Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 23

Ellen Gates Starr

house chicago hull illinois

Social reformer, born near Laona, Illinois, USA. Growing up in an Illinois village, she was influenced by her aunt, Eliza Allen Starr, a writer and lecturer on Christian art who lived in Chicago, to enroll in the Rockford Female Seminary (1877–8) in Rockford, IL, where she first met Jane Addams. For several years she taught at a girls' school in Chicago, but after years of corresponding with Addams, and a trip (1888) with her to Europe, the two women established Hull House (1898), a settlement house in Chicago's West Side. For the next 30 years, Starr was the principal co-ordinator for cultural activities at Hull House, promoting everything from ‘great books’ reading clubs to bookbinding, but she soon broadened her concerns to become an activist for child labour and labour issues in general. She eventually joined the Socialist Party and then, after a lifetime of searching for a congenial religion, joined the Catholic Church (1920). After a crippling ailment, she retired in 1930 to a Catholic convent in New York.

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