In 1889, Addams founded Hull House, a community center to help immigrants in particular that included a day nursery and a center for continuing education for adults. Addams and colleagues worked on issues like garbage cleanup, sewer installation, street lighting, clean drinking water, child labor laws, food inspections, fighting epidemic disease and many other urban environmental issues. By 1920 there were nearly 500 such "settlement houses" in the US.
According to Jane Addams And the Dream of American Democracy, by Jean Bethke Elshtain, Addams entered Rockford Female Seminary in June 1877, when she was not yet 17 years old. In her book Twenty Years at Hull House, Addams calls her schoolmates a “group of ardent girls, who discussed everything under the sun with unabated interest.” She wrote:
|Addams as a schoolgirl|
De Quincey was “one of a large company of nineteenth-century English essayists to whom Addams was devoted,” writes Elshtain. His Confessions of an Opium Eater, first published in 1821, promised opium was no less than "the secret of happiness, about which philosophers had disputed for many ages."
Elshtain notices a similarity between the description of the incident and that of young Will Ladislaw, a character in Middlemarch by George Eliot, in whose works Addams had a “deep immersion.” Ladislaw, Eliot wrote, “made himself ill with doses of opium. Nothing greatly original had resulted from these half-measures and the effect of the opium convinced him that there was an entire dissimilarity between his constitution and De Quincey’s.”
, "A half-repressed word, a moment's unexpected silence, even an easy fit of petulance on our account, will serve us as hashish for a long while."
Addams founded the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919 and during World War I, she chaired a women's conference for peace held at the Hague in the Netherlands. When the US entered the war, Addams was stamped a dangerous radical and a danger to US security, but was later honored by the American government for her efforts for peace. In 1931 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the first American woman to be so honored.