The Hull House

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The Hull House


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The Hull House

Jane Addams in collaboration with Ellen Gates Starr founded the Hull House in the year 1889 (Stuart). It was a settlement house in the United States located near the west side of Chicago, Illinois. The Hull House was named after the original owner known by the name Charles Jerald Hull and was opened to the recently arrived European immigrants. By the year 1911, the Hull House had grown up to 13 buildings, and by 1912, the Hull House had been completed. A summer camp, the Bowen Country Club was added to the Hull House. The Hull House became the standard bearer for the movements that had grown due to its innovative social, educational as well as the artistic programs and by the year 1920, the Hull House had reached to around 500 settlement houses national wide.

A significant number of the Hull House was demolished to give room for the construction of the University of Illinois circle campus around the mid-1960s. Continuous renovations were done to the Hull House and other subsequent acquisitions for the accommodation of the changing demands of the association. One of the original building along with an additional one that had been moved to about 200 yards still survives up to date. A Chicago landmark was designated to the Hull House on June 12 of the year 1974 and on June 23, 1965, the Hull House got a designation as the United States national historic landmark (Alexander). On October 15 of the year 1966 during the legislation of the national historic preservation act of 1966, the Hull House was among the historical places that were on the register of the national register of historic sites. The Hull house, therefore, was among one of the four registered members to which were listed on both the national registry of historic places and the Chicago registered landmark sites. The operations of the Hull House Association ceased to operate in January 2012, but the Hull House mansion and a related dining hall remain open as a museum.

The Hull House was modeled in a similar manner to that of Toynbee Hall situated in London where the majority of its residents were men. In the Hull House, Addams had the intentions for it to be a community of women residents although some men were also residents over the years. The residents of the Hull House were often many well-educated individuals comprising of both men and women, who would at their work at the settlement house be responsible for the advancement of the opportunities for the working class individuals of the neighborhood. The neighborhood of the settlement house was of ethnic diversity. The classes often resonated with the cultural background of the neighbors.

Among the teachers included John Dewey, an educational philosopher taught a class on Greek philosophy to the Greek immigrant men with the primary aim of building their self-esteem. With a theatre on site, the Hull House introduced theatrical works to the neighborhood. The Hull House was also responsible for the introduction of a kindergarten for the children of working mothers. Besides, the first public playground, as well as the first public gymnasium, were established. Moreover, a majority of issues including social reforms such as the introduction of the juvenile courts, women’s rights, immigrant issues, public health, and safety as well as the child labor reforms.

The Hull house being a settlement house, therefore, played a significant proportion for the socialization of the European immigrants. Several notables came through the Hull House and giving it a significant meaning (Deegan). Among the celebrities who went through the Hull House include Edith Abbott, Grace Abbott, Florence Kelly and Neva Boyd.

Florence Kelley

Florence Kelley was a lawyer and a social worker who lived between the years 1859 to 1932 (Williams). Kelley is remembered for her dedication in work for the protection of women via labor legislation, her activism in working for the children labor protections and being the head of the national consumers league which she lead for 34 years. Kelley’s father, William Darrah was an abolitionist as well as a Quaker who was responsible for aiding in the foundation of the Republican Party. Her father served as a Congressman in the United States from Philadelphia. Sarah Pugh, her great aunt, was also an abolitionist, and she was present in the Hull House during the anti-slavery convention of the American Women when it was set on fire by a pro-slavery mob, where they later assembled in Sarah Pugh’s school. Kelley completed Cornell University in the year 1882 as a Phi Betta Kappa, where she spent six years in acquiring her degree due to issues related to her health. Afterward, she went to Zurich University where she studied socialism. In 1884 still in Zurich she got married to a Polish-Russian socialist. In the year 1893, Kelley successfully lobbied for the Illinois state legislature to pass the law by establishing an eight hour workday for the women. In the year 1894, Kelley was awarded a law degree from Northwestern and later admitted to the Illinois bar.

While in Chicago, Florence Kelley became a resident of the Hull House, implying that she worked and as well lived in the settlement house. She lived there in a community mostly comprised of women who were involved in the neighborhood as well as the general social reforms. Kelley’s work was among the research documented in the Hull House maps and papers in the year 1895. During her study at the Northwestern University, Kelley developed interest and studied child labor where then she was appointed as the first factory inspector for the state of Illinois by Gov. John P. Altgeld in 1893. She died in 1932.

