Jane Addams, known prominently for her work as a social reformer, pacifist and feminist during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was born with the name Laura Jane Addams. She was the eighth of nine children born to an affluent state senator and businessman, she and her family lived a life of privilege. As an addition to her already wonderful life, her father had many important friends, including President Abraham Lincoln.
In the 1880's, Addams struggled to find her place in the world. Battling with health problems at an early age, she graduated from the Rockford Female Seminary in Illinois in 1881. She later traveled and briefly attended medical school. On one trip with friend Ellen Gates Starr, Laura visited the famed Toynbee Hall in London, England, a special facility established to help the poor. She and Ellen were so impressed by the settlement house that they sought to create one in Chicago. It wouldn't be long before their dream became reality.
In 1889, Laura and Ellen opened one of the first settlements in both the United States and North America, and the first in the city of Chicago: Hull House, which was named after the building's original owner. The house provided services for the immigrant and poor population living in the Chicago area. Not long after, the organization grew to include more than 10 buildings and extended its services to include child care, educational courses, an art gallery, a public kitchen and several other social programs.
In 1963, the construction of the University of Illinois' Chicago campus forced Hull House to move its headquarters, and, unfortunately, most of the organization's original buildings were demolished as a result. However, the Hull residence was transformed into a monument honoring Laura that remains standing today.