From Traitor to Nobel Laureate – the Work of Jane Addams is Chronicled at Chicago’s Historic Hull House Museum

Jane Addams, photo courtesy of University of Illinois

Jane Addams attracted national attention when, with with her friend Ellen G. Starr, she founded Chicago’s Hull House in 1889. The facility was located on the city’s near west side, in a densely urban neighborhood populated primarily by struggling immigrants. Modeled after the settlement houses in London, the mission of Hull House was to assist immigrants by providing a center for a civic and social life, improve the quality of education, and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.

Hull House provided kindergarten and day care facilities for the children of working mothers; an employment bureau; an art gallery; libraries; English and citizenship classes; and theater, music and art classes. By virtue of its efforts, the Illinois Legislature enacted protective legislation for women and children, setting the stage for passage of a Federal child labor law in 1916. As her notoriety grew, Addams was appointed to Chicago’s Board of Education, helped to found the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, and led investigations on midwifery, narcotics consumption, milk supplies, and sanitary conditions in Chicago. Yet despite her laudable work, when Addams opposed the country’s entry into World War One, she was branded a traitor by the press and expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Fortunately, history treated Addams with more respect; fourteen years later she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work and pacifist ideals.

Jane Addams Hull House Museum historical landmark
Jane Addams Hull House Museum historical landmark

Of the 13 buildings that once comprised the Hull House complex, only the original home and adjacent dining hall escaped the wrecking ball when a six square block area was razed to make way for the University of Illinois at Chicago. The original home was restored and converted to the Jane Addams Hull House Museum, which today attracts more than 30,000 visitors a year who come to learn about women’s history, immigration and labor rights.

The Museum’s collection includes more than 1100 artifacts related to Hull House history and 100 oral interviews with people who have shared their stories about Hull House and the surrounding neighborhood. Remaining true to its history as a place where the public has gathered to discuss the most critical social issues of our time, the Museum continues the tradition by hosting programs that are free and open to the public. Every Tuesday from 12:00-1:00pm, local residents gather at a modern day soup kitchen to eat soup made from fresh, organic ingredients, many of which come from the museum’s on-site organic garden and participate in classes on canning and preserving foods.

Interior spaces are decorated with period furniture and historical displays

Hull House Museum, located at 800 S. Halsted Street in Chicago, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. After touring the original house, dining hall, and organic garden, visitors can also visit historic Maxwell Street and Haymarket Square, as well as the vibrant neighborhoods of Little Italy, Greek Town, and Pilsen, all of which are within walking distance of Hull House.

11 thoughts on “From Traitor to Nobel Laureate – the Work of Jane Addams is Chronicled at Chicago’s Historic Hull House Museum”

  1. @anil @barbera We’ll be in Chicago before TBEX as well, as it’s our home away from traveling. Message us, too, and we’ll meet up!

    • Kyle: Unfortunately, I will not be going to Chicago this summer, as I am leaving soon for 4 months of backpacking through Mexico, Central and South America, and will be flying to NYC directly from Ecuador. But you might be able to connect with Anil. Leave a comment on his blog – he monitors it regularly.

  2. I’m saving all of these Chicago posts. I’m going to try and make it there in June, I keep hearing wonderful things about the city.

    On that note, it’s funny how many people in history are branded traitors for advocating peace, doesn’t seem to happen as often the other way around. I’m sure there are some but don’t recall many people for being outcast for proposing war on an outside nation.

    • Oh Anil, you will love Chicago. Make sure to take one of the architectural tours from Chicago Architectural Foundation. The one on the boat that travels the Chicago River through downtown is great. And Rush Street at night, and Little Italy, and Greek Town. Go hungry, because Chicago also has some of the best food in the country. Walk the Magnfiicent Mile (but only if you”re NOT a shopper the stores there will lure you in). The Museum Campus is awesome – Field Museum especially – ad further south there’s the Museum of Science and Industry, which was the country’s first interactive museum and is a “not to be missed” attraction. The Art Institute (old and new wing) is one of the best art museums in the country, and the near north neighborhoods – Lincoln Park, Belmont – are fun. Nightlife too – Second City Comedy, House of Blues, Green Door for Poetry Slams. Wish I could join you!


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