Jane Addams, Her Story, Ideas and Legacy
Jane Addams was a leading figure in the American and international peace movements in the early 20th century for two reasons. First, she helped create and lead the major organizations through which women in the United States and around the world participated in those movements between 1915 and 1929. Her accomplishments included:
- She helped convene the Washington, D.C. meeting in January 1915 that resulted in the founding of the Woman's Peace Party, the first national women's peace organization in the United States, and was elected its first president;
- She led the Party's delegation to an international gathering of women at The Hague, Holland in April 1915, which led to the forming of the International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace, of which she was elected president.
- In 1919, when World War I ended, she again headed the Woman's Peace Party delegation to another international women's peace congress. This time the group decided to establish an international organization with national branches. Addams was elected president of the newly named Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (she would soon resign as president of the Woman's Peace Party). This organization's purpose was both advancing peace AND women's rights.
- She remained president of the WILPF, a position to which she was reelected every two years, until she resigned for reasons of illiness in 1929.
In addition, Addams was a talented public communicator whose opinions were influential in the United States and around the world. She was the author or co-author of two books about her experiences in the peace movement (Women at the Hague and Peace and Bread in Time of War) and lectured widely, both in the United States and in Europe and Asia, on issues related to women and peace, including women's rights. In recent years, it is more often recognized that women's rights are human rights and that war, poverty, and suffering arise whenever human rights are neglected. Addams understood this beginning as early as 1907. In her book Newer Ideals of Peace, published that year, she offers an extended criticism of the harmful forces of "militarism," which she defines broadly to include hierarchical, discriminatory values and practices of any kind. Her definition of violence echoes that of one of the men she most admired, Gandhi -- that poverty is the worst kind of violence, and her definition of peace included freedom from prejudice. Addams was honored for her role as a leader of the world peace movement in 1931, when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize -- the first American woman, and only the second woman, to receive it. Appropriately enough, President Barack Obama unconsciously (we assume) echoed Addams's broad vision of the meaning of peace in his acceptance speech when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. Research may confirm that Addams and Obama are the only two Chicago grassroots organizers so far to receive the peace prize. Her broad vision of the meaning of peace, echoed in the last part of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize address in December 2009, is another reason that Addams is featured prominently on this website.
Directory of Recent Essays and Scholarship on Jane Addams
This web site is dedicated to maintaining a current list of scholarship relevant to Jane Addams, Women in Peace History, and to the progress of United Nations SCR 1325. Below is a directory of original content about Jane Addams, her life and work toward peace. If you are aware of new essays that we would want to include on this list, please email our web manager.