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Hull-House: Jane Addams

An early social entrepreneur who changed the lives of thousands

American Jane Addams was a 19th social entrepreneur, whose sense of ethics and morality influenced her career as much as her entrepreneurial spirit.

She was born in 1860, the eighth of nine children and daughter of a prominent Republican politician. Hindered by spine problems for most of her childhood, she spent a lot of her early adulthood trying to find a purpose in life. To these ends she travelled widely, and it was during a trip to Europe with her friend – Ellen Starr – that she experienced the impact of a settlement House on a community.

It was this house, Toynbee Hall, in London’s East End, that confirmed to her what she should work on when she returned to America. At the age of 27 she decided to form a similar house in an underprivileged immigrant area of Chicago.

This settlement, known as Hull-House, was formed in 1889, and became an institution known worldwide. By the time it was two years old, it was hosting 2000 people every week, who could take advantage of services including kindergarten classes, club meetings and lessons. She personally took care of most of the fundraising and became involved in wider efforts for social reform.

In 1910 she received the first honorary degree ever awarded to a woman by Yale University , and in 1931 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

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