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Chronology: Page 1

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About Jane Addams


September 6, 1860  Jane Addams is the eighth child born to Sarah Weber Addams and John Huy Addams, natives of Pennsylvania who had settled in Cedarville, Illinois.  Addams’s father, a farmer, also developed a prosperous gristmill in Cedarville and a bank in Freeport, Illinois.  He served in the Senate of the Illinois General Assembly between 1854 and 1870.  He helped to organize Abraham Lincoln’s debate with Stephen A. Douglas in Freeport, Illinois on August 27, 1858 and remained a staunch Unionist and supporter of Lincoln after he was elected president in 1860.


January 14, 1863  Addams’s mother dies in childbirth.  Sister Mary Catherine Addams, age 17, and family friend and nurse “Polly” Beer, help raise the youngest Addams siblings, Jane, age two; Sarah Alice, age nine, and John Weber, age ten.


February 23, 1867  Addams sister Martha dies of typhoid fever while a student at Rockford Female Seminary, Rockford, Illinois, located thirty miles from Cedarville.


Fall 1867  Addams begins her formal education in the Cedarville Public School, a two-room schoolhouse, where she is known as “Jennie” Addams.


November 17, 1868  John Addams marries forty-year-old widow Anna Hostetter Haldeman of Freeport, Illinois.  Anna brings to Cedarville her seven-year-old son, George Haldeman, who becomes Jane Addams’s primary playmate and intellectual peer.  As stepmother, Anna Addams sets high standards for intellectual achievement and behavior and shares her love of books, plays, poetry, musical events, and travel.


March 1871  Jane Addams helps to found a literary society in her public school.


September 1877  Addams matriculates at Rockford Female Seminary.  Three of her sisters, Sarah Alice, Martha, and Mary, had attended the boarding school, founded in 1849 by Anna P. Sill.


1877  At Rockford, Addams begins her lifelong friendship with Ellen Gates Starr.  Because of economic hardship, Starr leaves the Seminary after a year to become a schoolteacher.  By the fall of 1879 she is living and teaching in Chicago where her aunt, Eliza Allen Starr, is among the city’s most well-known lecturers on religious art.


Summer 1879  Addams becomes literary editor of the Rockford Seminary Magazine which had presented her first published essay, “Plated Ware” in 1878.


June 22, 1881  Addams graduates from Rockford Female Seminary.  She uses the opportunity as class valedictorian to deliver a speech in which she implores the Board of Trustees to take seriously the students’ “increasing demands” that the Seminary become a fully accredited college and grant bachelor’s degrees to its graduates.  She reminds her classmates, “the glorious Seventeen” that they stand “united to-day in a belief in beauty, genius and courage, and that these can transform the world.”  Addams makes plans to pursue pre-medical education at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.


July 2, 1881  Addams, along with the rest of the nation, learns that President James A. Garfield has been shot by Charles Guiteau, the stepbrother of her lifelong friend, Flora Z.  Guiteau of Freeport, Illinois.


August 17, 1881  Addams's father dies, probably from a ruptured appendix, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, during a family vacation that included investigating mining and real estate opportunities in the Lake Superior region.  A large crowd attends his funeral in the family home in Cedarville three days later.


October 17, 1881  Addams enrolls with her sister, Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman, in the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, an institution devoted to the education of women physicians and their right to practice medicine.  Although Addams successfully passes her comprehensive exams at the end of the first session, including the dissection of a portion of a human cadaver, her own physical and emotional health decline.  She is treated by Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, a nationally known expert on spinal maladies and nervous disorders who prescribes bed rest as a cure for what he may have diagnosed as” neurasthenia” or “hysteria” (as women’s depression was then known).


March 1882  Addams and her stepmother return to Cedarville.


June 21, 1882  Addams is awarded one of the first bachelor of arts degrees granted by Rockford Female Seminary.  (The school officially changes its name to Rockford Seminary in June 1887 and to Rockford College in 1892).


November 1882—Spring 1883  While recovering from an operation on her spine performed by her brother-in-law, Dr. Henry “Harry” Winfield Haldeman, who is also her stepbrother, Addams reads widely, including Carlyle’s biography of Frederick the Great and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein.


May 1883  Addams becomes an honorary trustee at Rockford Female Seminary.


August 12, 1883  On the eve of her two-year “Grand Tour” of Europe, Addams confides to Ellen Gates Starr her worries about holding “to full earnestness of purpose.”  With her stepmother, family relatives, and friends she visits Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece.


August 29, 1883  Addams arrives in Queenstown, Ireland, and spends the next  month touring the country and Dublin.  For the first time in her life, she encounters child beggars living in “wretched places” near huge estates owned by wealthy British and Anglo-Irish landlords.


October 27, 1883  During a visit to the East End of London, the neighborhood made famous by the investigative report, “Bitter Cry of Outcast London,” Addams watches from atop an omnibus as poor residents rush to purchase meat and vegetables before the market closes for the weekend.


November 1883—May 1885  Addams witnesses and writes back home about the conditions under which women work in Europe, but especially in the fields and in breweries in Germany.


April 1884  Addams spends Palm Sunday and Easter at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome where she observes “an incessant stream of the devout were constantly kissing the bronze toe of St. Peters statue.”


May 1884  Addams becomes one of the first women appointed to the Rockford Female Seminary Board of Trustees, a policy change she advocated while still a student.


June 1884  On her trip to Athens, Addams discovers that she “knew enough Greek to read streets & signs and an occasional inscription—but not much else.”


May 17, 1885  During her five-month-long stay in Paris, in addition to visiting art galleries, museums, and palaces, Addams attends a McCall mission. Founded by Robert and Elizabeth McCall of England, the storefront Protestant missions brought the bible to the Catholic poor.