Grace Abbott

Grace Abbott is recognized for the new deal era chief of the federal children’s bureau as well as an advocate for the child labor laws (Abbott). She is a sister to Edith Abbott and a well-recognized resident of the Hull House. Grace worked as a social worker, a government official, an activist, a writer and as an educator. She studied and graduated in the year 1898 from the Grand Island College which is a Baptist school. She later moved to Custer County as an educator after her graduation, but then returned home to recover from typhoid. She took her sister’s position as a teacher in the year 1899. Grace Abbott studied law at the University of Nebraska from the year 1902 to 1903 where she did not graduate as she left for teaching at their home. In 1906, Grace attended a summer program at the University of Chicago, and the next year she moved for a full-time study in the University. She studied political science and later graduated with a Ph.D. in the year 1909.

When Grace was still a student, she became the founder of the juvenile protection association alongside Breckenridge. Grace took a position with the organization, and from the year 1908, she became a guest and resident at the Hull House where later she was joined by her sister Edith Abbott. In the year 1908, Grace Abbott became the first director of the Immigrants’ protective league, to which had been founded by Julian Mach a judge alongside Freud and Breckenridge, where Grace served in the position until 1917. The organization enforced the existing legal protections of the immigrants against mistreatment by their employers and the banks and as well advocated for more protective laws.

In the quest to understand the conditions for the immigrants, Grace Abbott studied their experiences at the Ellis Island and testified in the year 1912 in Washington, D.C for the House of Representatives Committee Against the literacy test that had been proposed for the immigrants. Unfortunately, despite her efforts to testify and her advocacy, the law was passed in 1917. Grace worked briefly in Massachusetts for some legislative investigation of the immigrant conditions where she was offered a permanent position but refused to take the offer opting to return to Chicago. Among other activities that Grace Abbott engaged to include joining Breckenridge and other women to become members of the Women’s Trade Union League, she also worked to oversee the protection of the working women to whom the majority of them were immigrants. Grace was also devoted to advocating for the better enforcement of the compulsory attendance for the immigrant children at the school disregarding the alternative that the children get employment in the factory works to which they fetched low pay.

In the year 1911, Grace took the first of the several trips to Europe in the quest to understand the situation to which led to the immigration of so many people from the region into the neighborhood of the Hull House. Working at the school of philanthropy and civics, Grace wrote her findings on the immigrant conditions as research papers, her sister Edith Abbott also worked in the same school by that time. Grace later published The Immigrant and the Community book in the year 1917. Grace was a devoted activist who sought to fight against the oppressive laws that forced children to get employed at low wages instead of going to school. Grace Abbott died in the year 1939 in June.

Edith Abbott

Edith Abbott was an American economist, author, a social worker and an educator who lived between the years 1876 to 1957 (Hamilton). Edith Abbott was born in Grand Island in Nebraska and was a pioneer in the profession of social work with the possession of background knowledge in the field of economics. Edith Abbott was one of the leading activists in the social reforms with the ideals that the humanitarianism needed to get embedded by education. She was also in charge of the implementation of the social work studies to the graduate level. Edith was ultimately successful though she was faced with some resistance on her work with the social reform at the University of Chicago and her continued success oversaw her elected as the dean of the school in the year 1924 to which made her be the first female dean in the United States. Edith Abbott was foremost an educator who saw her work as the combination of the legal and humanitarian work that is indicated in her work of the social security legislation. Edith is known as an economist who pursued the implementation of the social work at the graduate level.

In her early career, Edith Abbott returned to the United States in the year 1907 after completing her education in London, taking a teaching job in the field of economics at the Wellesley College. The position at the Wellesley College was demanding a high education qualification, and therefore she had to quit and desired to return to Chicago. Later she was lucky and got a chance in 1908 when Sophonisba Breckenridge the then director of the social research at the Chicago school of civics and philanthropy offered her a job to which she was to teach statistics in the department of social investigation. Edith Abbott together with her sister moved to the Hull House when she returned to Chicago. By the time they joined the settlement house, Hull House was known as the mecca for the educated women. The reason behind its name was due to its vibrant community of residing the revolutionary thinkers. Edith and Grace, therefore, became great additions to the reform-minded community due to their significant contribution through their commitment to the advocacy of the social reforms as well as the scholarship for the statistical research.

