Jane Addams: First American Woman Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Jane Addams (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935) was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As an activist for women and children, she promoted women’s issues and kept children’s needs at the forefront of the American agenda.

“America’s future will be determined by the home and the school. The child becomes largely what he is taught; hence we must watch what we teach, and how we live,” noted Addams.

Addams founded Hull House and used it as the epicenter to affect reform in the slums of Chicago. She understood the power that women held and called upon them to be civic housekeepers, empowering them to be more present in their community. She felt women were more effective in reforming, but were often held down by societal norms, “Old-fashioned ways which no longer apply to changed conditions are a snare in which the feet of women have always become readily entangled,” she said.

When Addams discovered the garbage disposal practices of Chicago were affecting the life and health of women and children, including spreading tuberculosis, she organized the women of Chicago’s 19th Ward. In 1894, she became the first woman appointed as sanitary inspector the Ward. She called on the Hull House Women’s Club to follow the garbage collectors through the city and cite any violations. There were over 1000 health department citations given in the first year. She empowered women in the ward and changed many lives.