This chapter describes Jane Addams's formative years and how her initial experiences and contemporary developments shaped her future course of actions. Jane Addams was born on September 6, in 1860 Cedarville, Illinois. A small child in a small town in rural Illinois in the 1860s did not need to concern herself with women's rights, African American rights, or immigrant rights. Still, in the future she would need to answer the questions that underlay the argument for such rights. What was a good (female) citizen? Was it someone who was a politician like her father or a good neighbor like her mother? Was it a self-sufficient person or a person committed to a life of dependence and self-sacrifice? Was it someone who knew better than “the masses” or was it someone who thought class standing irrelevant to a person's right to have a public voice? Was it someone of Anglo-Germanic origins or were race and ethnicity irrelevant? The facts of Jane Addams's birth did not portend her fate so much as establish the questions that she would need to answer in her life.
Keywords: women's rights, Jane Addams, African American rights, ethnicity, self-sacrifice, public voice