In 1910, Jane Addams (1860-1935) was one of the most famous women in America, the revered founder of Hull-House settlement in Chicago, and a participant in virtually every social reform campaign of the era. But in 1917, when Addams publicly opposed America’s entry into World War I, her fortunes changed dramatically. For more than a decade, she was vilified for opposing the war, as well as for her liberal social views. By the 1930s, however, concerns over the Great Depression were overshadowing the hatreds of the 1920s, and Addams found herself back in favor. Once again she was hailed as a great American, and in 1931 she became the first woman ever to win the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Today, many people barely remember Addams’ name. But it is still true that we live in a world she helped to shape, by the causes she supported and the people she inspired. This course will explore Addams’ remarkable life, and consider what it can tell us about social reform, about women’s lives in early 20th century America, and about the practical challenges of trying to put our nation’s democratic ideals into practice.
Sandra Opdycke, Ph.D. is a retired historian. She recently published When Women Won the Vote, about the woman suffrage movement. She has also written books about the flu epidemic of 1918, the WPA of the 1930s, and Bellevue Hospital, as well as a biography of Jane Addams, an historical atlas of American women’s history, and several co-authored books and articles on social policy. She worked for a number of years at Hudson River Psychiatric Center, and later taught American History and Urban History at Bard, Vassar, and Marist Colleges. She serves as an occasional lecturer at the Center for Lifetime Studies in Poughkeepsie.