Jane Addams
Authored by: Julie Carlson


Related Topics: Social Work, First Day Care, Reforms
Grade Level: 4th/5th


Time Allotment
Resources Needed


Hull House was founded in 1889 by Jane Addams, along with her friend Ellen Starr. Jane had a very compassionate heart from the time she was a young girl. Everywhere she went, Jane had a desire to help people less fortunate than herself. Jane's father helped shape her to become more charitable to others less fortunate. Even as a young girl Jane wanted to know why all people didn't live in nice homes with yards like her own. One day she saw a part of town that was run down and she could hardly believe that people could live in such "horrid little houses" (Blackstock, p.8). That day Jane decided that she wanted to live in a large house in the middle of an awful place like she had seen. Jane wanted to do this so she could make a difference in the lives of people who lived there.

Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860, in Cedarville, Illinois. One year later the War between the North and the South started. That same year the telegraph lines reached coast to coast. While Jane was a young girl, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

Jane had the opportunity to go to Rockford Female Seminary at the age of seventeen. It was there at Rockford that Jane decided she wanted to be a missionary in the United States to help the poor. Jane went to Rockford for four years and was an excellent student. She received the highest grades out of every member in her class. Jane enjoyed having fun but was also of a serious nature.

After Jane graduated from Rockford she decided she wanted to be a doctor and work among the poor. Jane went to Philadelphia to go to medical school and because she worked so hard she became ill and a pain in her back, from her childhood returned. Jane ended up having to stay in bed, strapped to a board, for six months so her back could heal. After Jane recovered from her illness, she still had to wear a tight brace to stop the strain on her back. This brace helped Jane so she wasn't in pain all the time. Her doctor thought a trip to Europe would help her recover, therefore in August 1882, Jane went to Europe for a vacation.

In Europe Jane visited many places, including Ireland, Scotland, and different cities in England. Jane enjoyed London and particularly enjoyed a wax museum called Madame Tussaud's waxworks. One Saturday evening in London Jane and her friends were in a poor part of town, and someone told them they would see the late Saturday evening food sale if they stayed. It was a law that food couldn't be sold on Sunday, so Saturday evening the peddlers would auction off the fruits and vegetables that were left over. It was there that Jane saw a sight she would never forget. The poor swarmed around the peddlers offering every penny they had for the left over food. The peddlers were selling food that was moldy, bruised, and dirty, but the people didn't care, many of them sat right there and ate it anyway. Jane wondered if there was anyone around to help these people. While in Europe Jane studied the German, Italian, and French languages.

While Jane was in Germany, she saw women carrying large beer canisters on their backs across snowy walkways. The beer was steamy hot and would splash onto the women's faces and hands. Many of the women had scars on them from the burns. Jane could hardly contain herself and ran to the brewery and yelled at the owner. The owner didn't care, and told Jane to mind her own business. After several years in Europe, Germany and Spain, Jane decided it was time to do the dream of her childhood. She would return to Chicago and open a large home in an impoverished part of town. At last, her dream would become a reality.

In September 1889, Jane and two of her friends, fixed up an old house on Halsted Street. The old home once owned by a Charles Hull, had been surrounded by gardens and oak trees. Now the home was surrounded by some of the worst slums in Chicago. Jane considered all who lived around her new neighbors and wanted nothing more than to help each of them. From the beginning Jane invited women over for tea, the boys and girls in to paint, act out plays, write stories, play games, and sculpt with clay. Jane felt that everyone enjoyed beautiful things and doing things they were just not always give the chance to do so.

Jane learned much from the people who came to Hull House. Immigrants would come and talk with Jane and Ellen because they could speak their own language. There was one Italian woman who got very excited to see a vase of roses on the table because she had not seen flowers in America. She thought they were fresh from Italy. Many immigrants thought America was like their neighborhood. They didn't understand there was something else out there. People who came to Hull House considered it their home, and they would walk in as if it were their own. In the first year that Hull House was open, fifty thousand people visited there. In the second year there were two thousand people who visited every week. As people learned about Hull House, they wanted to help. Some would send money while others would come and teach or set up clubs.

Jane and Ellen delivered babies, set up a day care for young children, took care of the sick, and counseled people with problems. They also taught English classes so the immigrants could become citizens and helped find relatives of new immigrants who simply stopped at the door. Jane and Ellen wouldn't just stay in their nice home. They were often out helping their neighbors with anything they might need help with. While helping with her own neighborhood, Jane fought for the child labor laws to be changed. She helped with the law that women could only work an eight hour day, helped set up the first juvenile court, and also helped to change the housing for the poor. They even started the first public playground in Chicago. In 1931 Jane Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She served as president of the league from 1915 to 1929.

Over the years Hull house expanded to be a full block. Jane influenced many people. On May 1, 1935, when Jane Addams died, a large number of those people were there to say good-by. Jane had given her life and all she had to make the lives of the less fortunate better.


Blackstock, Josephine. (1950). Jane Addams. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson and Company.

Addams, Jane. (1993). The new Grolier CD ROM encyclopedia. Grolier Electronic Publishing Co.

Addams, Jane. (1991). World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago, IL. World Book Publishing Co

Hull House. (1991). World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago, IL. World Book Publishing Co

Hull House. (1993). The new Grolier CD ROM encyclopedia. Grolier Electronic Publishing Co.

