Progressives in the late nineteenth century wanted to alleviate the plight of the working poor. Many of their ideas, such as a minimum wage, a forty-hour work week, unemployment insurance, social security, and safety standards for businesses would come to pass in the twentieth century. In the meantime, Hull House did its best to help improve and brighten the lives of the poor.
In accordance with Progressive Era ideas, Hull House wanted to provide social services for the poor working people in the areas around the house. One service they provided was a nursery school, called Children's House, to provide activities for very young children. This came about because Addams and others realized that many poor women, who were forced to work long hours outside of the home because of alcoholic husbands or lack of a husband, often had no choice but to leave children as young as two or three years old home alone. Other children, too young for school but left on the streets as the mothers could not afford day care, would take refuge in the hallway of Hull House. After first offering the children a place to stay and lunch, Hull House's formal nursery began.
Second, in light of the Progressive idea that the working poor should have "clean recreation" in their lives, Hull House organized dance classes that young people could attend after work, and an annual and much anticipated cotillion dance. A Labor Museum also celebrated the skills and crafts of immigrants, bringing community pride.
Third, Hull House also helped sponsor "cooperative" schemes, in which working people would start their own businesses together and share the profits. One was a cooperative carpentry business. Hull House also sponsored a cooperative congress to help collect stories from around the world of successful cooperative ventures. As Addams writes:
this dream that men shall cease to waste strength in competition and shall come to pool their powers of production is coming to pass all over the face of the earth.
Overall, Hull House was willing to try all sorts of experiments, some successful, some failures, to improve the lives of working people.