In Jane Addams: Pioneer for Social Justice, Cornelia Meigs creates a biography and a social history of the United States. The book documents the life of Addams, interwoven with the political and social changes of her time. Her founding of Hull-House was the catalyst for many changes in the lives of the poor in Chicago. Meigs introduces the women surrounding Addams and chronicles their achievements in order to create a historical narrative of the labor movement in the United States. The first two chapters relate Addams’ childhood and education. The remaining chapters focus on Hull-House and the wide-ranging effects of the Hull-House idea. Using narrative form, Meigs tells the history of changes in labor laws and in the judicial system—lasting changes—originally based on Addams’ ideas.
Jane Addams also presents a picture of the women who were drawn to Addams—educated women determined to live lives of service, not of leisure. The author stresses the importance of these little-known women, who laid the foundation for the re-forms that improved the lot of thousands of underprivileged people. The book describes their individual skills and follows them as some leave Chicago to lead reforms in other cities.
Meigs describes Addams’ overriding concern for the welfare of young adults and her shock at the working conditions of children in the decade before 1900, which led Addams to interfere with industrialists in an effort to better...
(The entire section is 442 words.)