Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Debora Liddell

Second Advisor

Christine Ogren


Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr opened Hull House, Chicago’s first settlement house, in 1889 as a means of confronting poverty, poor housing conditions, disease, discouragement, and other ills that flourished in the predominately immigrant Halstead neighborhood. Because Hull House volunteers lived at the House, in the center of the community, they were well-equipped to respond knowledgeably to the neighborhood conditions. Hull House residents worked for reform in areas such as education, labor, juvenile protection, immigration, welfare, housing, and suffrage and they provided the community with a plethora of activities and services during the Progressive Era. As the community expressed their needs, Hull House volunteers responded to them.

This dissertation provides evidence that social activism did not just take the form of political engagement and occupational health efforts but that it also included disease and illness prevention efforts. An examination of activist work of the Hull House Woman’s Club helps create an understanding of the intersection of activism and disease and illness prevention, and how activists used strategies to improve the health and wellbeing of people at the turn of the century. Specifically, three groups of women—the neighborhood women, the club women, and public health knowledge-holders—came together to address public health issues in the Nineteenth Ward. Each of these three groups played an integral role in the success of Hull House public health activism; it was their coming together that enabled them to create such powerful change. This dissertation specifically examines the women’s efforts in 1894 to improve garbage collection and sanitation and their 1902 efforts to eliminate typhoid in their neighborhood. This dissertation argues that, despite a lack of formal public health education or training, Woman’s Club members utilized local knowledge to improve health conditions in the Nineteenth Ward in Chicago. Woman’s Club activists acquired public health knowledge and developed activist strategies and techniques inductively, through trial and error, as they were carrying out their activist work. This dissertation helps fill in the historical gaps by exploring the strategies Hull House volunteers used to prevent disease and illness prevention.


Alice Hamiton, Hull House, Jane Addams, Typhoid


x, 129 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 123-129).


Copyright © 2016 Megan Lee Schwalm