Jane Addams is arguably one of the most influential social workers ever, she was a true pioneer for her time and is best known for her pioneering work in the social work field. She was responsible for starting the Hull House in Chicago. The Hull House was a progressive social organization aimed at reducing poverty by providing social services and education to working class immigrants and laborers. With Hull House, Addams proposed 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 in Chicago”. She wanted to create a place where social progress, education, democracy, ethics, art, religion, peace, and happiness could all be daily experiences. The Hull house offered kindergarten and day care for children of working mothers, an art gallery, libraries, music and art classes, and an employment bureau. By its second year of operation, Hull House served more than 2,000 residents weekly.
In her career, Addams became a prolific writer and speaker. She helped start the National Child Labor Committee, a committee that was chartered by Congress in 1907, which led to the creation of the Federal Children’s Bureau in 1912 and the Federal Child Labor Law in 1916. Addams was the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, later called the National Conference of Social Work, an organization in which she was instrumental in starting along with many other civil liberty and social organizations. Along with her lifelong work campaigning for women’s suffrage she started the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. Later on in her life, Jane Adams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, the first woman to win.
For all of us in society who have been impacted by the amazing work that our social workers have done, currently or will do, we have in part Jane Addams to thank. We are forever grateful to her for her pioneering work she did laying the foundations for social work as we know it.
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