Jane Addams and Hull House

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12140

Would you like to work all-day every-day in a deafening, dirty, dangerous factory and still have little money? Thanks to people like Jane Addams, you don't have to! Learn from and about this crusader!


United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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What do you do when you see someone in need? What can anyone do?

The Industrial Revolution lasted from 1790 to 1870. (For more on the Industrial Revolution, check out the Elephango lesson in the right-hand sidebar under Additional Resources.)

It was an exciting time because new inventions such as the steam engine, power loom, and sewing machine led to the creation of large factories that could produce lots of goods quickly. These factories were typically built within a centralized location, and many people who worked in the factories, or who were seeking work, moved close by, giving way to the formation of large cities.

It was a time of significant growth in America, but it was also a time of extreme poverty. Laws telling employers how to treat and pay their workers did not exist. Factories were filled with diseases, and machines were often unsafe to use. People worked long hours for little pay. Children as young as seven worked in the factories.

During this time, people from all over the world began immigrating, or moving, to the United States to work. These people worked in the factories. Since they were being paid very little for their work, many families could barely afford to survive. Immigrants often lived in rat-infested buildings that were falling apart. Some were forced to steal just so they could eat. The areas where large numbers of immigrants lived became known as slums because of the poor living conditions.

Jane Addams came from an upper-class family. Whereas many upper-class people avoided the slums, Addams saw what was happening and wanted to do something to help. When she had taken a vacation to Europe, she visited places called settlement houses. Settlement houses were places in poor areas of cities that offered educational, recreational, and social activities. They provided a nice place for poor families to spend time together. Addams decided to start a settlement house in the United States.

Jane Addams

Image from "Woman Triumphant" by Rudolf Cronau, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

In 1889, Addams rented a run-down mansion in Chicago, Illinois. The mansion belonged to a man named Charles Hull, so she called the settlement house the Hull House.

The Hull House was located in a poor neighborhood, where many European immigrants lived. One of the first things Addams did was set up a daycare at the Hull House. Many women in the neighborhood worked, but were unable to afford childcare. They would just leave their children at home alone while they went to work. The daycare provided a safe, clean place for mothers to leave their children while they worked.

Eventually, the Hull House grew to several buildings and filled an entire city block. It offered a youth club to help keep teenagers off the streets and out of trouble. It also had a coffee shop and clubs where adults could meet and socialize. The daycare even expanded into a kindergarten, where children could begin receiving an education. The picture below shows what Addams’ original Hull House looks like today:

Hull House 2010

Image by Zagalejo, via Wikimedia Commons, was released into the public domain.

Addams also did many other things to help improve the lives of the poor. She knew young children were going to work in the unclean, unsafe factories and were being forced to work long hours. She went to her local political leaders and began demanding better working conditions, particularly for children. In 1893, her work paid off. Chicago passed a law that banned the exploitation of minors in the workplace.

Throughout her lifetime, Addams was an advocate for children, the poor, and women. In addition to opening the Hull House and fighting for improved working conditions, Addams also fought for better prisons, a court system where children could be tried separately from adults, and the right for women to vote. In 1931, Jane Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an award given to people and groups who have done significant work to help achieve world peace.

You will read an article to learn more about the life and legacy of Jane Addams. As you read Jane Addams, from History.com, write the answers to the following questions on a separate piece of paper:

  1. What was Addams’ childhood like?
  2. What debilitated Addams for most of her life?
  3. Who helped Addams run the Hull House?
  4. What are two things Addams did to help children?

When you are finished, review your work with your teacher or parent.

Now that you had an opportunity to learn more about Addams, discuss the following questions:

  • How did Addams help the poor?
  • How did Addams help children?
  • What can you do to be more like Addams and help those in need?

When you are finished discussing, move onto the Got It? section to learn more about the important award Addams received in 1931.

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