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Queer Person in History: Jane Addams

Jane Addams (1860–1935) is a Chicago icon. Her accomplishments in founding one of the nation’s first settlement houses, Hull- House (now spelled Hull House), in 1890 and creating a model for social change and democracy—addressing such issues as child labor, public health reform, garbage collection, labor laws, and race relations.

She was also the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1931, in recognition of her tireless (and often thankless) activism against war and other forms of violence.

Addams had at least two long-term same-sex relationships—one of which, with Mary Rozet Smith, lasted 40 years. Addams and Smith traveled together, shared the same room and bed, and owned property together. Addams consistently addressed Smith as “dearest” and used phrases such as “I am yours ’til death.” Their relationship to each other was recognized by their close associates as intimate. Historian John D’Emilio points out, “No matter how you cut it, these are all marks that we use to understand women and men as lesbian or gay.”

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