Birth of Jane Addams 

US #878 from the Famous Americans series.

Social worker Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860, in Cedarville, Illinois.

The eighth of nine children, Adams was the daughter of a local political leader, Civil War officer, and friend of Abraham Lincoln.  She graduated from the Rockford Female Seminary as valedictorian in 1881.

Addams went on to study medicine, but she eventually abandoned that due to poor health, being admitted to the hospital several times.  When she was well, Addams spent nearly two years in Europe studying and considering what she wanted to do with her future.  On a second trip to Europe when she was 27, Addams and her friend Ellen Starr visited the Toynbee Hall Settlement House in London’s East End. This visit inspired her to open a similar home for the needy in Chicago.

US #878 – Classic First Day Cover.

In 1889, Addams and Starr leased a house owned by Charles Hull on the corner of Halsted and Polk Streets.  Their goal was “to provide a center for a higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises, and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.”

US #UX134 – Postal Card honoring the 100th anniversary of Hull House.

Addams and Starr began a large-scale campaign to raise support for their project, delivering speeches about the importance of helping the neighborhood, raising money, and encouraging wealthy young women to volunteer to help.  By their second year in operation, the Hull House served about 2,000 people every week. They offered kindergarten classes, clubs for older children, and courses for adults in the evenings, effectively offering a night school.  Hull House quickly began to expand to include an art gallery, a second kitchen, a coffee house, a gym, an art studio, a music school, a library, an employment office, and a labor museum.

US #UX134 – Silk Cachet First Day Postal Card.

Addams became well known for her efforts with the Hull House, which led her to additional prominent positions.  She was selected to serve as chairman of the School Management Committee of the Chicago Board of Education, helped found the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, and served as the first female president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections.  She also received the first honorary degree given to a woman from Yale University in 1910.

Item #81867 – Commemorative cover marking Addams’ 127th birthday.

Addams often spoke on how women played a major role in cleaning up their communities.  And if they wanted to be effective and make lasting change, they should have the right to vote.  Addams opposed America’s entry into World War I and was chairman of the Women’s Peace Party. Once the US entered the war, she joined Herbert Hoover in collecting food and supplies for the women and children of enemy nations.

US #2940 – Alice Hamilton was a long-time volunteer at Hull House.

Addams suffered a heart attack in 1926, after which her health never fully recovered.  On December 10, 1931, she became the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her work, and she is often considered the founder of the profession of social work in America.  Addams died on May 21, 1935.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
Share this Article


  1. Thanks to the daily Mystic Discovery Center Series, I learn about Jane Addams of whom, I did not know anything as a non US-citizen. Apparently she was a champion in social work and help to many of the immigrants in the Chicago area at the time, a great example to today’s world where refugees and immigrants are hardly welcome in many countries.With several other American ladies in history she deserves to have her image on one of the US money bills of the future.

  2. There was a junior highschool (perhaps middle school, now) built and named in her honor in north Seattle during the baby boom era.. It was also used for adult night classes. Not sure if it is still used any more.

  3. She also was the person who got a separate judicial system for children started. Before her, kids received the same punishments as adults.

    Her house in Chicago still stands. It is now a museum on the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago campus.

    An amazing woman.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *