History 246 Reading Guide

The “New Woman” and the Public Options for Single Women

  • Kathryn Kish Sklar, “Hull House in the 1890s:  A Community of Women Reformers,” Signs 10 (1985), 657-77.  JSTOR
  • Optional document:  Jane Addams, Chapter IV, “The Snare of Preparation,” .pdf; Chapter VI, “The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements,” .pdf, in Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House (1912), from the Build-A-Book Initiative at the Celebration of Women Writers, FullBooks.com.  (LINK)

Further reading:

  • Jane Addams, Chapter VIII, “Problems of Poverty,” Twenty Years at Hull House (1912).
  • Jill Conway, “Women Reformers and American Culture, 1870-1930,” Journal of Social History V (1971-2), 164-77. [in Jean Friedman and William Shade, Our American Sisters 3rd ed. (1982) or 4th ed. (1987)].


In “The Snare of Preparation,” Jane Addams offered an account of the process by which she came to see settlement work as the solution to her dilemma about what she was supposed to do with her education and her life. In “The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements,” she viewed that question from a broader, generational perspective.

  • Why did she go on the European tour after Rockford College? What had she wanted to do with her life, and what prevented the realization of that first goal?
  • What did she “see” and experience in European cities? What did she come to realize about the limits of the college education that she and other privileged young people received?
  • Why was her “very simple plan” for a settlement house the solution? Did she present this solution it as inevitable? Whom did it serve?
  • In “The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements,” how did Addams describe and analyze the motives of the educated young men and women who engaged in the social settlement movement?
  • What did she mean by the “subjective necessity”? How did she show that self-serving motives actually served a larger purpose and population?
  • How does Kathryn Kish Sklar describe the Hull House “community” in its first decade?
  • What does her brief biography of Florence Kelley highlight about the reasons that women joined, and what does it suggest about the women who were most likely to find their “proper place” in a settlement house?
  • Does this similarity of background suggest that this was a requirement, not for participating, but at least for envisioning such a community and purpose and for taking both to their fullest potential?
  • What, according to Sklar, did Hull House offer to the women who lived and worked there?
  • Using the example of the 1893 political campaign for the passage and subsequent enforcement of anti-sweatshop legislation in Illinois manufacturing, what does Sklar argue that this community of social reformers able to accomplish, and how?