Jane Addams: Challenging a Nation - The Way It Was

"Jane Addams", 1896-1900, Swarthmore College Collection, Public Domain.

Let women stay at home and hold their peace.  – Aeschylus, 467 B.C. 

A Woman is to be from her House three times: when she is Christened, Married and Buried. – New Sporting Magazine, 1832



In late 19th century America, most women only worked at home and those who did venture into the workplace were laundresses, nurses, or seamstresses. A lot was expected of these women and they often only lived  for an average of about 45 years.  They were mostly uneducated, could not vote in elections, and once a women married all her possessions became property of her husband. Divorce was extremely rare, but if it did occur the husband retained custody of any children.

But as the century ended, women became more and more unhappy with their role in society.  America entered a period of widespread social reform from 1890-1920 that we now call the Progressive Era. Presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson identified themselves as social reformers.

And it was during this period that Jane Addams became a prominent voice on the issues that concerned women: the needs of children, local public health, and world peace. The times were changing and women responded to Jane’s call to action to change the direction of their lives and step out of their homes in an effort to make their communities better for all.

Jane’s efforts and ideas were recognized by America and the world and she became the first American women to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as well as founder of the profession of social work in the United States.


Original Release: Jun 14, 2016

Updated Last Revision: Jun 16, 2016

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