First Wave Feminists- Jane Addams

The daughter of wealthy philanthropists, Jane Addams (1860-1935) was raised to value social responsibility and political action. Addams attended the prestigious Rockford Female Seminary and aspired to become a doctor, but when ill health curbed her medical studies, she co-founded (with Ellen G. Starr) a missionary school. Hull House was distinct from other charities in that Addams and her colleagues committed to living among those they served. By 1889, Hull House was assisting 2,000 people a day, with aid for the poor, the disabled, the unemployed, and immigrants. The settlement offered classes in art, music, and citizenship preparation; it featured a public kitchen and baths, a gymnasium and libraries, and rooms for an employment bureau and child and elder care. Addams held positions on the Chicago Board of Education, the Women’s Suffrage Association, and the Women’s Peace Party, among many others. Although her pacifist efforts against America’s entry into the First World War were unsuccessful, she is credited with inspiring the international peace movement. Addams became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1931.

“[Peace is not] an absence of war, but the unfolding of world-wide processes making for the nurture of human life.”

– From “Passing of the War Virtues,” Newer Ideals for Peace, 1907

“Political action should concern genuine human needs. It makes possible the age-long effort of women to bring the world nearer to their hearts’ desire—a better world for their children.”

– From Vice Presidential Address, National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1911

[On “feticide” and infanticide of the disabled by electrocution:] “The suggestion is horrible.  It is not in line with the march of civilization nor with the principles of humanity. The Spartans destroyed children physically infirm. Are we to go back to the days of Sparta? Feeble-minded children are one of the cares of the community. It is our duty to care for them.”

– From “Noted Men and Women Differ on Ethics of Letting Baby Die,” The Washington Post, November 18, 1915

“[Feminism’s success] in the direction of a larger justice has come through an overwhelming desire to cherish both the illegitimate child and his unfortunate mother.”

– From The Long Road of Women’s Memory, 1916

-Jen Hawkins, The American Feminist: First Wave Feminists