Addams was born the eighth of nine children of a local politician, a friend of Abraham Lincoln. She started her medical studies, but due to poor health and problems with her spine she was frequently treated in hospital. While she was on a journey to Europe at age 27, she came up with the idea to open a settlement house for the disadvantaged in a poor part of Chicago. Along with a friend of hers she rented a large house in Chicago where both women moved in and tried to help and improve the quality of life in the industrial area of the city. Addams and her friend delivered speeches about the needs of the local community, raised money, convinced women from wealthy homes to provide support, and looked after children and ill people. In the second year of its existence, Hull House was visited by about two thousand people each week. In the mornings the house operated a kindergarten, and in the afternoons a day care room for older children. In the evenings, courses and meetings for adults were organised in the House. The house was soon extended to include a second public kitchen, a swimming pool, a day care room for girls and a book-binding workshop. Additionally, drama classes and a library were launched.
In 1905 Addams became a member of the city’s board of education and in 1909 she became the first president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections. She worked to create a system of juvenile courts and demanded that an 8-hour-long workday for women be introduced. In 1910 she received the first honorary degree ever awarded to a woman by Yale University.
Addams was an ardent feminist. She was deeply convinced that women deserved the right to vote and believed that they needed to have bigger aspirations and opportunities to accomplish them. The other idea she believed in was a world free from wars. She publicly opposed America’s entry into the war. She found an outlet for her humanitarian impulses as an assistant to Herbert Hoover in providing relief supplies of food for women and children of the enemy nations.
Butler was an advisor to seven presidents and was awarded by 15 governments. 37 universities gave him honorary degrees and he was a member of over 50 academic associations. He was a leader of the Republican Party, a proponent of peace and the concept of “the international mind” which he often referred to. Butler was also Theodore Roosevelt’s friend.
In 1885 Butler began to work for Columbia College in New York, which became Columbia University in 1896. In 1901 he took the position of the University’s head of administration. From 1902 to 1945 he was Columbia University’s president. During his presidency the University’s grew tremendously, with the number of students increasing from 4,000 to 34,000.
He sought to unite the world of education and that of politics in an attempt to achieve world peace through international cooperation. He chaired conferences on arbitration (1907-1912) and became president of the American branch of the International Conciliation, an organisation established by Paul Henri d’Estournelles de Constant. He also was the head of section on education and communication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an organisation established by one of the world’s wealthiest men at the time. Butler later was appointed the Endowment’s president and held the post in the years 1925-1945. He also established a branch of the Endowment in Paris.