See her autobiographical Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910) and The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House (1930); the selected works in The Jane Addams Reader (ed. by J. B. Elshtain, 2001); biographies by J. W. Linn, her nephew (1935), A. F. Davis (1973), G. Diliberto (1999), and L. W. Knight (2005); studies by D. Levine (1971) and J. B. Elshtain (2001).
Jane grew up in comfort but was taught well. Addams' father taught her philanthropy and compassion for other people. He encouraged her to pursue a higher education, but not at the expense of losing her femininity and the prospect of marriage and motherhood, as expected of upper class young women. She was educated in the United States and Europe, graduating from the Rockford Female Seminary (now Rockford College) in Rockford, Illinois. After Rockford, she wanted to pursue a degree in medicine, but her parents felt that she was sufficiently educated and feared for her marriage prospects.
While in London, Addams was influenced by an essay, The Bitter Cry of Outcast London, which highlighted slum conditions. She visited Europe when she was 27 years old, visiting Toynbee Hall, a settlement house in the East End of London.
In 1889 she and her friend, Ellen Gates Starr co-founded Hull House in Chicago, Illinois, one of the first settlement houses in the United States. At its height, Hull House was visited each week by around two thousand people. Its facilities included a night school for adults, kindergarten classes, clubs for older children, a public kitchen, an art gallery, a coffeehouse, a gymnasium, a girls club, a swimming pool, a book bindery, a music school, a drama group, a library, and labor-related divisions. She is probably most remembered for her adult night school, a forerunner of the continuing education classes offered by many universities today.
Hull House also served as a women's sociological institution. Addams was a friend and colleague to the early members of the Chicago School of Sociology, influencing their thought through her work in applied sociology and, in 1893, co-authoring the Hull-House Maps and Papers that came to define the interests and methodologies of the School. She worked with George H. Mead on social reform issues including promoting women's rights, ending child labor, and the mediating during the 1910 Garment Workers' Strike. Although academic sociologists of the time defined her work as "social work", Addams did not consider herself a social worker. She combined the central concepts of symbolic interactionism with the theories of cultural feminism and pragmatism to form her sociological ideas (Deegan, 1988).
Hull House's first resident: Jane describes the Hull House's "first resident" as an older lady who read to listeners from Hawthorne. She reported that she wanted to live in a place where "idealism ran high" (1910, 101). Volunteers seemed plentiful. Ellen read George Eliot's "Romola" to listeners and Jenny Dow, another volunteer, started a kindergarten (1910).
Hull House also offered an employment bureau, an art gallery, libraries, and music and art classes. Among the projects that the members of the Hull House opened were the Immigrants' Protective League, the Juvenile Protective Association, the first juvenile court in the United States, and a Juvenile Psychopathic Clinic.
Addams helped organize the Women's Peace Party and the International Congress of Women in an effort to avert the first World War. In 1917, after America entered the war, she was expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
In 1920 she was elected first president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the successor organization to the Women's Peace Party. She continued in the presidency until her death.
Throughout her life Addams was close to many women and was very good at eliciting the involvement of women from different classes in Hull Houses's programmes. Her closest adult companion and friend was Mary Rozet Smith, who nurtured and supported Addams and her work at Hull House, and with whom she owned a summer house in Bar Harbor, Maine.
The exact nature of their relationship has become a controversy after her death, with some historians believing Addams was a lesbian and in love with Smith, and others calling their relationship a romantic friendship, saying that while the women loved each other and lived together, that did not necessarily indicate a sexual relationship.
Jane Addams was a member of the NAACP, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and the first vice-president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1911. In 1901 she founded the Juvenile Court Committee which has since become the Juvenile Protective Association, a private nonprofit organization in Chicago that protects children from abuse and neglect. She was also actively involved with Pi Gamma Mu, the social science honor society, from the 1920s until her death, because of its emphasis on social service and the humanization of the social science disciplines. In 1998 the British Columbia Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom commissioned Canadian artist Christian Cardell Corbet to create a bronze medallion of Jane Addams to celebrate her life and achievements. The medallion has since been collected by several important museums.
The Jane Addams Peace Association, together with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, give the annual Jane Addams Children's Book Awards to children's books that promote peace, equality, multiculturalism, and peaceful solutions.
Jane Addams House is a residence hall built in 1947 at Connecticut College.
The Jane Addams Trail is a bicycling, hiking, snowmobiling, and cross country skiing trail which stretches from Freeport, Illinois to the Wisconsin state line. It is long, and is part of the larger Grand Illinois Trail, which is over long. The trail is located near her birthplace of Cedarville, Illinois.