June 1885  Addams arrives in New York City and returns briefly to Cedarville with her stepmother after visiting relatives in Philadelphia.


December 1885—April 1886; October 1886—February 1887  Twenty-six-year old Addams takes up residence in Baltimore where Anna Haldeman Addams has moved to be closer to her son, George, a student at Johns Hopkins University.  In addition to meeting prominent men and women in Baltimore society, Addams becomes involved in charitable work for the first time in her life, visiting the Shelter for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons, 515-517 West Biddle Street, and the Johns HopkIns Colored Orphan Asylum next door.


March–July 1887  Addams assumes family responsibilities as helpmate to sisters Mary Catherine Linn with her six children and Sarah Alice Haldeman during the birth of her first child.


December 22, 1887—July 1888  During her second tour of Europe with Rockford professor Sarah Anderson and her friend, Ellen Gates Starr, Addams is confident enough to serve as a guide in Paris and Florence.  She reveals a special interest in early Christian beliefs, positivism, and Christian art and architecture.  She also travels and lodges alone for the first time.


December 30 1887  Addams’s visit to Ulm Cathedral prompts her to reflect on the role of women of the Old and New testaments, her appreciation for Albrecht Dűrer’s art, and Leo Tolstoy’s ideas on Christianity as nonviolent resistance to evil.


February 1888  As a result of Ellen Gates Starr’s Chicago connections, she and Addams secure passes to visit the Vatican.  Addams attends a beautification ceremony and the special exhibit of Pope Leo XIII’s jubilee gifts.  Recoiling at the “relic worship” she encounters in Rome, Addams spends time studying and exploring the catacombs of early Christians.


February 16, 1888  Addams is stunned to receive word of the death of her two-year-old niece, “Little Mary” Addams Linn.  As she grieves, she experiences a bout of sciatica which confines her to bed in Rome.


April 22, 1888  Addams travels to Spain and attends a bullfight in Madrid, an event she later characterizes in her autobiography, Twenty Years at Hull-House, as a watershed.  Writing in 1910, she claimed that the bloodshed she had witnessed left her unable to justify the “continued idleness” of indefinite study and travel.”  Addams travels on to Morocco, France, and England.


May 1888  Addams meets Chicago civic leader Bertha Honore Palmer in Paris; Palmer later achieves international recognition for her role as president of the Board of Lady Managers of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.


June 1888  In London, Addams attends the World Centennial of Foreign Missions conference and listens to papers on the Opium Trade in China and the Liquor Traffic in the Congo.  Armed with a letter from Canon William Fremantle, Addams tours Toynbee Hall, the model for the social settlement movement throughout the world.  In a letter to her sister, she proclaims this visit “the most interesting thing we have done in London.”  Addams also begins reading Henry Besant’s novel, All Sorts and Conditions of Men, which details the adventures of a college-educated brewery heiress who establishes her home among the poor of London’s East End.  On July 19, 1888, she sails aboard the Furnessia, arriving in New York ten days later.


September 26, 1888  Addams helps found and becomes president of the Cedarville chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.).


October 14, 1888  Addams is baptized, becoming a member of the Presbyterian Cederville


February 1889  Addams and Ellen Gates Starr move into a boardinghouse across the street from Chicago’s Washington Square Park on the city’s Near North Side, and begin to marshal support for their “scheme” among leading Protestant ministers and club women, especially Mary J. Hawes Wilmarth and Lydia Avery Coonley.  During Addams’s meeting with the full board of Armour Mission, architect Allen B. Pond expresses enthusiasm for her plan, predicting that it will have great appeal for young women who are “dying from inaction and restlessness.”


February 1889  Addams begins teaching boys classes on Wednesday evenings at the Industrial School on Chicago Avenue, operated in connection with the Moody Church.


February 1889–1892  Addams teaches a variety of subjects at the Chicago Training School for City, Home, and Foreign Missions, opened by Lucy Rider Meyer in 1887 at Dearborn and Ohio streets.


March 1889  Addams organizes a social club for girls at the W.C.T.U. Anchorage on Third Ave. [later Plymouth Court], near the city’s South Side vice district.


May 1889  Addams secures a lease from Helen Culver for the use of a portion of the Charles J. Hull family home at 335 South Halsted Street [later 800 S. Halsted].  This would be the first of many leases negotiated by Jane Addams with Culver who became a major financial supporter of the settlement.


May 8, 1889  Addams and Starr become members of the Chicago Woman’s Club, the leading organization of women reformers in the city.


June 8, 1889  Writing in the Chicago Evening Journal, Rev. David Swing of Central Church announces that Addams and Starr will establish a kindergarten and open the parlors of 335 S.  Halsted Street to their neighbors.  He predicts that this new social movement will be as valuable as London’s Toynbee Hall.


September 18, 1889  Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr open their settlement house in rented quarters in the 1856 mansion built by Charles Hull at Polk and Halsted streets on Chicago’s West Side.  Together with their housekeeper, Mary Keyser, they furnish the brick structure with reproductions of European paintings from their trips abroad, especially Madonnas, and welcome their Italian neighbors and middle-class colleagues of Starr’s from Miss Kirkland’s School into the newly painted parlors.  The Chicago press quickly dubs the settlement Chicago’s “Toynbee Hall.”


1889—1890  Addams meets wealthy Chicagoan Mary Rozet Smith, who becomes her lifelong partner and major financial supporter.  A former pupil of Ellen Gates Starr and friend of Hull-House kindergarten teacher Jennie Dow, Smith helps Addams to expand the settlement complex and pay its bills.


June 2, 1890  Addams and Starr organize college extension courses which enroll upwards of 250 men and women taught by twenty-five volunteers.  The educational courses featuring literature, languages, art, history, and music remain a major focus of the settlement programs for the remainder of Jane Addams’s life.