Jane Addams was the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize - the Peace Prize in 1931. Since 2007, Illinois has marked her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize with a statewide holiday (although no school is canceled and people still have to go to work).
I actually like holidays where kids have to be in school, and it's not just because I want to get my daughter out of the house so I can go to work. Rather, I would hope that on Jane Addams Day (December 10th of each year), students are taught about the many amazing things she did in Chicago that still impact lives across the world.
Addams not only transformed the field of social work, she was also a founder and the first president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and she campaigned against World War I.
Addams didn't do her work alone. Far from it, as she was a resident of Chicago's Hull House:
The residents of Hull-House formed an impressive group, including Jane Addams, Ellen Gates Starr, Florence Kelley, Dr. Alice Hamilton, Julia Lathrop, Sophonisba Breckinridge, and Grace and Edith Abbott. From their experiences in the Hull-House neighborhood, the Hull-House residents and their supporters forged a powerful reform movement. Among the projects that they helped launch were the Immigrants' Protective League, the Juvenile Protective Association, the first juvenile court in the nation, and a Juvenile Psychopathic Clinic (later called the Institute for Juvenile Research). Through their efforts, the Illinois Legislature enacted protective legislation for women and children in 1893. With the creation of the Federal Children's Bureau in 1912 and the passage of a federal child labor law in 1916, the Hull-House reformers saw their efforts expanded to the national level.
Many organizations schedule events to mark the occasion of Jane Addams Day. On Tuesday I attended a portrayal of Addams performed by Annette M. Baldwin. I'm a women's history geek, so I really enjoyed it. Baldwin not only told Addams' story as Addams, but took questions (including one from a man who had met Addams) and showed a biographical slide show - with real slides, old school style. She travels around the country doing her shows, so do catch her if she shows up in your town.
Jane Addams was an amazing woman and continues to be a role model for us all, so whether you live in Illinois or not, take some time out to celebrate her life today. Happy Jane Addams Day!