The professional partnership between Edith and Breckenridge was initiated during their schooling years in the school of civics and philanthropy. They shared a common interest in the detailed statistical investigation where they then jointly produced the Housing problem in Chicago that contained a total of ten articles in the American Journal of sociology. Edith Abbott focused her attention on her students portraying the fundamental principles that could be transmitted to the students, where she states that these principles must borrow from a critical examination of the methods to which are used to produce particular results and a searching equally for the causes of the apparent failure and success. Edith Abbott derived a curriculum for the students that desired a career in the social work. Through her efforts in advocacy, she wrote many scholarly articles, government reports as well as book reviews to which she discussed specific issues such as those affecting women and children’s rights, public assistance as well as immigration issues. Edith stressed the significance of the general welfare administration and the need for the moral, humane social welfare systems. Besides, she advocated for the responsibility of the state in addressing social problems. Edith Abbott died in the year 1957 due to pneumonia complications.

Neva Boyd

Neva Leona Boyd was an American sociologist who lived between 1876 and 1963 in Chicago. Boyd was the founder of the Recreational Training School at the Hull House in Chicago (Goodson). The school taught a one-year educational program in the group games, dancing, dramatic arts, gymnastics, social problems and the play theory. Boyd was on the faculty of the Northwestern University from the year 1927 to 1941. Having been born in Lowa in 1876, Boyd shifted to Chicago after completing her high school education enrolling to the Chicago kindergarten institute currently known as the Louis University. After the enrollment, eventually, she found her way arriving at the Hull House, which was a settlement house set aside for the European immigrants. Boyd taught kindergarten in Buffalo in New York that is before returning in 1908 to attend to the University of Chicago.

Boyd was hired by the Chicago park commission as a social worker, with her primary responsibilities being to organize social clubs, supervise social dances, direct drama activities and organize play activities. During her time at the Hull House, Neva Boyd ran movements and recreational groups for the children. Boyd used games and improvisation to teach language skills, self-confidence, problem-solving as well as social skills. Neva Boyd worked with the Recreational Project in the works progress administration during the great depression. In 1927, the Northwestern University requested Boyd to move the Chicago training school for playground workers from Hull House to its department of sociology where she accepted the request. Neva Boyd became a theatre and a sociology professor at the University of Chicago and is one of the founders of the recreational therapy as well as the drama movements in the United States.

Boyd had some attachment to and worked with the military convalescent home. The Red Cross was the body that formed the convalescent houses and ensured that all the wounded veterans engaged in playful games to prepare them for leaving the hospital. The method of recreational therapy was later adopted in every military hospital in the country.

Of all the notables that were harbored by the Hull House, a majority of them were activist who was ready to help the immigrants through advocating for their rights as well as protecting for the educational rights of the children. Just like it has been noted, the primary purpose of the Hull House was to provide a center for a higher civic as well as social life and as well to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic premises. Besides, another aim of the Hull House was to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts in the region of Chicago (Eldøena et al.). Therefore, Hull house offered a wide range of services as well as programs for the neighborhood residents. The facilities and programs that were provided to the neighborhood were developed in response to the emerging needs to which continued to be identified by the residents, and therefore an inference that the services were community oriented. Jane Addams awareness was heightened by a severe economic depression of the connection between the state of poverty and public policy. Basing on her experience with the clients from the Hull House clients, she recognized the need to develop and direct attention towards the policies and laws that were at the roots of poverty, thereby compelling her to become a political activist quickly. Jane Addams tirelessly worked on behalf of the most vulnerable individuals who also happened to lack a collective voice to air their grievances. Through her activist efforts, Jane Addams lobbied for the legislation that was designed to protect the immigrants, children, and women.

Being an advocate for the laborers, Addams participated in the Haymarket Riot. The riot was responsible for the drawn attention regarding the horrible and hostile working conditions to which the laborers were subjected to in their respective workstations. Despite her actions on airing the problems of the laborers, some of the financiers of the Hull House took exception of her active engagement in the labor movement withdrawing their support from the settlement house. Addams much involvement in activism drew the attention of controversy especially when she started to advocate for the voting rights of the women making her be a target of criticism. Besides her concern was extended to the issues regarding racial equality as well. In the quest to fight for racial equality, she formed the American civil liberties union and also the national association for the advancement of people of color to which made her labeled a socialist, a communist and even an anarchist.

Despite the public criticism of her activities, she persisted in advocating for the poor as well as the marginalized people. The other immigrants who also were activist assisted in the liberation and fighting for the rights of the weak, making the Hull House be a house to which equality, as well as freedom, was obtained. All the notables who lived in the Hull House were geared to making life better to the people especially the laborers as well as the children by advocating for the legislation of laws and policies that would better the lives of the oppressed. It can be depicted from Jane Addams awareness that poverty eradication was the priority as well as the fighting for the rights of the women. The furthered emphasis on the rights of women and as well as majority of the immigrants being women have a clear indication that even all the notables who were welcomed to the settlement house had in their hearts at least a profession that could help improve the life of the women and therefore play a significant role to attaining the goals of the Hull House.

