The life of Jane Addams and evolutions of Hull House and Metropolitan Family Services are tightly linked to the social and political histories of Chicago and the United States.



Founding of the City of Chicago
The Chicago Relief and Aid Society

Sept. 6, 1860

Jane Addams is born in Cedarville, Ill.


Though little is known of the particulars of the Relief and Aid Society during the Civil War, a Soldiers’ Relief Committee was formed and aid was extended to needy soldiers’ families.


The Chicago Union Stock Yards are completed.


The Haymarket Riot


The Chicago Relief and Aid Society and Chicago Charity Organization merge, bringing a greater focus on poverty prevention to the organization.

June 1888

Addams visits the world’s first settlement house, Toynbee Hall in the East End of London.


Addams moves to Chicago with Ellen Gates Starr in order to plan for a settlement house.

Sept. 18, 1889

Addams and Starr move into the Hull Mansion on Halsted and Polk St. in the 19th Ward where they open the home as a settlement house.


Hull House begins a 13-building expansion by opening the Butler Art Gallery.


Chicago hosts the World’s Columbian Exposition.


Addams helps start The Chicago Federation of Settlements.

Mar. 1895

The Hull House Association is incorporated and Addams is elected president of the Board of Directors, a position she holds until her death in 1935.


Illinois Juvenile Court Law creates the first juvenile court located across from Hull House.


Addams is named vice president of the National Women’s Trade Union League.


The Chicago Legal Aid Society is formed by the merger of the Bureau of Justice and the Protective Agency for Women and Children.
“The history of Legal Aid (civil) stretches back for more than a hundred years. The first organized effort to provide free legal help for those unable to hire an attorney was the Protective Agency for Women and Children, established in 1886 by the Women’s Club of Chicago, ‘to protect young girls from seductions and debaucheries’ by men posing as employers. The Der Deutsche-Rechtaschartz-Verein (later named the Legal Aid Society) in New York in 1876 is sometimes referred to as the first, but it helped only German immigrants. The Bureau of Justice, in 1888, was the first true legal aid service not limited by race or gender. The two pioneer services in Chicago combined in 1905 to form the Legal Aid Society.”

From “Balancing the Scales of Justice,” by Junius Allison.


The Chicago Tribune turns over Camp Algonquin, a 20-acre fresh air camp on the Fox River, to the Chicago Relief and Aid Society. The focus of the camp was nutrition and physical help, providing sunshine, fresh air and food to mothers and children from the crowded city. Children from the Stock Yard district were often too ill to attend Camp Algonquin, and instead went to Camp Harlowarden to receive proper nutrition and medical treatment for tuberculosis.

Dec. 30, 1908

Jane Addams starts Mary Crane Nursery in the Hull House in memory of Richard Teller Crane’s wife.


The Chicago Relief and Aid Society and the Chicago Bureau of Charities merge to form United Charities of Chicago. The organization began to more actively promote progressive public policies and address health issues such as tuberculosis.


Addams writes 20 Years at Hull House.


Addams helps organize Woman’s Peace Party, elected 1st Chairman.
United Charities of Chicago


Addams founds the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and serves as president until 1929.



The Great Depression


Addams becomes the 1st American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.


United Charities helps establish the Community Fund of Chicago, now the United Way.


United Charities leader Joel D. Hunter serves on an official advisory council established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help shape what would become the Social Security Act.


Psychiatrists were hired in 1934 to train staff and provide counseling for family problems. In 1935 the counseling services were officially named the Family Service Bureau and for the first time, a considerable number of financially independent families received “family consultation.”

May 21, 1935

Addams dies after doctors found colon cancer while performing corrective surgery.
The Second World War


United Charities helps the growing number of war refugees find work, and provided relief and relocation services. The agency also helped women working the jobs of men sent to war who had difficulty securing child care, as well as returning veterans. Legal Aid and casework staff were added, along with an increase in psychiatric services.


By the 1950s more attention was being paid to “multi-problem” families who struggled with complex social issues, difficult family relationships, economic and housing pressures, and mental illness. The Family Service Bureau had a Women’s Service Division to help unmarried mothers and their children, and a Service for the Aged.


In the late 1950s, a small group of women from Glen Ellyn and Wheaton who had a strong desire to help less fortunate families in the area began the Treasure House resale shop in a fixed-up two-bedroom apartment with two bags of items left over from a rummage sale.


United Charities establishes the Calumet Center to serve the communities of Roseland, West Pullman, Riverdale, Washington Heights, Morgan Park, and Chatham.


The Civil Rights Act outlaws segregation and the Voting Rights Act is passed. President Lyndon Johnson introduces the War on Poverty.


United Charities expands its services and opens its first suburban office, Southwest Center in Palos Hills, to serve southwest Cook County.


The agency began a Consumer Credit Counseling service and helped the Chinese community establish a Chinese-speaking social agency for immigrants.


The Union Stock Yards close.


United Charities begins serving Southeast Chicago out of a one-person office in a church basement, to serve the community that was severely affected by the closing of local steel mills.


United Charities furthers its expansion in the suburbs, acquiring the DuPage Center. Black Monday, the second-largest stock market crash in the US, hits the nation’s economy.
Metropolitan Family Services


United Charities changes its name to Metropolitan Family Services to better reflect the work and scope of the broad community it serves, and opens the Midway Head Start Center.


Metropolitan Family Services acquires the Family Counseling Service, establishing the Evanston/Skokie Valley Center.


Metropolitan Family Services opens North Center, serving the Belmont-Cragin, Hermosa, Irving Park and Portage Park communities.


Metropolitan Family Services opens North Center, serving the Belmont-Cragin, Hermosa, Irving Park and Portage Park communities.


Metropolitan Family Services opens the new Children’s Center; sells Camp Algonquin to the McHenry County Conservation District to keep the pristine riverfront property available for public use.

Jan. 27, 2012

Jane Addams Hull House Association closes.


Metropolitan is awarded the contract for Head Start in DuPage County, acquires the Court Advocacy program, and is named United Way Agency Partner of the Year.


Metropolitan convenes Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), working with eight partner organizations to address violence issues in Chicago.