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Happy Birthday to Jane Adams, "Mother of Social Work," and first American Woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize

by Erik Fogel | Sep 6, 2017 7:00:00 AM |

Girls Debate League


Girls Debate League Article


“What after all has maintained the human race on this old globe despite all the calamities of nature and all the tragic failings of mankind, if not faith in new possibilities and courage to advocate them.” - Jane Addams


Happy Birthday to Jane Addams who was born on September 6th 1860.  Jane Addams is considered the "Mother of Social Work in America," founder of the social work profession in the United States, first woman "public philosopher in the history of the United States," co-founder of Hull House, co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.



Born September 6, 1860, in Cedarville, Illinois.  When she was four she contracted tuberculosis of the spine which caused a curvature in her spine and lifelong health problems. This made it complicated as a child to function with the other children, considering she had a limp and could not run as well.  Nevertheless, Jane Addams would become a pioneer social worker, feminist, and internationalist whose unending dedication and convincing oratory style changed the world of humanitarian aid as we know it. 


Known as the "Mother of Social Work," Jane's vision became clear when she visited the charitable Toynbee Hall while on vacation in London. Knowing that her home was in need of such a facility, she opened Hull-House in Chicago in 1889. Through a series of speeches and outreach, she convinced young women from wealthy families to donate and become involved in providing for the needs of their community. Hull-House initially provided clubs and education for children, night classes for adults and later recreation and career enhancement facilities. Within two years of opening, Hull-House was serving 2,000+ people a week. 


This endeavor was merely a starting point for Jane. Due to her activism for education reform, in 1905 she was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education and became the Chairman of the School Management Committee. In 1909 she became the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections and received the first honorary degree ever awarded to a woman from Yale University. 


Jane, however, was a pacifist and became extremely outspoken against America's entrance into WWI. For this, the press and public attacked her. However, she was able to reconcile her beliefs and America's participation in the war by providing humanitarian aid to the suffering women and children of enemy nations.  


Through her strong convictions, Jane Addams competently used oration and written word to spread social activism and help countless people in the United States and abroad. For her work, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, becoming the first American woman to receive the honor. She passed away on May 21, 1935, but her legacy lives on through those who keep her work alive. 


It is through careful thought and debate that women can turn their passion into reality, and there is no better time than now to begin honing these skills. Through debate, you are powerful.  Through debate, you can change the world. 


"Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world."-Jane Addams

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