Nobel Peace Prize Recipient. Jane Addams, an American social reformer, received notoriety after being awarded the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with American Nicholas Murray Butler. According to the Nobel Prize committee, she received this coveted award for “being the international President, of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Sociologist.”She was daughter of John H. Addams a former Civil War officer and Illinois State Senator. Prospering intellectually as the eighth of nine children, she was surrounded by politics and activism all her life. Her father was a friend of United States President Abraham Lincoln, so much so that Lincoln addressed her father as "Dear, Double-D Addams" in letters. From this relationship, she paid attention to the ways and means of the political world. She went to the Rockford Female Seminary School and graduated as Valedictorian of her class of 17 students, and she was awarded a baccalaureate degree a year later when the college became accredited as the "Rockford College for Women." Constantly being surrounded by social politics, she kept a keen eye and began writing at an early age. Her childhood years were marred with bouts of malaise related to a congenital spinal problem, thus limiting her activity as a child; the defect was later corrected by surgery. Up until the surgery in her late twenties, she studied voraciously, mainly medicine, however her not-yet-fully regained health kept her studies sporadic. She traveled and studied domestically and abroad, and her second trip to Europe provided her with her first inspiration for social change. Accompanied by her friend Ellen G. Starr, she toured a facility in London, England's East End called Toynbee Hall. The house was a boon to the economically depressed area providing assistance with child care, education for children and adults as well as help with learning trades and gaining employment. Inspired by the institution in London, Starr and Addams returned to America and leased a large home in Chicago, Illinois built by Charles Hull. The birth of "Hull House" began in 1889 and Starr and Addams worked diligently to "provide a center for a higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.” Speaking out for social change and philanthropy, her reputation grew. In 1905 she was appointed to Chicago's Board of Education and subsequently made chairman of the School Management Committee; in 1908 she participated in the founding of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy; and in the next year, she became the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections. In her own area of Chicago she led investigations on midwifery, narcotics consumption, milk supplies, and sanitary conditions, even going so far as to accept the official post of garbage inspector of the Nineteenth Ward, at an annual salary of a thousand dollars. In 1910 she received the first honorary degree ever awarded to a woman by Yale University. Jane Addams went beyond being a suffragette; she not only advocated the right for women to vote but encouraged and helped many women to make a difference by getting educated, employed and becoming part of their communities. America on the threshold of war afforded another avenue for her views to be heard and used her growing position to speak against the war with fervor. In 1906 she gave a course of lectures at the University of Wisconsin which she published the next year as a book, "Newer Ideals of Peace". She spoke for peace in 1913 at a ceremony commemorating the building of the Peace Palace at The Hague in Netherlands and in the next two years, as a lecturer sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation, spoke against America's entry in World War I. In January of 1915, she accepted the chairmanship of the Women's Peace Party, an American organization, and four months later the presidency of the International Congress of Women convened at The Hague largely upon the initiative of Doctor Aletta Jacobs, a Dutch suffragist leader. When this congress later founded the organization called the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, she served as president until 1929, as presiding officer of its six international conferences in those years, and as honorary president for the remainder of her life. After publicly vilified for her opposition to war, she was hounded by the press and expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution. While some disagreed with her views she found a powerful ally in United States President Herbert Hoover and worked as his assistant in providing relief supplies to the women and families of war torn enemy nations the story which was regaled in her book "Peace and Bread in Time of War" in 1922. She sustained a heart attack in 1926, from which she never fully recovered. Ironically, she was being admitted to a Baltimore, Maryland hospital on the very day, December 10, 1931, that the Nobel Peace Prize was being awarded to her in Oslo, Norway. A subsequent operation revealed unsuspected cancer with her dying three days later. The funeral service was held in the courtyard of Hull House.
Bio by: R. Digati
George William Baker