Chicago, the United States and the global environment, Addams was the first American woman to received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981. With numerous like-minded and strong-willed people concerned about social justice (see Table 1 for a sampling of Hull-House colleagues from 18891935), the settlement house Addams created, Hull-House, developed a myriad of “firsts” in human services and recreational programs during the early years of 1889 to 19:35:

* First social settlement in Chicago, Ill.;

* First social settlement in the United States with men and women residents;

* First public playground in Chicago;

* First public baths in Chicago;

* First public gymnasium in Chicago;

* First little theater in the United States;

* First citizenship preparation classes in the United States;

* First college extension course in Chicago;

* First free art exhibits in Chicago;

* First public swimming pool in Chicago;

* First Boy Scout troop in Chicago;

* First sociological investigations and programs in Chicago regarding: sanitation, truancy, typhoid fever, children’s reading, cocaine use, tuberculosis, infant mortality and the social/recreational values of saloons; and

* Played a significant role in the creation and enactment of the first factory laws in Illinois. Beyond these human service and recreational programs, Addams was also a prolific writer. Her published works include more than ,500 essays, speeches, editorials and columns. Many of’ her books have become classic readings in American history (e.g., Twenty Years at Hull-House), woman studies (e.g., The Women off the Hague: The International Congress of Women and its Results), sociology (e.g., Hull-House Maps and Papers) and leisure and youth services (e.g., The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets).

During Addams’ tenure, Hull-House also grew from a large house to a 13 building complex, which included numerous places that housed social and recreational activities, like a coffee house, gymnasium and labor museum. Furthermore, in 1911, Addams and Louise deKoven Bowen purchased 70 acres of land (three miles outside of the town of Waukegan) and developed the Bowen Country Club–a year-round outdoor camp for Hull-House youth and families. Both Addams and Bowen felt that parents and youth needed a place to escape the city.

One hundred and fifteen years ago this September, the doors of Hull-House opened in a poor immigrant district on west side Chicago (Sept. 18, 1889). Addams experiences during her travels to Europe in the 1880’s were the antecedents to imagining Hull-House. For example, during an evening in November 188& Addams witnessed a horrifying act–the selling of rotten and decaying vegetables to the poor in an open market auction in the streets of London. In her own word, taken from her book Twenty Years at Hull-House, Addams explained: “… [a successful bidder] had bidden on a cabbage, and when it struck his hand, he instantly sat down on the curb, tore it with his teeth, and hastily devoured it, unwashed and uncooked as it was … [this poverty-stricken group were] clutching forward for food, which was already unfit to eat.” In another trip to Germany, she witnessed another social injustice premised upon capitalistic endeavors:

“I recall one snowy morning in Sax-Coburg,

looking from the window of our

little hotel upon the town square, that

we saw crossing and recrossing it a single

file of women with semicircular

heavy wooden tanks fastened upon their

backs. They were carrying to this primitive

fashion to a remote cooling room

these tanks filled with hot brew incident

to one stage of beer making … Their

faces and hands, reddened in the cold

morning air, showed clearly the white

scars where they had previously been

scalded by hot stuff which splashed if

they stumbled ever so little on their


These travel experiences, coupled with (1) her visit to the settlement house of Toynbee Hall in London, (2) her desire to emulate her father’s ethic to address social injustices, and (3) a renaissance of applied Christianity; developed her vision of Hull-House.

In 1905, Addams was a popular and well-known woman in the United States who also had an international reputation. She was known as “Saint Jane” and the “Angel of Halstead Street.” Only 10 years later, there was an outpouring of anti-Addams rhetoric in the United States because of her denunciation of American involvement in World War I, and a desire to allow open thrums of all political positions at Hull-House. As such, during WWI, Hull-House was labeled as a “hotbed of anarchism” and the U.S. War Department identified Addams as a “destructive and dangerous” force. She was also dubbed “the most dangerous women in America.” After “WWI ended, Addams and Hull-House were again acclaimed for their great contributions in addressing human suffering.

