HerStory Women who could, and did

Jane Addams was born on Sept. 6, 1860, in Cedarville, Ill. In her teens, Addams had big dreams and wanted her life to make a difference. After graduating at the top of her class in 1881, she and a friend, Ellen Gates Starr, traveled Europe. It was here that she had her initial encounter with the indigent in the East End of London. It had a profound impact on her. Upon returning home, Jane was determined to make a difference. She and Ellen purchased and moved into a dilapidated mansion in Chicago’s Nineteenth Ward which was teeming with poor immigrants. They made repairs on the house with their own funds and the house became the residence of about twenty five women. Hull House was born in 1889. At its height they were visited each week by about two thousand people. The facility included a night school for adults, kindergarten classes. Clubs for older children, a public kitchen, an art gallery, a coffee house, a gym, a girls club, a boathouse, a book bindery a music school, a drama group, and a library as well as labor related divisions. Her night school was the forerunner of the continuing education classes offered by many universities today. Eventually Hull House became a thirteen building settlement complex with a playground and a summer camp.

Her autobiography was published in 1910 and sold more than 80,000 copies during her lifetime. In 1910 she was the first woman to be awarded an honorary degree from Yale. She was active in woman suffrage and the peace movement; served as president of the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In 1920 she co-founded the American Civil Liberties Union. Her efforts were officially recognized in 1931 when she shared the Nobel Peace Prize with a professor from Columbia. She died in 1935 where her body lay in Hull House for two days as most of Chicago filed by, as many as 2,000 per hour.

“She was not afraid of truth, she was not afraid of life, she was not afraid of death, she was not afraid of enemies” (Lillian Wald)

Florence Kelley was born on Sept. 12, 1859, in Philadelphia. She was primarily home schooled and graduated from Cornell University in 1882. She applied to the University of Pennsylvania Law School but was refused, because she was a woman. She traveled to Europe and enrolled in the University of Zurich. Upon her return she settled in New York City but in 1888 she moved to Illinois where he mother was settled at Hull House and she began her tireless work for child labor laws. Obtaining a law degree from Northwestern University in 1894 she moved back to New York City. Her role in the abolition of child labor, the passage of protective legislation for working women, the establishment of minimum wage laws, and the development of child health services are a few of her accomplishments. She made important contributions to social reform. She exposed the use of child labor in factories, stockyards and sweatshops with detailed scientific studies and reported her finding of horrific abuse of children.

She and her young colleague, Josephine Goldmark, championed the use of scientific data to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to set and enforce limits on hours of work for women. She was one of the first reformers to recognize that strategy for social change must address the prevention of injustices and social ills not just remediate them after the fact. She fought for legal requirements for states to register births and for employers to document workers ages as steps toward ending the exploitation of children.

Kelly was known for her fierce energy. She was called “the toughest customer in the reform riot, the finest rough and tumble fighter for the good life for others.” (James Weber Lynn, nephew of Jane Addams)