Addams explores many areas in Twenty Years at Hull-House. She first deals with the influences that led a sheltered girl to become a crusader for those less fortunate than she was. She then describes some of the many people and abuses she saw during her experiences founding and directing Hull-House. The book can have a profound impact on a socially minded reader.
The book opened the eyes of many in 1910 to people, places, and tragedies that were unknown to them. Perhaps Addams’ motivation in writing the book was to let the rest of the United States know that there was much human misery and toil associated with the marvels of the industrial age. Twenty Years at Hull-House is a classic book on early social work. Since its writing, much legislation has been passed in attempts to end the abuse of immigrants and child labor.
Addams was an activist and leader in the 1800’s in a new and important field. Social work and charity work became legitimate, for the need was real. Addams continued with Hull-House and eventually wrote a second volume, entitled The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House (1930). Both books remain in print, owing to the continuing interest in social reform throughout the years. Many people were strongly influenced by Addams and her work. Her strong opinions on women represented stirrings of feminism in a world dominated by men.
Addams, a wealthy, privileged girl, participated in one of the great social reforms of the industrial age, and this book is a testament to her work. Twenty Years at Hull-House is a valuable look at history and a reminder of the responsibility that all people share for one another.