Twenty Years at Hull House is an outstanding example of the humanitarianism movement in America at the turn of the century. Jane Addams, the author and narrator of the book, was born in Illinois. Early in her life she began to see the effects of poverty on people. She recalls one incident early in her life of seeing a homeless man on the street. She asked her father why that was, and he replied that that was just the way things were. Her father was a Quaker and the most prominate role model in Jane's life. As a child she grew up wanting to be just like him. For a while, she aspired to be a mill owner just like him. Her mother is not mentioned in the book at all. Jane went to Rockford College and soon toured London. It was there that she came up with the idea of the Hull House. Hull House was a settlement house in Chicago. It offered day care and college level classes for women. Spawning from her work at the house, Jane joined many causes that she passionately fought for. These causes included working hours for women, child labor laws, and juivenile court. She could be considered an early feminist. Also from her work at Hull House, Jane started studing the causes of poverty and the effects it had on society. She was not satisfied with just the success of her house; she wanted to know why there was a need for it at all. Later in her life she joined the womens sufferage movement. Jane Addams was a wonderful reformist and feminist that sought to better the country. Twenty Years at Hull House offer insight into one of America' most interesting time periods. Though Addams' prose often gets mired in the florid and highly mannered style of her era, this is a surprisingly compelling book. Free of the ethnic racism and stereotyping that blight many similar works of the era, Addams' account of her groundbreaking community center in one of the worst parts of late 19th-century Chicago fairly overflows with compassion and almost unbelievable fairness. Addams's intelligence is evident, and many of her ideas and attitudes seem decades ahead of their time. It's not light reading by any stretch of the imagination, but "Twenty Years at Hull House" contains many gripping portraits of the desperation of immigrant life and the simple power of human decency.
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About the Author
Jane Addams (1860-1935) was a pioneer settlement worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in woman suffrage and world peace. Beside presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, she was the most prominent reformer of the Progressive Era and helped turn the nation to issues of concern to mothers, such as the needs of children, public health, and world peace. She said that if women were to be responsible for cleaning up their communities and making them better places to live, they needed the vote to be effective in doing so. Addams became a role model for middle-class women who volunteered to uplift their communities. She is increasingly recognized as a member of the American pragmatist school of philosophy. In 1931 she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.