Home > About > Alumna Jane AddamsThe tradition of Jane Addams
Today, the spirit of Jane Addams (Rockford College alumna) lives on at Rockford College.
We believe each and every one of us has the ability to change the world, just as Jane did through her many societal contributions.
Her father was an Illinois legislator, a friend of Abraham Lincoln, and a Rockford College trustee. It is not surprising then, that John Addams insisted that his youngest daughter attend Rockford Female Seminary, even though she begged to attend an "eastern school.”
At Rockford College, she was elected president of her class and was chosen to deliver the 1881 valedictory address. With these words, she presaged the remarkable impact she would one day make:
"We stand today united in a belief in beauty, genius and courage, and that these can transform the world.”
Jane Addams began her lifelong crusade for justice and equality not long after she graduated from Rockford College when, in 1889, she established Hull-House in Chicago. There, she created a myriad of programs – nurseries, college courses, art classes, sports leagues – for people of all beliefs and ethnic backgrounds.
During the 1890s, Hull-House gained a national and international reputation as a radical, innovative, successful institution, and Jane became known as the nation’s leading change agent. She prodded America to respond to the terrible ills of industrial development: child labor, infant mortality, urban crowding and unsanitary conditions, unsafe workplaces, juvenile delinquency, unemployment and poverty wages.
As a social reformer, Jane was a force to be reckoned with. Her efforts led to Illinois’ first child labor law, the first eight-hour work day law for women; and the first juvenile court. As a suffragette, she championed women’s right to vote. As a humanitarian, she devoted her life to the causes of peace, freedom and justice.
Students at Rockford College today, like Jane Addams before them, are asked to think critically, act compassionately, and embrace the ideals of citizenship. We are preparing them to change the world. Only time will tell if any will win the Nobel Peace Prize like Jane Addams did in 1931. In the meantime, they are learning how thoughtful, active citizens can make a very real difference in the world. Think. Act. Change your world.
The Jane Addams MedalMore about Jane