The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House

In her preface, what does Addams warn the reader have been necessary limitations of her autobiography?

What have been her motives in writing?

Why has she not used a strictly chronological method?

Chapter 1: Earliest Impressions

To whom is her book dedicated? What are the first facts Addams wishes to tell us about herself, and what do these seem to indicate about her character and temperament as a child? (tender of conscience, eager to imitate father)

What do we learn about her physical characteristics? Her self-image?

What was her relationship with her father? What seem to have been features of his character and beliefs? To what religious group did he belong?

What was her family’s economic status? Her father’s past occupation?

What do we learn about other family members such as her mother or brother? Did you expect that she would offer more details?

Where was she raised? What childhood pleasures did she seem to enjoy?

What was her first direct experience of death, and what reflections did this prompt?

What prompted her first to think about international affairs?

Are there indications of Addams’ future as a social reformer in this account of her early childhood? (had wanted a big house among the little houses, concerned about poverty)

What is your opinion of Addams’ writing style?

Chapter 2: Influence of Lincoln

What effect did memories of the Civil War have on her childhood? How old was she at the time of Lincoln’s death, and what circumstance caused her to remember it? (father wept)

What are some evidences of the range of Addams’ reading? (Pater, Carlyle)

What events from her father’s political career does she remember? What had been his association with Lincoln? With what values and ideals does she associate the slain president? (preservation of democracy, appreciation of people, wisdom and the moral life)

What importance did she attach to the history of “Old Abe” and his dwelling in the dome of the Wisconsin state capitol?

What praise of her father does she remember most fondly after her death? Under what circumstances had she rejected a similar bribe?

What views on religion does she seem to have developed at this stage?

What was her reaction on visiting examples of the British settlement house movement, and hearing of their history? What perceptions cause her to feel a kinship with this alternate tradition?

Chapter 3: Boarding-School Ideals

Where had she wished to attend college, and what were her father’s views on the matter? Where did she in fact attend college?

How would you describe its educational level at the time? The ambitions of its attendees?  (“The Mount Holyoke of the West”)

What course of study and forms of reading did Addams pursue? What were some of her accomplishments? (chosen as orator, studied Greek and mathematics, studied science, one of first to receive B. A.)

What authors does she seem to have read, here and later? (De Quincy, Browning, Ruskin, Gibbon, Emerson, the Gospels, in chapter 4 mentions H. G. Wells and Tolstoy; her father had paid her to read Plutarch and Irving) What types of literature seem to have been emphasized? (heroic lives, Greek literature)

On what topic did Addams give her Junior address?

How does Addams describe herself at the time? (“serious if not to say priggish) What did her friends consider to be her defects as an orator?

What was the religious tone of the college, and how did Addams respond to this? What other forms of pressure does she describe herself as having later resisted?

To what extent was the college affected by the women’s movement of the time? Who won the oratorical contest in which Addams placed fifth? (William Jennings Bryan)

Based on the paragraph from an early speech which she reproduces, what seem to have been her ideals at the time? (58) What were her plans for the future? (“to study medicine and ‘live with the poor’”)

What were her views on the importance of science, and what study did she undertake? According to her, did she excel? (study of earthworms)

What can be inferred from the fact that she donated $1000 to her former college for the purchase of books on science?

In retrospect, what is Addams’ response to her early idealism?

What effect might the loss of her father have had on her life?

Chapter 4: The Snare of Preparation

What health problems hindered Addams’ medical career? How did these effect her life?

What may have lain at the basis of the “spiritual struggles” which she records as having occupied the succeeding years?

What was Addams’ occupation for the next ten years? What effect did the attaining of an inheritance have on her? Who seems to be the “we” of her travels?

In Europe, what were her activities? What sights does she most remember? (midnight East End market in London, women carrying heavy casks)

What forms of “culture” does she seek, and what reservations about its value does she express? (we were “lumbering our minds with literature that only served to cloud the really vital situation spread before our eyes”)

What advantages does she ascribe to those women who had preceded her own generation of educated women? (activity in response to “the mere presence of suffering or of helplessness,” sense of usefulness)

What criticism does she make of Baron Stockmar and Prince Albert? Why is she drawn to the art of Albrecht Drurer? What aspects of Italy and its history seem to have most interested her? (studied Italian independence movements; gave lectures on the catacombs) 

What prompts her to become a Presbyterian? What forms of religious commitment does this seem to have expressed? With what political ideals does she associate Christianity? (democratic)

What does she learn from her western farm investments? How do her first experiments in farming fare?

With what trade union movement does she come in contact in London during her second trip abroad? (match girls strike) What seems to have been different about this second expedition? (studies earlier social experiments at Toynbee Hall, the People’s Palace and elsewhere)

What forms of art does she admire, and what form of response do they evoke in her? (great cathedrals at Ulm and elsewhere, desire for a “cathedral of humanity” with “a vision of human solidarity,” 83)

What form of religion does she believe should be presented to the poor?

How does she respond to the sight of bull fighting? What plans for what later became her settlement house does she frame, and which friend’s support helps her in beginning her project?

To what does the chapter’s title refer? Does she regret the length of time she had spent in preparation?

Chapter 5: First Days at Hull House

On what grounds was the Hull House first criticized, to judge by the comments of Professor Thomas Davidson?

Does Addams consider that the cooperative residence feature was essential to her efforts? An advantage?

