We learned to our great sadness at the National Consumers League that Hull House in Chicago is closing its doors, though thankfully the Museum will stay open. The historic settlement house founded by Jane Addams in 1889 in a rundown, largely immigrant Chicago neighborhood was inhabited for years by the first head of the NCL, Florence Kelley. Kelley did much of her earliest pioneering work from Hull House and was inspired and supported in that work by her dear friend Jane Addams and many other notable residents.
Hull House was the first of-its-kind settlement houses in America and was home to some of the most renown Progressive-era reformers in addition to Kelley – including Grace Abbot, Frances Perkins, Julia Lathrop, and Alice Hamilton, and of course Jane Addams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Addams bought the Hull House property and staffed it with a community of colleagues that helped thousands of immigrants adjust to life in America, providing classes in English, teaching about American customs, cooking, sewing, infant care, and conducting dance classes and other forms of recreation. Today Hull House provides equally critical services, including foster care, domestic violence counseling and prevention services, child development programs, and job training to about 60,000 children, families and community groups each year.
But now it appears that Hull House will be forced to close because of lack of funds. Stephen Saunders, Hull House’s chairman, issued a statement indicating that growing deficits have plagued the institution for several years.
In a nation with as much wealth as we enjoy here in the United States, it is indeed a sad commentary on our values that a historic institution like Hull House that has throughout its history provided basic services to the poor would be forced to close its doors.
We at the NCL, with our deep historical connections to Hull House and its mission, are greatly saddened at this news. We wish the institution well and we thank those members of the Hull House Board who worked so hard all these years to keep a historical icon working so long and so hard to provide assistance to those in greatest need.