Hull House: Turned Immigrants Into Americans

1429 words - 6 pages


The United States is a nation of immigrants but also a nation of Americans, when exactly does it happen that an immigrant becomes an American? Most of the people in the United States came from Europe or their ancestors came from Europe. Many immigrants were poor, day laborers who chose to live in the city. They came to America in hope of a better economic life. Many lived in sections of the city that suffered from severe poverty. They often lived in run down tenement houses that were unsafe. All the while, they clung to the cultures of the “old world” they just left. It was not until the 1880s that things began to change. Jane Addams, a middle class woman, decided to help the impoverished immigrants. She opened a settlement house and she called it Hull House. It was the first settlement house in the United States. She focused on Chicago’s most poverty-stricken area. The Hull House became the social center for immigrants. It offered night school for adults, kindergarten classes, clubs, a public kitchen, an art gallery, a coffeehouse, a gym, a bathhouse and so much more. Hull House helped immigrants become part of the social world in America. It also tried to Americanize the immigrants and encouraged them to assimilate into the American culture. In short, when Jane Addams founded the Hull House she wanted to help immigrants become part of the American culture and she persuaded them to leave the customs of the “old world” in their past.
In Jane Addams’s effort to try to assimilate immigrants into the American culture, she targeted the immigrant children first. Addams believed if the children became assimilated, the adults would follow suit. Hull House offered cooking classes and adolescents often took them so they could learn how to cook for their future families. However, the cooking classes featured American dishes. The adolescents would come home and cook an American meal for the family. The family may be confused about this at first but after several nights of American cooking it would seem natural, and then the whole family would begin to eat American food regularly. Children often became Americanized without the help of Hull House; children often adjusted to the culture easily. They would see American children at school and want to be like them; however, as a result, many lost touch with their parents who practiced the old culture. Jane Addams described a situation where one young girl did not want to be with her mother who still dressed in Italian clothes. “Angelia always left her mother at the front door while she herself went around to a side door because she did not wish to be too closely identified… with an Italian woman who wore a kerchief over her head, uncouth boots, and short petticoats.” This situation was not uncommon. Many children wanted to wear American clothing, even if they had to steal them. Addams used the desire of children to be American to her advantage. Many children lost touch with their parents due to their...

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