Hull-House Incorporated

Hull-House Museum

I.  An Introduction

     Alan Trachtenberg's Incorporation of America outlines the major economic, social, and psychological changes that resulted from the turn of the century's industrial revolution. The subsequent massive mechanization of society left those in the lower echelons in its wake. A new class of vastly wealthy people was born, replacing a society in which only a moderate disparity had existed. Along with Gilded Age's greater socioeconomic gaps, came the advent of the corporation, a legal entity with preferential law on its side. Incorporation became a model for other institutions and a whole new wave of professionalization appeared. Trachtenberg looks specifically at Chicago, a city created by corporations and driven by financial construction. The huge underclass flooding Chicago looking for work found a lack of low cost housing and inadequate wages. Immigrant workers more and more became "the other," beings who needed to be Americanized.

Hull-House sketch by resident Nora Hamilton    The first generation of educated upper class women in Chicago responded to this need. With societal norms dictating few career options for these women, some found that "with all their apparent leisure they had nothing to do" (Miller,418). Soon Hull-House was born. Jane Addams, along with Ellen Gates Star, started a unique home with twenty or so residents that attempted to offer not only food and shelter but also educational and cultural sustenance to those of the lower class. Addams and Star did not just start a settlement but contributed to (some would say invented) the professionalization of social work. In an attempt to raise the social class of its inhabitants, Hull-House sought to Americanize immigrants. This burgeoning field was one of few open to women, possibly because of its traditionally female role of caring for others. Hull-House not only sought to mold and "bettter" immigrant workers but to study them, formulate theories, furnish data for legislation, and publish its results. Hull-House was not another little sisters of charity (previous occupants of Hull-House) who offered God as a solution to social ills but an experiment in progressive theory offering education as a cure-all. Addams, the Abbott sisters, Sophonisba P. Breckinridge and her other fellow female cohorts worked closely with educational leader John Dewey and University of Chicago professors. Hull-House made a lasting impression on the field of social science, was a voice for those less fortunate and opened the gateway for women in the professional arena. Hull-House is not without its critics. Some call it a corrupt corporation that under the guise of social reform incorporated or assimilated immigrants into a manner of life deemed acceptable to Ms. Addams and those of her class.


Home III. Investors IV. Production

V. Research and Development VI. Infrastructure Bibliography