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Jane Addams And The Progressive Movement

1389 words - 6 pages

Jane Addams and the Progressive Movement
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Jane Addams is recognized as a social and political pioneer for women in America. In her biography, which later revealed her experiences in Hull House, she demonstrates her altruistic personality, which nurtured the poor and pushed for social reforms. Although many of Addams ideas were considered radical for her time, she provided women with a socially acceptable way to participate in both political and social change. She defied the prototypical middle class women by integrating the line that separated private and political life. Within these walls of the settlement house, Addams redefined the idea of ?separate spheres,? and with relentless determination, she separated herself from the domestic chores that woman were confined to during the later half of the nineteenth century which led to the twentieth one.

During the late nineteenth century, the notion of ?separate spheres? dictated that the women?s world was limited to the home, taking care of domestic concerns. Women were considered to be in the private sphere of society. Men on the other hand were assigned the role of the public sphere, consisting in the participation of politics, law and economics. Women in the meantime were to preserve religious and moral ideals within the home, placing children on the proper path while applying valuable influence on men. The idea was that the typical middle class woman would teach children middle class values so that they too will enjoy the luxuries and benefits in the future that the middle class has to offer (Lecture, 10/17).

One can argue that Jane Addams did comply with the ideal middle class women, that she remained in ?her sphere? of society. This can most be seen through her work with both children and the poor. Conservatives and liberals alike accepted her establishment of Hull House as a teaching facility largely because teaching encompassed the realm of the private sphere. More and more women were becoming teachers during this period, and it was continuously being associated as a female entity. Women were allowed to engage in certain social affairs. Although this did not include fighting for the reduction of labor hours or the elimination of child labor, it did encompass helping the poor, which was the immediate motive behind establishing Hull House. Reaching out to women who needed a place to stay, or workers who could not afford to live in the crowded and unsanitary apartments that usually stuffed several families in one room, could find shelter in Addam?s creation. However, Addams worked extended beyond the ?private sphere? in too many areas to ignore. Her struggle led to many social and political reforms; she took a very radical political stance for her time, breaking her association from the standard middle class women.

Hull House was unique in the sense that it held a position in both the public and private spheres of society. Within the private sphere,...

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