Jane Addams' Impact on Education

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  • 0:03 Introduction to Jane Addams
  • 0:25 Jane Addams' Background
  • 1:55 Hull House
  • 3:44 Major Accomplishments
  • 4:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adam Jordan

Adam is a special educator with a Ph.D. in Education

Jane Addams serves as an outstanding example of how compassion and dedication can be used to support others. In this lesson, we will provide a brief background of her life but more specifically an in-depth look at her impact on education in the U.S.

Introduction to Jane Addams

In this video, we will learn about the life of Jane Addams and consider the impact she had on public education in the United States. There are many words that could be used to describe Jane: activist, philanthropist, Nobel laureate, sociologist, leader. However, maybe the best word used to describe Jane Addams would be 'reformer.'

Jane Addams' Background

Jane was born into a fairly successful family on September 6, 1860 in Cedarville, Illinois. Her father was an accomplished businessman and a state senator. Because of her father's status, Jane enjoyed many privileges that accompany wealth and prestige. Even so, Jane could hardly be described as 'spoiled.' While she may have been born wealthy, she also grew to be a woman with strong convictions and a dedication to seeing a more fair and just society. In order to do this, Jane turned to both her words and her actions.

Jane graduated in 1881 as the class valedictorian from Rockford Female Seminary, later named Rockford College for Women. After receiving her bachelor's degree, Jane studied medicine for a period of time. However, her own poor health hindered her studies. It would not necessarily be her schooling that would shape her future, though, but rather her experiences.

In 1887 and 1888, Jane toured Europe with a friend, Ellen Gates Starr. During this tour, Jane and Ellen visited a settlement house called Toynbee Hall, which was located in London, England. A settlement house is basically a place, usually in the inner city, designed to provide services to the community in an attempt to combat poverty and other social ills. After visiting Toynbee, Jane and Ellen had the idea to start a similar facility in Chicago. In 1889, Hull House opened in Chicago, Illinois, with a mission of serving the immigrant population and those living in poverty in the Chicago area.

Hull House

Hull House would become a major part of the Chicago area, and by its second year of existence, it served as host to nearly 2,000 people a week. It became a place where research, debate, and education were all welcome. Simultaneously, more direct needs, such as shelter and clothing, were also met. From the standpoint of education, Hull House served as an early start for children and a chance to continue education for adults.

It is no secret that the founding and operation of Hull House was probably Jane Addams' most well-known work. While Hull House certainly helped those that were able to spend time there, it also had a lasting effect as a form of social reform and education. There are several lessons to be learned from Hull House that can be applied directly to today's education system. First, Hull House was community-based, with a focus on bettering the community through collaboration and cooperation. These are characteristics that are also at the heart of public education today.

Second, Hull House was a place filled with diversity and welcoming to everyone. With Hull House, Addams encouraged integration during a time when the United States was very much a segregated place on many levels. Through Hull House, Addams sought to reconnect members of the community who may have been pushed aside due to race and class differences. These ideals are incredibly important when considering the structure of today's public education system.

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