Civic Federation’s Course Set by Jane Addams

September 30, 2010

Now over 116 years old, the Civic Federation began as an effort by a diverse group of Chicagoans to reform the city’s political and social landscape through direct engagement. Many of Chicago’s most famous names were involved – William T. Stead, Lyman Judson Gage, Bertha Honore Palmer – all had a hand in launching the Civic Federation in November of 1893.

One of the most distinguished Chicagoans to help the Federation in its earliest days was Jane Addams, of Hull House fame and a leading social progressive. Her involvement as a representative of Hull House and an advocate for women set the stage for the Federation’s long commitment to including Chicago civic leaders in Federation committees and working groups.

In her time with the Civic Federation as secretary of the Industrial Committee and as an advocate of the unemployed, Jane Addams acted as an arbitrator in the Pullman Strike of 1894. Although Addams’ efforts to encourage arbitration in the dispute between the Pullman Palace Car Company and its workers over declining wages failed, her work led to the Illinois General Assembly’s passage of a law creating the State Board of Conciliation and Arbitration.

In addition to a long list of accomplishments and honors for her work promoting social justice and government reform, Jane Addams was also the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her work promoting peace and pacifism beginning with World War I. Jane Addams died on May 21, 1935 at the age of 74.

September 6, 2010 was the sesquicentennial of Jane Addams’ birthday and the Civic Federation is proud to carry the torch of government reform lit by Addams so many years ago. The Civic Federation honors Jane Addams yearly with the Addams-Palmer award, given in recognition of outstanding civic involvement by an institution in the Chicagoland area. Recent recipients include Abbott and Molex Incorporated. To read more about the Addams-Palmer award, please click here. Click here to read Addams’ autobiography.