Nobel Prizes. (1991). World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago, IL. World Book Publishing Co


1. The students will be able to describe the many contributions Jane Addams has made to America.

2. The students will be able to identify problems in their community that they could help make a change for the better.

3. The students will be able to identify problems in their community concerning the homeless and the hungry and learn from a social worker what progams are available to help these people.

4. The students will contribute to a project and willingly work with the class to make a change in their community.

5. The student's will list contributions they personally have made or can make to make a difference in their community.

6. The student's will be able to role play characters making a difference in the world.

Time Allotment: Between 7 and 10 class periods.

Resources Needed:
Map of the United States
World Map
Appendix A


1. Values Whip. Have the students individually think of a problem they see in their own neighborhood, home, school, or community that effects their life. Quickly go around the room and have each person say their individual answer. Students who wish to pass, may if they desire.

2. Mini-Lecture. Using the answers given in the Chain Whip activity, talk about ways the problems they have mentioned could be avoided. Have there been changes in the recent past that have affected the students? For example: Have the students seen an increase of crime in their community? If so, what is being done about it? Is there a problem with litter around their streets? Is the problem getting better or worse? Do they help the situation or do they add to the problem? Has a program been implimented recently to help the homeless? Tell the story of Jane Addams, using the background information above. Talk about the different problem issues Jane saw and the contributions she made in Chicago to make things better.

3. Numbered Heads Together: Remind the students of the story of Jane Addams. The rules and the questions you can use for this activity are on the sheet provided (see Appendix A).

4. Learning Journal. In a learning journal have the students write an entry each day describing their feeling about the topics they discuss. Encourage each student to write how they would feel if they were in the same situations that you discuss in class each day or what they want to do to change the situation.

5. Think-Pair-Share. Have the students individually think of what they would do if they didn't have enough money to even eat. Are there places to go get help? In pairs have the students share their thoughts and feelings. As a large group make a class list of what they would do and where they think they can get help. Be sure to emphasize that it has taken a lot of great people to make the changes so we don't have as many problems in America. This doesn't mean we don't have families without homes and food but the problem is not as bad because of changes that have been made.

6. Guest Speaker. Have a social worker come and talk to the class about the things in their job that make life better for the people who don't have enough money. What programs are available to help? (Talk about their Think-Pair-Share ideas to see if they were on track.) Where can people go to get help? Is the public aware of the services available?

7. Service Learning Project. There are many ideas for a service learning project. I will list a few just for suggestions. In every town there is a crisis center or a home for the homeless, (or at least one that is close by.) The social worker that comes to your class can tell you things that are needed in these centers. You could make a quilt, (or more than one) as a class and give it to a center. You could go to a shelter and help serve food to the people that come.
You could adopt a block or road that is often littered and pick it up every couple of weeks. You could make flyers for the services that are available to the community to make the citizens more aware of help they can receive.

8. Role Playing. Have the students act out different situations invloving the helping of others or the improvement of their comunity. Have them use the knowledge they have acquired through the story of Jane Addams and from the social worker. Give small groups a scenario for them to role play. Some examples could be: 1. They are walking down the street and they see an area that could really be cleaned up. 2. They see a homeless person. What will they do to help? 3. Pretend they are making things that they will give to a center. 4. Pretend they have just contributed a great service to their community and are being recognized. 5. Pretend they want to fight for a law to be changed. (The way Jane Addams changed child-labor laws, and housing for the poor.) After role playing, have the students discuss how they felt as they acted out the various roles. Be sure to hear the point of view of the one in need and the one helping the one(s) in need.

Note: I think this could be a very sensitive issue in school. Be careful to not intimidate children in your class that may be receiving some of the services you may bring up. Also, as you work through each of these lessons be sure to remind the children that even the small contributions can make a big difference.


1. Contributions to the Chain Whip and list of ideas will be assessed informally through observation.

2. Learning Journals will be assessed periodically. Since this journal has a lot to do with how the student felt there may be a few students who don't want you to read that. If there are pages the students don't want read they can fold them in the teacher shouldn't read them. As long as something was written for the day the child should get the points for the writing assignment.

3. Observation of children's willingness to work on the service learning project will be assessed anecdotally.

4. Numbered head questions will be assessed.

5. Observation of children's participation in role playing will be assessed anecdotally.

Appendix A

Numbered Heads Together

Excellent for developing positive interdependence and content master. (Adopted from Deborah Byrnes, Feb. 6, 1997)

1) Form small groups and have them number off in groups.
2) Pose a problem to solve or give questions to be answered.
3) Ask students to work together so everyone knows the answers and can explain them.
(For the team to do well everyone has to know the answers.)
4) Call our a number. The student with that number answers the question for the team. Choose how you want it to be answered (orally, thumbs up or down, in writing, on the board.)
5) Have the group process their work. How did you make sure everyone in your group know the answer? What helped? What did not help?

Make sure everyone in your group can answer the following questions:

1. Why did Jane Addams care what happened to people less fortunate than herself?

2. What experiences did Jane Addams have that effected the opening of Hull House?

3. Given the information you know about Jane Addams, why do you think she was considered compassionate?

4. What training helped Jane Addams to be able to influence so many people?

5. Compare the things being done now (think of the things you learned from the social worker) to the contributions made by Jane. Are the things the same or different? Explain your answer.


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