Settlement life reinforced Jane Addams's familiar sense of herself even as it stretched her social horizons. It offered her a way to cross over into a new world while keeping a foot in the old one. The aspect of Toynbee Hall that likely startled Addams the most was its involvement with the trade union movement and its materialistic reform agenda of higher wages and improved working conditions. The Barnetts believed that there was a connection between ending a man's poverty and developing his human potential. As Henrietta Barnett put it in 1884, “Can a man live the highest life when the preservation of his … body occupies all his thoughts—from whose life pleasure is crushed out by ever-wearying work…?” Addams knew little about trade unions and strikes before visiting Toynbee Hall, her main source of information being the generally antistrike stories in newspapers and magazines. That summer she experienced union organizing firsthand when a major strike erupted in the East End.
Keywords: settlement life, Toynbee Hall, Jane Addams, poverty, human potential, trade unions