Encyclopedia Womannica

Feminists: Jane Addams

Episode Summary

Jane Addams (1860-1935) was an activist and reformer who pioneered the field of social work, contributed to the study of sociology, and advocated for the inclusion of women in the public sphere. She was a suffragist and philosopher who co-founded the ACLU and was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Episode Notes

Every weekday, listeners explore the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of groundbreaking women throughout history who have dramatically shaped the world around us. In each 5 minute episode, we’ll dive into the story behind one woman listeners may or may not know -- but definitely should. These diverse women from across space and time are grouped into easily accessible and engaging monthly themes like Pioneers, Dreamers, Villainesses, STEMinists, Warriors & Social Justice Warriors, and many more. Encyclopedia Womannica is hosted by WMN co-founder and award-winning journalist Jenny Kaplan. The bite-sized episodes pack painstakingly researched content into fun, entertaining, and addictive daily adventures.

Encyclopedia Womannica was created by Liz Kaplan and Jenny Kaplan, executive produced by Jenny Kaplan, and produced by Liz Smith, Cinthia Pimentel, and Grace Lynch. Special thanks to Shira Atkins, Edie Allard, and Luisa Garbowit. Theme music by Andi Kristins. 

This month of Encyclopedia Womannica is sponsored by Fiverr. Fiverr’s marketplace helps the world’s feminists get more done with less. Take Five and show your support for Fiverr’s new store at FVRR.co/women, where they feature over 100 of the platform’s top female talent.

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Episode Transcription

Hello! From Wonder Media Network, I’m Jenny Kaplan and this is Encyclopedia Womannica.

If you’ve been listening for a while, you know that on Encyclopedia Womannica we’re making every month Women’s History Month. But in honor of March- the official Women’s History Month- we’re dedicating the month to talking about Feminists, women who fought for gender equity. We have a bunch of really exciting content planned, stay tuned to the end of the episode to hear more. 

Our woman of the day was an activist and reformer who pioneered the field of social work, contributed to the study of sociology, and advocated for the inclusion of women in the public sphere. She was a suffragist and philosopher who co-founded the ACLU and was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Let’s talk about Jane Addams.

Jane was born on September 6, 1860 in Cedarville, Illinois. She was the second youngest of 9 children in a very prominent family. Her father was successful and had friends in high places, including Abraham Lincoln. Jane’s mother passed away when Jane was just two years old.  

From an early age, Jane was determined to do something to make a difference in the world. She attended Rockford Female Seminary and graduated in 1881. After that, she decided she wanted to become a doctor to help serve the needs of the poor. Jane attended one year of medical school at the University of Pennsylvania before dropping out due to illness. 

Her career in medicine was dead, but Jane’s desire for mission driven work was still kicking. It was an era of social reform and activism. In 1889, Jane and her friend Ellen Gates Starr decided to visit a Settlement House in London called Toynbee Hall. 

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Settlement Houses were created by people who offered educational services and attempted to combat poverty, particularly in neighborhoods with high immigrant populations in industrial cities. These centers provided space for people from very different backgrounds to interact and exchange ideas. Settlement Houses were breeding grounds for new social reforms. 

Jane and Ellen were so inspired by Toynbee hall that they decided to create their own settlement house called Hull House in Chicago’s west side.

Hull House provided lots of different services to people in the industrial neighborhood including adult education and job training, kindergarten and daycare, job-placement, acculturation classes, and cooking. There was a community center, art gallery and gym. 

With the success of Hull House under her belt, Jane became a very active and well-known speaker and reformer for a wide variety of causes. She successfully called for a juvenile court system, lobbied for better sanitation and factory laws, and advocated for labor reforms. 

At the core of her work was the desire to improve the lots of women and children. At the University of Chicago, Jane helped to establish a school of social work and thereby opened a new career field predominantly served by women. She also made significant contributions  to the academic field of sociology, and was a charter member of the American Sociological Society

In an essay entitled, “Utilization of Women in City Government,” Jane compared the government to a household. She argued that certain functions of the government fell under the traditional women’s sphere. She said women have more knowledge and ability to make decisions on things like sanitation and educating children and should therefore be given the right to vote. Jane was an officer in the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and was one of the founders of the NAACP. 

Jane was also an avowed pacifist. When World War I began, Jane attempted to convince President Woodrow Wilson to serve as mediator for the warring factions. That obviously didn’t work out. When the U.S. entered the conflict, Jane protested and was branded a dangerous radical. Jane traveled to the warring nations with a group of fellow protestors in an attempt to bring peace. 

At the end of the war, she argued that the 1919 peace treaty was so harsh on Germany that it would lead to another war. Her prediction proved savvy. 

That same year, Jane helped found the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She was president of the organization until 1929 and honorary president for the rest of her life. The following year, in 1920, she also helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union. 

In 1931, Jane was the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her work promoting world peace. 

Four years later, on May 21, 1935, she died. She was 74 years old. 

Jane Addams’ legacy lives on in the fields, policies and reforms she helped to shape. 

As promised at the beginning of this episode, here’s a little more information about what you’ll be hearing on Encyclopedia Womannica for the rest of March:  This month, we’ll be focusing on feminists from throughout history. We’ve covered feminists in every theme so far. What differentiates this month is that we will be looking at women who were particularly important to the women’s rights movement, the suffrage movement, and/or modern feminism and feminist theory. This month’s group is not an exhaustive list by any means, and we’re sticking to a smaller time range in our regular weekday episodes so that we can really focus in. On weekends, we’re going to be highlighting favorite feminists from past months chosen by other podcast hosts we love and modern feminists brought to you by our sponsor this month Fiverr. For more on why we’re doing what we’re doing, check out our new Encyclopedia Womannica newsletter. 

This month of Encyclopedia Womannica is brought to you by Fiverr, an online marketplace connecting businesses with freelancers who offer hundreds of digital services including graphic design, copywriting, web programming, film editing, and more. 

Fiverr’s mission is to change how the world works together. The Fiverr platform gives everyone, no matter their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation, an equal chance to build their business, brand or dreams -- on their own terms.  That’s something we can certainly get behind this Women’s History Month-- and year round - as we call for more industry leaders to join with Fiverr and make strides in creating opportunities for all. 

Fiverr’s marketplace helps the world’s feminists get more done with less. Take Five and show your support for Fiverr’s new store at FVRR.com/women, where they feature over 100 of the platform’s top female talent. That’s FVRR.com/women

Special thanks to Liz Kaplan, my favorite sister and co-creator.

Talk to you tomorrow!