Addams died of cancer in May of 1935. While no one kept track of how many people visited her funeral services at Bowen Hall in Hull-House, as least 6,000 people per hour moved in single file for a four hour period in the evening, and approximately 1,500 people per hour had gone through during the day.

Few park and recreation professionals highlight that after Addams died, Hull-House and her ideas continued and still exist today in Chicago. Although it has a different organizational structure, Hull-House still provides numerous leisure, youth and human service programs to impoverished youth and families in Chicago. That doesn’t mean the house and movement Addams created didn’t struggle.

1935-1962: A Time of Conflict

This era of Hull-House was a time of confusion and conflict. First, the depression caused financial hardships for the settlement house. To remedy this, Hull-House began to compete for funds with other charitable and social institutions in Chicago (e.g., Chicago Community Fund) and shifted its collectivistic and settlement oriented environment by running Hull-House apartments on a businesslike basis (e.g., raising rent, dropping the six-month probation period so that residents could catch the settlement spirit of service and volunteerism). Second, a change in organizational structure made two people with different ideas holding two powerful Hull-House leadership positions originally vested in Addams. Louise deKoven Bowen, who was the president of the board of trustees and Adena Miller Rich, who was the head resident of Hull-House after Addams’ death, disagreed almost daily over staff positions, use of funds and programs provided. In an angry letter to the Board of Trustee’s two weeks before her resignation, Rich highlighted her many frustrations (e.g., hiring outside staff to run programs, no input regarding funding issues, lessening of social and recreational activities) and took the Board of Trustees to task for not following Hull-House By-Laws that Addams had created.

The next head resident at Hull-House, Charlotte E. Carr (head resident from 1937-42), created even more confusion and conflict. Carr, who had no settlement experience and admitted freely that she had little understanding of Hull-House or Addams’ ideas, further propelled Hull-House toward a business model. For example, she replaced many Hull-House volunteers with paid workers. Further, she angered many Hull-House residents by changing her title from head resident to director. By wanting to move Hull-House out of its settlement and volunteerism tradition, Carr alienated the Chicago community and angered Hull-House contributors.

After Carr resigned, the Hull-House Board of Trustees selected Russell Ward Ballard, who made the welfare of children and youth a major Hull-House objective and returned Hull-House to its traditional role of service to the community. Further, Ballard redeveloped social and recreational activities at the house, such as music, arts and athletics, to help combat delinquency and create a sense of belonging among neighbors.

1963-1999: A Time of Transformation

After Ballard’s 20-year tenure as director of Hull-House ended, the Board of Trustees, along with its new director Paul Jans, began to develop a radically different social welfare organization that would eventually lead to the destruction of the 13-building Hull-House complex. Beginning in 1963, Hull-House abandoned its settlement idea of residence, physically left its neighborhood, and changed its name to the Hull-House Association. The Board of Trustees knew that Hull-House needed to leave its site due to the Near West Side Urban Renewal project, which began in the later 1950s, in which 37 acres of “slum area” in the Hull-House neighborhood were cleared to make way for a better community. Further in 1961, under the Near West Side Urban Renewal project, Major Richard Daley began to make plans to use the Hull-House site as the area to develop the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. Although neighborhood residents protested Daley’s decision to build a university in the Hull-House neighborhood, the Hull-House Association could see its writing on the wall. The Board of Trustees realized the uselessness of preserving a settlement in all area where it would have no neighborhood to serve. In fact, William F. Deknatel, a onetime Hull-House board president commented: “When the slums around us were cleaned and rebuilt, there would only be one slum left, and that would be Hull-House.”

The Hull-House complex was torn down, except for the original house and the dinning room–these two buildings were restored in 1967, and function as the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and conference center respectfully on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus.

