Becoming Jane Addams

Feminist Developmental Theory and 'The College Woman'

in Girlhood Studies
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Jane Addams (1860–1935) was a major reformer of the American Progressive Era (1890 to 1920) whose ideas about social justice continue to engage contemporary scholars. This article contributes to the recent examination of her feminist insights by investigating a source of her voice of social critique. Situating Addams in the first generation of white women to have access to both secondary and tertiary education, I use a feminist developmental lens to attend to a repeated figure in her earliest public addresses, “the college woman.” By highlighting parallels between Addams's presentation of “the college woman” and the developmental strengths, struggles, and resistance of contemporary girls and adolescents, I offer a reading of her motivations that brings into focus the socially transformative potential of young women.