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Jane Addams Hull House To Close

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 20, 2012 4:20PM


Samantha touched on this yesterday in "Extra Extra" but it bears mentioning again. Hull House, the organization started by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in 1889 to help immigrants adjust to life in America, is filing for bankruptcy and closing its doors.

Stephen Saunders, chairman of Hull House's board of trustees, said it's sad news and cited the organization had a hard time with fundraising in recent years.

"During these challenging times, we have remained committed to the mission established by Jane Addams more than 120 years ago," said Board chairman Stephen Saunders. "Now, our goal is to ensure the families and individuals we serve continue to have access to the services they need. This was a very difficult decision, but it was the responsible thing to do."

Addams and Starr modeled Hull House after London's Toynbee Hall, which she described as a "a community of university men." Originally established for university women, Hull House provided social and educational opportunities for European immigrants. What was a converted mansion built in 1856 became a complex of 13 buildings that spanned a city block. Volunteer "residents" taught literature, history, art, and domestic activities; held free lectures on current issues; and operated clubs for both children and adults. The organization currently provides 60,000 Chicagoans with social services, job and literacy training, services for senior citizens and housing assistance at nearly four dozen sites.

At its peak, hull House was the best-known of over 400 settlement houses in the United States, and its influence led to reforms at the federal, state and municipal levels on issues such as women's suffrage, child labor, healthcare reform and immigration reform. On a municipal level, Hull House's residents helped establish:

"(T)he city's first public playground and bathhouse, campaigned to reform ward politics, investigated housing, working, and sanitation issues, organized to improve garbage removal, and agitated for new public schools. On the municipal level, they helped establish the first juvenile court in the United States, fought for neighborhood parks and playgrounds, agitated for branch libraries, and initiated housing reform."

It would be unwise to underestimate the influence of Hull House on the city's foundation. In it's 120-plus years, Hull House has worked to make a better Chicago and it will be missed. Hull House's headquarters is listed on the National Register of Historic Places