Girl History Month – Jane Addams, Social Reformer And Nobel Prize Winner

English: American social reformer, Jane Addams

English: American social reformer, Jane Addams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jane Addams was a founder of the Settlement House Movement in the United States. She was the first American Woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

On a trip to England as a young woman, Jane was introduced to the founders and the workings of Toynbee Hall, a settlement house in the slums of London. After her return to the United States, she and her traveling companion, Ellen Starr, committed themselves to the idea of starting a settlement house in Chicago. They founded Hull House in the slums of Chicago in 1889. Most everything they needed Jane was able to procure with the generosity of patrons. Money poured in. Within a few years, Hull House offered medical care, child care and legal aid. It also provided classes for immigrants to learn English, vocational skills, music, art and drama.

In 1893 a severe depression rocked the country. Hull House was serving over two thousand people a week. As charitable efforts increased, so too did political ones. Jane realized that there would be no end to poverty if laws were not changed. She directed her efforts at the root causes of poverty. The workers joined Jane to lobby the state of Illinois to examine laws governing child labor, the factory inspection system, and the juvenile justice system. They worked for legislation to protect immigrants from exploitation, limit the working hours of women, mandate schooling for children, recognize labor unions, and provide for industrial safety.

She became a very controversial figure while working on behalf of economic reform. When horrible working conditions led to the Haymarket riot, Jane was personally attacked for her support of the workers. It resulted in a great loss of donor support for Hull House. She supplemented Hull House funding with revenue from lecture tours and article writing. She began to enjoy international acclaim. Her first book was published in 1910 and others followed biennially. Her biggest success in writing came with the release of the book, Twenty Years at Hull House.

Addams foresaw World War I. In 1915, in an effort to avert war, she organized the Women’s Peace Party and the International Congress of Women. This latter organization met at The Hague and made serious diplomatic attempts to thwart the war. When these efforts failed and the U.S. joined the war in 1917, criticism of Addams rose. She was expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution, but it did not slow her down. In 1919 she was elected first president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a position she held until her death. She was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She was a charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), having answered the “call” in 1909 that led to the organization’s formation. These positions earned her even more criticism than her pacifism. She was accused of being a socialist, an anarchist and a communist.

Hull House, however, continued to be successful. When the depression of the 1930’s struck, Addams saw many of the things that she had advocated and fought for become policies under President Franklin Roosevelt. She received numerous awards during this time including, in 1931, the Nobel Peace Prize.

Girl History Month – Mary Ann Bickerdyke, Feisty Civil War Nurse

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Mary Ann Bickerdyke (July 19, 1817 – November 8, 1901), also known as Mother Bickerdyke, was a much-beloved volunteer nurse and hospital administrator for Union soldiers during the American Civil War.

Widowed two years before the war began, she supported herself and her two half-grown sons by practicing as a “botanic Physician” in Galesburg, Illinois. After the outbreak of the Civil War, she became chief of nursing under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, and served at the Battle of Vicksburg.

When his staff complained about the outspoken, insubordinate female nurse who consistently disregarded the army’s red tape and military procedures, Union Gen. William T. Sherman threw up his hands and exclaimed, “She outranks me. I can’t do a thing in the world.”

Bickerdyke ran roughshod over anyone who stood in the way of her self-appointed duties. She was known affectionately to her “boys,” the grateful enlisted men, as “Mother” Bickerdyke. When a surgeon questioned her authority to take some action, she replied, “On the authority of Lord God Almighty, have you anything that outranks that?”

Sherman was especially fond of this volunteer nurse who followed the western armies, and supposedly she was the only woman he would allow in his camp. By the end of the war, with the help of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Mother Bickerdyke had built 300 hospitals and aided the wounded on 19 battlefields including the Battle of Shiloh and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

“Mother” Bickerdyke was so loved by the army that the soldiers would cheer her as they would a general when she appeared. At Sherman’s request, she rode at the head of the XV Corps in the Grand Review in Washington at the end of the war.

After the war ended, she worked for the Salvation Army in San Francisco, and became an attorney, helping Union veterans with legal issues. She ran a hotel in Salina, Kansas, for a time. She received a special pension of $25 a month from Congress in 1886, and retired to Bunker Hill, Kansas. She died peacefully after a minor stroke.

A statue of her was erected in Galesburg, and a hospital boat and a liberty ship, the Mary Bickerdyke,were named after her

England In Illinois

I’m in Chicago this weekend visiting my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, the lovely Luciana.

This morning we went to the Chicago Botanic Garden which is one of my favorite spots. Unfortunately we only had about a half an hour to tour before thunder and lightning drove us back to our car.

We did have time to see the English Walled Garden, which I love.  Here are some pictures.

The shrub pictured above is a Variegated Weigela.  I’m planting one this year!!