Chicago's Jane Addams Hull House Association Shutters Doors

Chicago's Jane Addams Hull House Association Shutters Doors
Trudy Ring

Jane Addams Hull House Association, the Chicago social services agency founded 122 years ago by legendary (and most likely lesbian) progressive activist Addams (pictured), ceased operations Friday due to lack of funds.

The organization is several million dollars in debt, board chairman Stephen Saunders told the Chicago Tribune. “We have to close our doors or we would owe more people money,” he said.

The group has provided foster care, domestic violence counseling, child care, and other services to about 60,000 clients annually; they will be referred to other social service agencies. Its roughly 300 employees will lose their jobs. Observers told the Tribune the agency was largely dependent on government funding, which has decreased in recent years, and had difficulty raising private funds.

Addams, with Ellen Gates Starr, founded Hull-House (then spelled with a hyphen) in 1889 to serve impoverished immigrants, providing classes on a variety of subjects, vocational training, day care, a kindergarten, and many other services. It was known as a “settlement house” because it helped immigrants settle into American life, and it was one of the first such institutions in the nation. Addams was also an activist for world peace, public health, the abolition of child labor, and improvement of race relations. In 1931 she became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She died in 1935, aged 74.

According to historians and biographers, Addams had at least two long-term same-sex relationships. These are relationships “we would describe as lesbian today,” historian Lillian Faderman has written. In 2008, Addams was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. The original Hull-House location is now the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, operated by the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is not affected by the social service agency’s closure.

Image via Getty. 

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