The Hull-House Association new managerial structure was a loosely prearranged confederation of affiliated organizations, which included the construction of new community centers throughout Chicago. By 1985, the Hull-House Association had 29 program sites throughout Chicago. Although its structure was very different, the Hull-House Association continued its focus of responding to neighborhood needs and providing recreational activities. For example, Jans developed a new Bowen Country Club camp around Pete’s Lake, near East Troy, Wis., with a core performing arts focus. Likewise, Jans hired Robert Sickinger, an innovative theater director from Philadelphia, Penn., and by the end of the decade almost all Hull-House Association facilities had a theater and performing arts program Although Jans was making explosive growth in Hull-House programs, financially the Hull-House Association was in trouble.

In 1967, the Hull-House Association deficit was more than $2 million. As a result, different Hull-House Association centers were competing against each other for increasingly scarce money. In 1969, the Hull-House Association asked Jans for his resignation.

Over the next 20 years under the direction of different directors, the Hull-House Association had to downsize as a result of its financial hardships. The Bowen Country Club camp was sold in the early 1970’s, and the theater and performing arts programs were reduced drastically. However, during the 1970-1990s, Hull-House continued to serve the needy of Chicago. In fact, in 1980, under the direction of Patricia Sharpe, the Hull-House Association created a new program titled The Department of Research and Advocacy, which followed the original ideas of Addams to create social and system-directed change thoughout Chicago. They conducted evaluative reports on social antecedents to social problems, and developed collaborative services with other social aim human service organizations in Chicago.

2000-Present: A New Era

At the new millennium, Hull-House created a new name that reflected the pioneering work of Jane Addams: Jane Addams Hull House Association. The institution continues to help people of need and improve social conditions in Chicago. The 2002 Jane Addams Hull House Association (JAHHA) Annual Report, states its mission is to “… improve social conditions for underserved people and communities by providing creative, innovative programs and advocating for related public policy reforms.” In 2002, JAHHA provided services and advocacy for more than 68,000 people. Although a different structure, the organization’s core ideas still flow t]com its thunder Jane Addams.

For example, in 2003, JAHHA followed in Addams footsteps to better understand poverty-stricken neighborhoods when it released a report titled Minding the Gap: An Assessment of Racial Disparity in Metropolitan Chicago. The report rises Chicago-area census data from the last decade to paint a stark picture of the systematic barriers that keep so many of Chicago’s children from achieving their goals and so many families from achieving self-sufficiency.

The findings of this evaluative report show there are more than 150,000 people are homeless in the Chicago metropolitan area, communities of color experience unemployment rates almost twice of whites, and large gaps between child poverty rates remain. Likewise, JAHHA is also keeping with Jane Addams thinking regarding the value of recreation and the arts. In the 2002 JAHHA newsletter Neighbors Updater, Clarence N. Wood (President and CEO of JAHHA) reported:

“Hull-House is also reconnecting to Jane

Addams’ vision of the role of art to transcend

poverty. The West Side Arts Initiative,

started last spring, brings children

from some of Chicago’s most impoverished

neighborhoods in regular

contact with painting, music, and dance.

We do so with the hope of inspiring

them and giving them the opportunity

to experience beauty and empowerment

through the expression of their own


Although some people may rightfully worry whether Jane Addams has been forgotten, after 115 years Addams ideas are still rooted in the JAHHA. Although the settlement spirit is gone and the organizational structure has changed, JAHHA still challenges the social conditions of Chicago and provides youth and recreational services to impoverished youth and families. They also stand as an inspiration to park and recreation professionals who are following the footsteps of one of the field’s pioneers.

