(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Meigs’s first paragraph underscores the importance of Addams and the lasting effects of her achievements toward the improvement of the quality of life for all factions of society, but especially for young people living in poverty. Meigs stresses the importance of Addams’ conviction that what was most wrong with society in her time was “the neglect and misunderstanding of what youth needed in its difficult and troubled progress to maturity.” Teenage readers of Jane Addams might well identify with this view.

Although the book is written primarily to document the life of one woman, the author centers the action around Hull-House and includes the women who were attracted to Addams’ ideals and worked along with her. Writing in a conventional biographical format, the author follows Addams from her birth in 1860 until her death in 1935. Small, fictionalized vignettes, which quote conversations, bring to life Addams’ early awareness of the existence of vast differences in the quality of life of the well-to-do and the poor.

Meigs presents a picture of a happy and secure child raised in a loving and tolerant family who believed, like Abraham Lincoln, that “people of all classes and kinds” were an important part of the nation. Her view of Addams reveals an ex-tremely well-balanced woman who is charismatic, organized, empathetic, intelligent, and a risk taker—a woman with whom contemporary young readers could identify.

Within the book’s biographical format, Meigs pictures abject poverty and inhumane working conditions in industrial...

(The entire section is 650 words.)