Today in History: September 6
Jane Addams and Hull House
Social reformer and pacifist Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860, in Cedarville, Illinois. After graduating from Rockford Female Seminary in 1881, Addams left her native Illinois for Philadelphia where she enrolled at the Woman's Medical College. Poor health caused her to abandon her studies and she spent the next two years as an invalid. After regaining her strength, Addams embarked upon a tour of Europe where she would ultimately find the inspiration for much of her work in social reform in the world’s first settlement house, London’s Toynbee Hall.
Toynbee Hall was operated by its founder, Samuel Augustus Barnett, and resident university students. Toynbee Hall tackled the problems of urban poverty by providing social services and community enrichment to residents of the city's deprived industrial district. Toynbee's success prompted Addams and her traveling companion and college classmate Ellen Gates Starr, to plan a similar center for Chicago. In 1889, the two women rented a large vacant house, the former Hull mansion, on Chicago's West Side and opened their doors to the neighboring, mostly immigrant, community.
Starr and Addams' Hull House initially provided welfare assistance to needy families and recreation facilities for poor children. Hull House eventually expanded its services to include providing boarding rooms for female workers, a day care center, English literacy classes, academic courses, social clubs, and meeting space for union activities.
As Addams began to recognize the power of political organization to improve the living conditions of the people Hull House served, the center also became an important training ground and meeting place for social reformers. Investigations into a range of social problems took place at Hull House and it was a locale for developing national campaigns for labor rights and women's suffrage.
Addams lived and worked at Hull House until her death in 1935. Just four years earlier, in 1931, she received the Nobel Peace Prize (external link)—the first American woman so honored. Her dedicated work towards peace included serving as an outspoken member of the peace movement, and protesting the United States’ entry into World War I, a cause of much public condemnation at the time. Addams also chaired the Woman's Peace Party, organized and directed the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and served as the first woman president of the organization now known as the National Conference of Social Work (1910).
- See images of Addams, her contemporaries, Hull House sports teams, and other Chicago settlement houses in Photographs from the Chicago Daily News, 1902-1933.
- Read clippings relating to Addams in Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks, 1897-1911.
- Read Addams’ essay, “The Subtle Problems of Charity” in the American Memory collection The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals.
- Read personal accounts of immigrants who knew Jane Addams and participated in Hull House activities. Search on Hull House in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940.
- Learn more about women's suffrage, one of the many causes championed by Addams, in these collections:
- By Popular Demand: "Votes for Women" Suffrage Pictures, 1850-1920
- Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection, 1848-1921 – see in particular the essay on Addams included in the digitized book: American women in civic work, by Helen Christine Bennett.
- Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman's Party
- Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929
- Search on the keyword Hull House in By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943 to see two colorful posters which advertise arts related events held at the settlement house during the Depression era. (Hull House had a strong art studio program and commercial kiln operation as far back as the 1890s.) See, for example, Poster Show at the Hull House.
On September 6, 1901, President William McKinley was shot twice in the stomach while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Leon Czolgosz, a Polish citizen associated with the Anarchist movement, fired at McKinley who was greeting the public in a receiving line.
Czolgosz's execution in an electric chair was reenacted in a short feature shot by Edwin Porter and released, along with films of the World's Fair and the McKinley funeral, by the Edison Company in 1901. Porter began making films for the Edison Company in 1900. He introduced important innovations to the new art of filmmaking including the practice of continuity editing that quickly replaced the earlier technique of stringing together a series of static scenes.
- Porter's Panorama of Esplanade by Night uses time-lapse photography to capture a panoramic view of an electrical illumination. Another Porter film, The Martyred Presidents is an unusual tribute to Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and McKinley. The Edison Company marketed it as a "most valuable ending" to the funeral series.
- Find more Porter films, including footage of McKinley's second inauguration and funeral. Search on Porter in The Last Days of a President: Films of McKinley and the Pan-American Exposition, 1901.
- See more motion pictures produced by the Edison Company. Visit the collection Inventing Entertainment: the Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies.
- Search on the term McKinley in Theodore Roosevelt: His Life and Times on Film to see two 1901 films related to McKinley—footage of his inauguration and his funeral.