Jane Addams’ “Helping Hands”

Chicago, Il. is home to “Helping Hands,” the city’s first monument devoted to Jane Addams and those whom she helped. Addams fought for equality and is best known as the founder of Hull-House and the mother of the social work movement. She was also a passionate advocate for the rights of immigrants, the poor, and women, and a founder of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. It’s safe to say that Jane Addams deserves recognition for her humanitarian and legendary work.  

Artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) created a tribute to Addams by creating granite sculptures of hands, some holding other hands and others resting alone. For Bourgeois, the hands symbolized Addams’ generosity and compassion to those who reached out for her help. Finished in 1996, the “Helping Hands” memorial was initially installed at the Jane Addams Memorial Park at Navy Pier. After the sculpture was vandalized in 2006, she re-carved it and it was moved to the Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens in 2011.

The plaque at the site is called “Jane Addams Sculpture Garden- visionary” and includes a summary of Addams’ life and legacy, as follows:  

SOCIAL PHILOSOPHER – Jane Addams envisioned a peaceful world community based on cooperation, mutual understanding, and acceptance of differences.
PRAGMATIST – She advocated the participation of all citizens in the creation of a just and democratic social order.
WRITER – She authored eleven books and hundreds of articles.
LECTURER – A compelling public speaker, she drew upon her experiences at Hull-House as a touchstone for larger social concerns.
DEFENDER – Committed to civil liberty, she deplored violence, stressed compassion and multicultural understanding, and promoted a vision that valued life over death and liberty over coercion.
MEMORIAL – This first monument in Chicago to a woman is dedicated to Jane Addams and the many she served.
SYMBOLS – It depicts different ages of humankind – gentle baby, vulnerable child, able adult, aging parent.
HANDS– Comforting, helping, strong in solidarity, the hands recall Addams’s words: “Perhaps nothing is so fraught with significance as the human hand….”

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Ives, S. (2018). [Helping Hands]. Retrieved from http://www.sanantoniopeace.center/mondays-monument-helping-hands-jane-addams-memorial-chicago-illinois/ 

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