Jane Addams (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935) was a pioneer settlement worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in woman suffrage and world peace. Alongside presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson she was the most prominent reformer of the Progressive Era and helped turn the nation to issues of concern to mothers, such as the needs of children, public health and world peace. She emphasized that women have a special responsibility to clean up their communities and make them better places to live, arguing they needed the vote to be effective. Addams became a role model for middle-class women who volunteered to uplift their communities. She is increasingly being recognized as a member of the American pragmatist school of philosophy. In 1931 she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Born in Cedarville, Illinois, Jane Addams was the youngest of eight children born into a prosperous Yankee family; her father was politically prominent. She was the eighth child but three of her siblings died in infancy, and another died at age 16, leaving only four by the time Addams was age eight. Her mother, Sarah Addams (née Weber), died during birth when Jane was two years old.
Addams spent her childhood playing outdoors, reading indoors, and attending Sunday school. When she was age four, she contracted tuberculosis of the spine, Potts's disease, which caused a curvature in her back and lifelong health problems. As a child, she thought she was "ugly" and later remembered wanting not to embarrass her father, when he was dressed in his Sunday best, by walking down the street with him.