'Twenty Years at Hull House" describes the intellectual formation of social reformer Jane Addams and her role in creating and administrating the settlement residence Hull House. The Hull complex served as a social experiment designed to integrate the wealthy and working classes and to provide Chicago's poor with quality education.
University of Illinois Press describes "Twenty Years at Hull House" as a memoir, philosophical treatise and sociological study. The early chapters describe how Addams' upbringing and philosophical influences affected the social work she would do later in life. One of her most important early experiences involved witnessing masses of working poor in London bidding on rotten vegetables unfit for sale anywhere else. The scene of extreme want inspired Addams to seek the alleviation of poverty.
After visiting a settlement house in London, Addams decided to start one in the United States. According to Harvard University Library, settlement houses were residential civic centers that helped immigrants and the poor learn middle-class American values. Addams' Hull House provided employment training, a theatre, book clubs, art classes, a public kitchen, a bathhouse, a book bindery and a music school. Hull House residents, most of whom were middle-class social workers, conducted experiments on subjects like tuberculosis, typhoid, midwifery and drug abuse. Throughout the book, Addams describes the how the institution she founded changed the lives of the people there.