Jane Addams, the founder of the Hull House, can be considered as the first woman to be a public philosopher in the history of the United States. However, the dynamics of the cannon formation led to her philosophical works being ignored until the year 1990s. Jane Addams is best recognized for her pioneering work in the social settlement movement. The settlement movement was the radical arm of the progressive movement which adhered and embraced the ideals of progressivism as they opted to settle and live as their neighbors in the oppressed communities such that they could learn from them and as well assist the marginalized members of the society. Although Addams activism, as well as the accomplishments, were widely lauded by her contemporaries, her work was mapped onto the conventional gender understandings of the male philosophers such as William James, John Dewey and George Mead to whom were regarded as the providers of the original progressive thoughts while Addams was viewed as brilliantly administering their theories into practice.

Jane Addams philosophy combined the feminist sensibilities with an unwavering commitment on to the social improvements through cooperative efforts. Even though Addams sympathized with the socialist, feminists as well as the pacifists, she refused to be labeled, and her refusal could be termed as being pragmatic rather than of ideological (Agnew). Her commitment to the social cooperation and cohesion prompted her to eschew what she saw as divisive distinctions. Active democratic social progress was of much significance to Addams such that she did not want to alienate any of the groups of the people from the conversation or from participation that was deemed necessary for ongoing, inclusive deliberation. Addams carefully varied her rhetorical approach to engaging a variety of constituencies making the identification of her social philosophy to be more challenging.

Addams did not intend to participate in any philosophical narratives that removed from the social improvement but also she did not intend to pursue social activism without theorizing about the broader application of her works. In regards to this, through her integration of the theory as well as action, she carried pragmatism to its logical conclusion by developing an applied philosophy immersed into social work and therefore, her writing is replete with examples from her Hull House experiences. Addams’ leadership is among the American pragmatists in the quest of understanding the poor and the oppressed resulted in a more radical form of pragmatism regarding that of the previous male philosophers such as Dewey and James. Addams was a social philosopher imbued with a class and gender consciousness. Addams exemplifies and as well theorizes about what currently can be referred to as care ethics, and she was considered an original feminist thinker.

Just like Jane Addams, all the other residents of the Hull House can be considered as being classical pragmatists due to their notion of utilizing other people’s ideas as well as their theories. For one, all of them had lessons from the male philosophers such as Dewey and James, and thus through their entire lives they have been working and utilizing another person’s ideas. , and their only task, therefore, was to make in practice. The belief that theory also could not work until put into practice can be viewed as being pragmatic as they all used and inherited the previous theories putting them into action. The use of the theories led to radicalization and eventual legislation of laws and policies that were targeted to assisting the oppressed.

All the notables discussed in the above text were individuals with higher professional qualifications who opted to offer their services and programs to the oppressed people especially the immigrants from the European countries. Despite their high requirements and specialize in different fields, all of them had some similar and shared goals of helping the less fortunate and with that effect they had to shift their homes to live with the neighborhood. It is here that they could utilize and produce their services like social workers through education and other programs. All the residents of the Hull House can, therefore, be regarded as classical pragmatists.

Work Cited

Abbott, Grace. The Grace Abbott Reader. U of Nebraska Press, 2015.

Agnew, Elizabeth N. “A Will to Peace: Jane Addams, World War I, and “Pacifism in Practice”.” Peace & Change 42.1 (2017): 5-31.

Alexander, Edward P., Mary Alexander, and Juilee Decker. Museums in motion: An introduction to the history and functions of museums. Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

Deegan, Mary Jo. Jane Addams and the men of the Chicago School, 1892-1918. Routledge, 2017.

Eldøena, Tone, et al. “Social Work in Light of Jane Addams.” Sociology 7.4 (2017): 223-233.

Goodson, Ann E. The settlement stage: How Hull House bridged leisure, creativity, and play. Diss. Loyola University Chicago, 2015.

Hamilton, Neil A. American social leaders and activists. Infobase Publishing, 2014.

Stuart, Paul H. “From the Archives: Community-Based Participatory Research at Hull House in the 1890s.” Journal of Community Practice (2018): 1-10.

Williams, Joyce E., and Vicky M. MacLean. “The Sociology of Social Class: Recovering the Contributions of the Women Founders.” Sociology Between the Gaps: Forgotten and Neglected Topics 4.1 (2018): 1.

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