Jane Addams, Superwoman
In North America, women are continuously striving forwards to gain true equality. And since 1920 when women received the right to vote in the USA, we have made great strides. When you are walking down the street, are you berated for what you wear? No. Are you told where you can work? No. Do you have the right to speak up and be heard? Yes. Women’s voices are stronger than ever and we have arrived to a time where we can confidently speak freely thanks to women like, Jane Addams.
The term “Superwoman” in the title is not being used lightly. Jane Addams, born in 1860 was destined to make a difference for women. Ahead of her time, she trudged through an era that was ruled by men and the upper class. But through her inner calling, she found her voice and was supported by her father who encouraged her to pursue higher education. From there, she travelled to London with a friend, Ellen G. Starr to London’s East End. At this time, she was considering a medical career, but the visit confirmed what she needed to do with her life. In London’s East End, she discovered a settlement house, which helped the underprivileged. She and Miss Starr decided to open a similar house, named Hull House in Chicago with their purpose “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”. Quite the mandate. However, Jane Addams did not fall short of this statement.
What Miss Addams achieved next is jaw-dropping. An exceptional amount of success, not short of what 20 people would be expected to accomplish in their lifetime. For Hull house, she and Miss Starr made speeches regarding the needs of the neighbourhood, raised funds, convinced young women in privileged families to help, took care of children, nursed the sick and provided comfort to the outpouring from troubled people. By its second year, Hull House assisted 2,000 people every week. They held kindergarten classes and night school for adults. As well as added extensions for an art gallery, a kitchen, a coffee house, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a cooperative building for girls, a book bindery, an art studio, a music school, a drama group, a library, an employment bureau and a labour museum. She also led investigations on midwifery, narcotics consumption, milk supplies and sanitary conditions. It is no wonder that Jane Addams was the first U.S. woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
However, you may wonder how this affects women and society at present. Miss Adams set the path so others could easily follow in her footsteps; to see a leader and understand that humans have basic rights, which need to be fulfilled no matter what era in which we live. In the days before suffrage, she endorsed that women’s voices should be heard in legislation and at home. Not only should they have the right to vote, but should have aspirations outside of the home and realise them. She envisioned democracy, social justice and peace; all of which needed to be advanced together to achieve any one. Addams was not only inspiring, but fascinating for her courage and will power to truly make a difference for us then and now.