Keeping Good Company

Jane Addams worked with some of the best in their field. Below is a sampling of the professionals she worked with:

Grace Abbott

* Director of the Immigrants’ Protection League at Hull-House

* Appointed Director of the Federal Children Bureau

Edith Abbott

* Lead many social reform movements at Hull-House

* Dean of the School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago

Helen Culver

* Donated much money end most of the land to develop Hull-House

* Considered as one of the first business women of Chicago

Louise deKoven Bowen

* President of the Hull-House Woman’s Club

* An elite philanthropist in Chicago who donated to Hull-House

John Dewey

* Served on the first Board of Trustees of Hull-House

* Leading educational philosopher at the University of Chicago who provided free and special lectures at Hull-House

Alice Hamilton

* Established a baby clinic at Hull-House

* First women professor in the Harvard School of Medicine

* Appointed to the Illinois Commission on Occupational Diseases

Florence Kelley

* Founded the Jane Club at Hull-House

* Played e major role in making Hull-House a center for research and reform

* Appointed as Chief Factor Inspector in the State of Illinois

William Lyon Mackenzie King

* Although he stayed briefly at Hull-House, he was fought against sweatshops and advocated for labor laws

* Became Prime Minster in Canada in 1921(and, in keeping with Hull-House ideals, improved labors laws throughout Canada)

Julia Lathrop

* Inspiration behind publishing Hull-House Maps and Papers

* Appointed to the Illinois Board of Charities

* Appointed as the first Chief of the Federal Children Bureau

George Herbert Mead

* Close friend to Jane Addams

* Leading sociologist at the University of Chicago who provided free and special lectures at Hull-House

Ellen Gates Starr

* Developed art and bookbinding programs at Hull-house and was a major influence in the creation of the Butler Art Gallery at Hull-House

* Founder and President of the Public Art Society in Chicago

Her Influence Lives On

To continue to remember Jane Addams and Hull-House, a group of graduate students from the University of Northern Iowa’s Leisure, Youth and Human Service program who visited the Hull-House Museum in Chicago, Jane Addams hometown of Cedarville, and a JAHHA community center, shared their experiences regarding how Jane Addams is remembered.

Ryan Harkema:

Walking in the footsteps of Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Ellen Gates Starr and so many others who passed by the walls of Hull-House over a century ago was a humbling event in my life. While I will never truly know what it was like to participate in a Hull-House program, or to take part in a late-night debate with the many visitors and residents that passed through its doors, for a single day I was immersed in the Hull-House experience. That feeling is one that I will always carry with me.

Chris Kowlaski:

Upon arrival at the Hull House, I noticed a study of the apartment complexes around Hull-House mounted above the fireplace, which was taken from the book Hull-House Maps and Papers. The study was done to examine the living conditions of those in the tenement houses surrounding Hull-House. Each one of the buildings in the complexes were broken down by floor and then by apartment, and a specific color was assigned to each apartment. The layout looked like a patchwork quilt, with a multitude of colors represented. The numbers in each apartment varied, often with more people than beds in each apartment. These complexes consisted of city blocks! I stood there for a second and while our guide discussed a different topic, I began to run the procedure for doing a study like that through my head: “How long did it take?” “How did Addams and her coworkers gather data?” “How do you get an accurate count?” and “Who cared if they did this study?” On our trip back to the University of Northern Iowa I pondered the intensity that Addams must have worked with on that study of the living conditions in those apartment complexes. As a female, to knowingly undertake a task that great with little assurance that the results will encourage reform in a male-dominated political atmosphere must have been daunting.

Ijeoma Osuji:

While at the home where Jane Addams once lived in her youth we were able to see the play areas where she and her brother had many years before played many games of make-believe. We walked along the creek and climbed into the caves we had previously read about. It was interesting to find that as adults we were timid of going too deep into the caves, while the Addams children spent hours in there at one time. Having the opportunity to play in the Addams yard helped me to realize how important it is for a child to be able to use their imagination, yet the opportunities to do so are becoming more limited.

Laura Poppin:

Over the course of a semester of reading and learning about Jane Addams and the other women of the Hull-House, I learned how difficult it was for women in the late 1800″s and early 1900’s to hold public positions in society. Jane Addams became the first female garbage collector and pushed out the corrupt garbage collectors. The women had a mission to help the needy and to bridge the gap between social differences among the immigrants. They had an amazing influence on public in a time in history when women were not so visible in the public eye.

COPYRIGHT 2004 National Recreation and Park Association

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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