Jane Addams Co-founder of Hull House, Lesbian (Bain News Service, Publisher)

Women and Adversity:
Jane Addams, Lesbian
Co-founder of Hull House  

To recognize June as Pride Month, I’m featuring famous women who were lesbians.

I wrote a post about Jane Addams on this blog in 2018, but I hadn’t read anything about her being a lesbian.

Growing up in the Chicago area, I knew she founded Chicago’s Hull House, the first social settlement house in North America. It provided needed services for the community, including a nursery, a community kitchen and a place where working single women could live.

Addams is known to have had a special relationship with classmate Ellen Gates Starr, who helped her co-found Hull House. Her decades-long relationship with Mary Rozet Smith was widely known. They shared the same room and bed when they traveled together and owned property together. Addams was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2008.

Addams achieved multiple accomplishments. She was a social reformer, activist, suffragist, and author, having written a dozen books. Her most noteworthy achievement is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, the first American woman to receive this award.

Addams was born Laura Jane Addams September 6, 1860 in Cedarville, Illinois, the youngest of eight. She was two years old when her mother died while pregnant. Her family was wealthy, and her father was a founding member of the Illinois Republican Party and was a friend of Abraham Lincoln. Addams liked to look at the letter her father kept in his desk from Lincoln.

Some noteworthy dates:

1864  – contracted Potts disease, tuberculosis of the spine, and developed a limp and life-long health issues
1881 – was valedictorian of her class when she graduated from Rockford Female Seminary, Rockford, Illinois. Went on to study medicine at Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania
1882 – granted a bachelor’s degree when the Seminary became Rockford College for Women
1883 – became ill, dropped out of medical school and traveled to Europe
1887  – returned from Europe and suffered from depression
1887-1888 – returned to Europe and visited Toynbee Hall in London, the settlement house that inspired Addams to found Hull House
1889 – co-founded Hull House with Ellen Gates Starr
1910  – wrote her memoir, Twenty Years at Hull House
1911 – established National Federation of Settlements
1919-1929 – president of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
1931 – awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Smith died from pneumonia February 22, 1934. Addams had fragile health most of her life, but her health declined further after her heart attack in 1926. She died May 21, 1935.

More Information:


My ebooks are available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com:
Honoring 23 Black Women, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists

Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I published three ebooks in 2020: Women and Adversity, Honoring 23 Black Women; Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers; and Women and Adversity, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. These books are meant to be study guides for all students from grade school through college to help in choosing topics for assignments and to learn more about these noteworthy women. Go to amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and goodreads.com to learn more.

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