Ellen Gates Starr

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Ellen Gates Starr
Ellen Gates Starr.jpg
Starr in 1914
Born (1859-03-19)March 19, 1859
Died February 10, 1940(1940-02-10) (aged 80)
Suffern, New York
Education Rockford Female Seminary
Parent(s) Caleb A. Starr
Susan Gates Child

Ellen Gates Starr (March 19, 1859 – February 10, 1940) was an American social reformer and activist.[1]


She was born on March 19, 1859 in Laona, Illinois to Caleb Allen Starr and Susan Gates Child.

She was a student at the Rockford Female Seminary (1877–78), where she met Jane Addams; their friendship lasted many years, although it has been speculated that Starr was a lesbian who had a particularly close relationship with Addams.[2] Starr taught for ten years in Chicago before joining Addams in 1888 for a tour of Europe. While in London, they were inspired by the success of the English Settlement movement and became determined to establish a similar social settlement in Chicago.

They returned to Chicago and co-founded Hull House as a kindergarten and then a day nursery, an infancy care centre, and a center for continuing education for adults. Starr was also active in the campaign to reform child labor laws and industrial working conditions in Chicago. She was a member of the Women's Trade Union League and helped organize striking garment workers in 1896, 1910, and 1915. However, by belief she was firmly anti-industrialisation, idealizing the guild system of the Middle Ages and later the Arts and Crafts Movement.[3] She taught such writers as Dante and Robert Browning in the slums of Chicago to children who could not afford school education. She practiced her preachings about community labour to the extent of traveling to Britain to learn bookbinding. She was arrested at a restaurant strike.

Although Starr possessed an interest in Roman Catholicism for many years, it was only when she believed the Church was seriously teaching social justice that she converted in 1920. Even after that, her work in campaigns against child labour met with much opposition from inside the Church.[3] In 1931, seriously ill, Ellen Gates Starr retired to a Roman Catholic convent where she was cared for by the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, but she was not a member of their religious community, or any other.[4]

She died at the convent on February 10, 1940 in Suffern, New York.[1]

Selected works[edit]

  • (1896) Settlements and the church's duty
  • (n.d.) Reflections on the breviary


  1. ^ a b "Ellen Starr Dies. Hull House Aide. Co-Founder With Jane Addams of the Chicago Settlement Succumbs in Convent at 81". New York Times. February 11, 1940. Retrieved 2015-01-09. Miss Ellen Gates Starr, co-founder in 1889 with the late Jane Addams of Hull House in Chicago and associated with the institution for more than forty years, died here today in the Convent of the Holy Child, where she had been an invalid for eight years. She would have been 81 years old March 19. 
  2. ^ Brown, Victoria Bissell (2007), The Education of Jane Addams, University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 361, ISBN 0-8122-3747-1 
  3. ^ a b Allitt, Patrick; Catholic Converts: British and American Intellectuals Turn to Rome; p. 149. ISBN 0-8014-2996-X
  4. ^ Hoy, Suellen; "Ellen Gates Starr: Her Later Years"; p. 55-80. ISBN 978-0-913820-31-5