Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860, in the small town of Cedarville, Illinois, one of eight children. Her mother died when she was only three years old, which may have caused her desire to become a doctor when she was a child. But she was unable to become a doctor and fulfill her dream because she often had back pains and was ill and sickly most of the time.
In 1877, Jane attended the Rockville Female Seminary where she learned to write and speak with authority, traits that would come in handy during her later years. When she graduated from the seminary in 1881, she found herself ill and depressed, and became more so after her father died that same year when she was only 21.
With her father dead, Jane and the rest of her family moved to Philidelphia where she attended the Women's Medical College, once more trying to live her childhood dream. Yet, she became ill once again, and had even more of an emotional setback when her brother, Weber, had a mental breakdown.
Jane never graduated. Instead she took a trip with her stepmother to Europe from 1883 to 1885 and lived in Baltimore from 1886 to 1887. But it wasn't untill 1887, when she traveled to Europe with a group of friends, that her life began to take direction.
When Jane traveled to London, England, Addams found herself amazed at the huge amount of poverty that England's industrialization had caused. She also saw a settlement house called Toynbee Hall, used in order to teach workmen, from which sprouted her interest in social reform.
When Jane returned to the United States, she traveled to Chicago and turned an old mansion there into a settlement house called Hull House which she used in order to care for children, give medical care, and try to clean up the disease-causing waste on the city streets. While in Chicago, she also managed to enlighten and educate the poor and spoke often at church groups and women's clubs and also talked to college students.
In 1898,Jane began to become known throughout the nation for her speeches and was even recommended to meet with President Woodrow Wilson by a close friend of his, Charles R. Crane, who had heard her speak. She even tried to stop World War I from coming, even though it was inevitable. She also encouraged meditation and became an officer of the Progressive party and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, of which she became president in 1915. She was even offered a job by the Red Cross, but she refused because it was run by the military and hence, supported war.
In 1931, Jane received the Nobel Prize for all she had done, including her help with the worldwide disarmament after World War I, Hull House, and many other accomplishments. She died on May 21, 1935, having written many books on prostitution, women's rights, juvenile delinquincy, and militarism, and trying to achieve her dream of making every child happy.