Please note: SheilaTGTG55 did a fine blog post about the closing of the Jane Addams centers HERE. Please visit hers as well for another point of view.
On January 19, 2012 a spokesperson for the Jane Addams Hull House Association announced the closing of the remaining 3 Hull House community centers that are the legacy of Jane Addams.
"During these challenging times, we have remained committed to the mission established by Jane Addams more than 120 years ago," said Board chairman Stephen Saunders. "Now, our goal is to ensure the families and individuals we serve continue to have access to the services they need. This was a very difficult decision, but it was the responsible thing to do." from the Associated Press.
The Jane Addams Hull House Association cited financial problems as the main reason for the proposed closing. Donations and government support has dwindled even though the need for its services has grown. Approximately 60,000 children, families and community organizations make use of it every year. Its annual budget is estimated at about 20 million dollars. It is scheduled to close its doors in the spring.
Along with Al Capone, Mrs O’Leary’s cow, Mayor Richard J. Daley and Michael Jordan, Jane Addams is among the most well known Chicagoans of all time. She was however, the only one of the above to win a Nobel Prize. In 1889 Addams, along with Ellen Gates Starr founded Hull House on the city’s impoverished West Side, traditionally a first stop for immigrants coming from abroad and from inside of the USA. Hull House was a settlement house, a place for neighborhood residents to learn English, create art, perform in plays, take classes in a wide variety of subjects, organize for their rights, obtain help with personal and family problems, attend a Hull House summer camp away from the city and much much more.
Hull House staff and volunteers supported workers’ strikes and lobbied for just about every piece of progressive legislation passed in the first part of the 20th century. Among those associated with Hull House were Lucy Parsons, Florence Kelly, Alice Hamilton, and Frances Perkins. Benny Goodman studied music there. Hull House helped to give birth to Chicago’s vibrant small theater scene and is credited with being the birthplace of Chicago improvisational comedy which has given the world a galaxy of comic actors and writers.
Jane Addams died in 1935, but her Hull House continued. In 1963 the main Hull House complex was largely demolished to make way for the University at Illinois campus, however a small part was preserved that now makes up the Hull House Museum. The Hull House settlement house vision was continued by the Hull House Association which offered a wide variety of social service programs on both the North and South Sides of the city, continuing the legacy that Jane Addams began in 1889.
Ironically, the Hull House Association announced its closing the same week that people protested Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s expensive plans for the G-8/NATO meetings, his proposed restrictions of demonstrations, his cutting of services for the city’s libraries and his cutbacks in much needed mental health services. The cost for the Mayor's elite party for the G-8 and NATO is estimated at $40 million to $65 million. This could keep the Jane Addams centers open for 2-3 years.
The Mayor’s priorities are clear. The 1% come first and the rest of Chicago will find even the back door locked to them.
The Hull House Museum on the University of Illinois campus is a separate organization and will remain open. Besides the historical artifacts from the heyday of Hull House it offers school field trip programs and special exhibits. In addition it sponsors lively community lectures and programs that continue the Jane Addams educational tradition. Many of these involve Chicago’s diverse working class youth. Director Lisa Yun Lee has done a fantastic job there.
Perhaps a financial angel will appear who will put the Jane Addams Hull House Association back on a sound footing, but time is running short. If they do finally close in the spring it will be a terrible blow not just to the legacy of Jane Addams, but to the residents of the city that she loved and devoted her life to.For further reading:
Jane Addams Hull Association
Jane Addams Hull House Museum
Jane Addams Wikipedia article
Hull House Wikipedia article
My 20 Years at Hull House by Jane Addams
Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life by Jean Bethke Elshtain