History of Jane Addams

Essay by kendrapcuteHigh School, 11th grade October 2014

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In her teens, Addams had big dreams-to do something useful in the world. Long interested in the poor from her reading of Dickens and inspired by her mother's kindness to the Cedarville poor, she decided to become a doctor so that she could live and work among the poor. It was a vague idea, nurtured by literary fiction. She was a voracious reader. Addams's father encouraged her to pursue higher education but close to home. She was eager to attend the new college for women, Smith College in Massachusetts; but her father required her to attend nearby Rockford Female Seminary (now Rockford University), in Rockford, Illinois. After graduating from Rockford in 1881 with a collegiate certificate, she still hoped to attend Smith to earn a proper B.A. That summer, her father died unexpectedly from a sudden case of appendicitis. Each child inherited roughly $50,000 (equivalent to $1.21 million today).

That fall, Addams, her sister Alice, Alice's husband Harry, and their stepmother, Anna Haldeman Addams, moved to Philadelphia so that the three young people could pursue medical educations. Harry was already trained in medicine and did further studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Jane and Alice completed their first year of medical school at the Woman's Medical College of Philadelphia,but Jane's health problems, a spinal operation and a nervous breakdown, prevented her from completing the degree. Meanwhile, Jane Addams gathered inspiration from what she read. Fascinated by the early Christians and Tolstoy's book My Religion, she was baptized a Christian in the Cedarville Presbyterian Church, in the summer of 1886. Reading Giuseppe Mazzini's Duties of Man, she began to be inspired by the idea of democracy as a social ideal. Yet she felt confused about her role as a woman. John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women made her question...