Jane Addams: Biography of this American Philosopher

Jane Addams (1860-1935) was an American reformer, philosopher and activist who co-founded America’s first social residence, the Hull-House, dedicated to work for the immigrant population as well as various educational and social policies. She was also the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 and the same country’s first public philosopher.

In addition, she belonged to the first generation of upper middle class women who had access to higher education; the experience which led him to problematize the tensions that women have experienced between social and family demands; and his own professional desires. Below we will see a brief biography of Jane Addams.

    Jane Addams: Biography of a Social Reformer

    Jane Addams was born September 6, 1860. Daughter of Sarah Weber and John Huy Addams, Republican politician and American businessman. She was the youngest of five siblings and was raised early in the Civil War in a small town in northern Illinois. Her mother died when Jane was just two years old, while her father served, at the hands of Abraham Lincoln, as state senator for the Republican Party in the second half of the 19th century.

    Influences from her social and family environment, Jane Addams it was formed between values ​​and principles such as community responsibility, Human rights and the civilizing link of Christian ethics and the arts.

    She was also among the first generation of women to enter high-level education at Rockford Female Seminary from 1877 to 1881. In fact, she was the first female student to receive an official degree from the university.

    It is a social context that has opened schools to women, which partly responds to their need for autonomy and professional development, even if in the end it does not offer many possibilities for public practice. At one point, Jane Addams lived in a family setting where the youngest girl had to take care of the house.

    Like other women living in similar contexts, Jane Addams has been confronted with various mental and somatic ailments for years, which has led her, among other things, to develop her philosophy and activism. He worked in particular hand in hand with Ellen Gates Starr, who had also studied at Rockford and shared her interest in building community and social support. In addition, he understood the tension that women face. The fruit of the latter was the creation of the first social and progressive residence in the United States: the Hull-House.

      The family imperative

      Amid strong domestic demands on women, Jane Addams found herself in a tension between pursuing her desires to reform social support in public; and social approval, the demands went in the opposite direction.

      After having to give up his professional projects, and the conflicts that this generated, she and other women from the same period received “rest care”. which was prescribed by Dr. Weir Mitchell, and it consisted of spending time tied to bed. Later, Addams herself will explain that she was in a crippling situation between what she called “the family imperative”, centered on the cult of the servant; and aspirations for an independent life dedicated to social activism (García Dauder, 2005).

      Jane Addams’ care did not come so much to rest as some time later, when she eventually resigned in the house and, along with Ellen Gate Starr, founded the Hull House. He also devoted himself to the writing and development of a philosophical line linked to social progress, to the emancipation of women, to diversity, The ethics of care and actions for peace.

      The Hull House: a “squat house”?

      The Hull House was so named because it was located in a residence in a neighborhood of immigrant workers in Chicago. This residence was free and had been built by Charles Hull in 1856.

      They moved there in 1889 and gradually expanded, reaching several buildings that offered a daycare center, a gym, a community kitchen, meeting spaces for working girls, trades and training workshops, as well as different fields. games. All this available to the neighborhood population, mostly immigrants. It was also an important meeting point for different workers and social reformers of the time, who came to live in the same center and collaborate in their tasks.

      Political impact and social recognition

      Addams works influence the laws on the working conditions of women and children, Factory inspection and prosecution for women, the black population and the immigrant population. In 1910 Addams was the first woman president of the National Conference on Social Work; in 1915 she was president of the International Women’s Congress in The Hague and in 1931 she was the first winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

      Today, the Hull-House has become a museum dedicated to Jane Addams and the women who have worked together for education and social development.

      Theoretical and Philosophical Development of Jane Addams

      Jane Addams made sure that her theoretical development did not deviate from the reality that she was living. And vice versa, he wanted the implications of his activism to be realized on a theoretical level. Thus, the works of Jane Addams are replete with examples of her experiences at the Hull House and touch on unusual subjects ranging from folk tales of the immigrant population and prostitution, to garbage collection (Hamington, 2018).

      From his work at the Hull House, as well as his personal experience, Addams’ theoretical perspective develops an ethic of care that is not limited to the parent-child relationship, But extends to the notion of community and social development. As a result of his academic activity, Addams has published a dozen books and over 500 articles in which he also significantly problematized the American pragmatic tradition, in which he had initially formed.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2018). Jane Addams. American social reformer. Accessed July 4, 2018.Available at https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jane-Addams.
      • Hamington, M. (2018). Jane Addams. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed July 3, 2018.Available at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/addams-jane/.
      • García Dauder, S. (2005). Psychology and feminism. Forgotten history of pioneering women in psychology. Narcea: Madrid.
      • Bissell, V. (2000). Addams, Jane. American national biography. Accessed July 3, 2018.Available at http://www.anb.org/view/10.1093/anb/9780198606697.001.0001/anb-9780198606697-e-1500004.

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