Jane Addams—Philanthropist in Action

9, 10, 11, 12

Jane Addams is used as a model to demonstrate a philanthropist in action, improving many situations, not only in the city of Chicago, but also at state, national and international levels.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • compare and contrast nineteenth and twentieth century examples of enhancing the common good and analyze why Jane Addams was a model of responsible citizenship and civic virtue.
  • categorize various types of volunteer efforts and formulate ways to serve the common good.
  • A Nation of Volunteers-The 1990s Attachment One
  • Jane Addams (1860-1935) Attachment Two
  • Jane Addams at Hull House Attachment Three
  • Hull House Services Attachment Four
  • Jane Addams and the Pullman StrikeAttachment Five
  • Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House. New York: MacMillan, 1910.
  • Bahmueller, Charles F., ed., Civitas: A Framework for Civic Education. (Calabasas, CA: National Council for the Social Studies Bulletin, 1991), 86.
  • Ellis, Susan J., and Katherine H. Noyes. By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1990.
  • Felder, Deborah G. The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time: A Ranking Past and Present. New York: Citadel, 1996.
  • Kerber, Linda K., and Jane Sherron De Hart. Women's America: Refocusing the Past, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • Marlow, Joan. The Great Women. New York: Galahad Books, 1979.
  • Munro, Petra. "Educators as Activists: Five Women from Chicago," Social Education, 59 (5), 274-278.
  • "Philanthropy in American History: The Elite Experience, 1980-1940." http://www.philanthropy.org/publications/curriculum_guides/09.html#toc
  • Weinberg, Arthur, and Lila Weinberg. Some Dissenting Voices: The Story of Six American Dissenters. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1970


  1. "Tis not to taste sweet things, but to do noble and true things that the poorest son of Adam dimly longs." - Carlyle

    • "Deeds make habits, habits make character, character makes destiny!" - Notes from Jane Addams' college journal
  2. Once students have reflected on the meaning of the opening statement(s), ask them to now think about how that information might apply to volunteer work. Ask students if any of them are already engaged in volunteerism. What are examples of the types of thing students their age are doing voluntarily? What volunteer activities would they like to participate in or create?

    • Break the class into groups of four to five students. Distribute a copy of A Nation of Volunteers-The 1990s (see Attachment One) to each group. Ask student groups to brainstorm existing volunteer groups using the handout as a guide. Once sufficient time has passed to create extensive lists, discuss students' answers in a whole group setting and expand or clarify what various volunteer groups do.
    • Ask students to determine the general purpose of volunteer groups. (Responsible citizens address social problems by participating constructively in their communities.) Are most of the groups listed working toward community improvement? Reform? Of those purposes, which area most interests the students personally?
    • Ask students what they already know about industrialization, immigration and urban growth during the late 1800s. In particular, what problems did people in urban settings face (overcrowding, unhealthy working conditions, adjusting to life in cities)?
    • Use the following quotation to explain that, more than today, a large area of civic virtue lay outside the boundaries of government. "Large numbers of the unemployed received no assistance. Welfare as we know it did not exist; neither did unemployment insurance, housing assistance, medical care, food stamps, or social security. Local governments did not themselves construct bridges, parks or museums. …Yet the needy were helped, civic amenities were erected and the children of indigent workers had a chance at education. Side by side with government operated a congeries of organizations whose aims though quite disparate, were to influence the quality of social, civic and public life in America." (http://www.philanthropy.org/publications/curriculum_guides/09.html#toc)
    • Inform the class that Jane Addams was one person who exemplified the American tradition of civic responsibility and philanthropy. The daughter of a prosperous small town businessman, she traveled to Europe after her education. After attending a bloody bullfight in Spain, she decided she had something better to do with her life.
    • Divide the class into small groups of three or four students. Give each group one of the versions of the Jane Addams Handouts (Attachments Two, Three, Four and Five). Give the groups 10-15 minutes to read their handout and discuss the provided question(s). Discuss the answers from all the handouts as a whole group activity.
    • Compile a master list of all the activities that Jane Addams accomplished. Looking at how busy Jane Addams was in support of many causes, how do you think she would have preferred to be remembered?

Using the Categories of Volunteer Groups (see Attachment One), ask students to list the kinds of services that Jane Addams and Hull House provided next to the appropriate heading. As an example, next to the category of Health Care, the example "delivering babies" could be listed.

Cross Curriculum 

Reinforces Academic Service-Learning and prepares the way for participation in community projects.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Give examples of human interdependence and explain why group formation is one strategy for survival.
      2. Benchmark HS.5 Describe civil society advocacy organizations and their relationship to human rights.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.7 Identify and give examples of the important roles women and minorities have played in the civil society sector in history.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.5 Identify and discuss civil society sector organizations working to build community/social capital and civil society resources.
    4. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark HS.5 Identify positive philanthropic historic acts or events that helped build the community, state, and nation.