What did she discover about the ways in which anarchists were treated?

What features seem to have attracted Addams to the building chosen for her settlement? Under what circumstances did Miss Addams and Miss Starr lease Hull House?

What were some factors which made their venture affordable?

What kinds of neighbors surrounded the settlement? Who were some of the residents who came to join the experiment? (one had lived at Brook Farm)

What living conditions characterized  this section of the city?

What were some of the activities with which they began? (weekly reading group of Romola; kindergarden, boys club) What troublesome signs of concern for class distinctions did the children exhibit?

What were some examples of problems encountered in trying to persuade the neighbors to adopt their standards? (on alcohol for young children)

Why did the residents concentrate on providing physical and manual activities and social events?

What activities did they provide for adults? (instance 0f 90 year old Gaelic speaker) What other services were they asked to provide? (child-minding, burial assistance)

What aspects of American experience did Addams believe had been denied many of her neighbors? (sight of flowers, parks, appreciation of other cultures)

Chapter 6: Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements

Was Addams alone in her interest in founding a settlement house in the U. S.? On what occasion did she deliver the speech which forms much of this chapter?

What class of people does she believe have an especial desire for work in a settlement house, and what lack will this help to compensate? (separation from life of fellow human beings who work and struggle)

What complaint does she make against the notion that children should postpone any desires for beneficent action? Against the social demand that daughters must be sacrificed to their families? (119)

Why in her opinion do many young people who are not greatly motivated for academic achievement take higher degrees?

Why in her view did the settlement movement originate in England?

What view of the true nature of Christianity does she expound? (Christian humanitarianism, 122-23) Would this have been a commonly accepted view at the time?

What does she give as the motive for the opening of Hull House? (desire to interpret democracy in social terms, desire to aid in human progress, Christian humanitarianism; and less directly, desire for an alternate form of social success not based on materialism, desire for approbation from workers as well as the prosperous, 125)

What should be the attitude of settlement workers toward the life of the city? (organic, unified from diversity, 127)

Should settlement workers attempt to influence legislation?

What does Addams see as the testimony of speculative philosophy? (“the solidarity of the human race,” 127)

Chapter 7: Undertakings at Hull House

What were some of the early projects undertaken at Hull House, and which were most successful? For example, what results came of the attempt to teach better cooking methods, to establish a coffee house (that is, not a saloon), to provide halls for social occasions, to organize a cooperative coal association, and so on?

To what does she attribute the relative success of the women’s shoemaking cooperative? (self-determination, 136)

What virtues does Addams see in many of her immigrant neighbors? (helpful to settlement and their fellows)

What were some conflicts or problems associated with her work as it prospered? (issue of the source of contributions, disapproval of lack of religious programs)

What were some of the settlement’s efforts to help rescue girls and young women from prostitution? (others wouldn’t accept them into clubs)

How was the House furnished? (art gallery, pleasant, tasteful furniture) What were some of the first buildings to be added? (gymnasium, women’s club)

How were their efforts received by members of the community?(153)

Chapter 8: Problems of Poverty

What were some of the anxieties and troubles of the poor which Addams singles out for discussion? (fear of poorhouse)

What does she think of the conditions afforded the indigent in residences for the aged, and what does she do to help mitigate this problem?

What economic events affected Chicago in the mid-1890s, and what efforts were made to help the unemployed? (relief stations)

What bad advice does Addams regret having given to an unemployed man, and what lesson does she take from her mistake?

Why did the settlement begin to provide day-care for children, even those with parents? (167-68)

What are some tales Addams relates of dutiful and irresponsible family members? Of death from parental negligence? (drunken husbands, sad case of mother who refused to hold her child because she was so overworked, 173) Of those who found meaning despite their poverty?

Chapter 15: The Value of Social Clubs

What activities were promoted by the young people’s social clubs? (dancing, athletics, reading groups) What seems to have been the tone taken on moral issues? (no drinking, 349)

What results do these clubs seem to have produced?

What examples does she give of young people’s intense desire for pleasure and possessions? What does she believe are the roots of prostitution?

What were some efforts to help young people with which she was associated? (Juvenile Protection Association)

What were some results of attempts to reach out to Italian immigrants? To Greek immigrants?

What does Addams believe have been the results of these combined efforts? (lessened solitude)

Chapter 16: Arts at Hull House

What kinds of arts were practiced at Hull House? What facilities did they provide for music? (studios, prizes, classes, concerts)

What does she regret about the lives of some of her talented musical students? (couldn't afford to study more, weren't able to develop their talent, 381)

What kinds of theatrical performances were given at the center? (387)

On what topic did tensions run high, and what compromise was finally reached? (397-98)

Chapter 18: Socialized Education

What kinds of classes and educational activities were provided by the settlement house? (summer schools, reading groups, lectures) What would be some modern day equivalents? (extension services, 430-31)

Were all the free lectures equally successful? (some pedantic)

Why were athlectics and physical education emphasized?

What was the focus of trade and vocational instruction?

Why did the settlement house's attempt at ecumenical services fail, in her view?

What does she mean by "socialized democracy"? Does she believe her experiment has succeeded?

Was this account well-written? Interesting? Does it succeed as an autobiography as well as the history of a pioneering venture?

Page numbers from Macmillan edition, 1938.

Go to top

  Copyright © 2010 Florence S Boos, The University of Iowa. All rights reserved.
  Page updated: May 3, 2011 19:48