Jane Addams was a pioneer settlement worker, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in woman suffrage and world peace. Beside presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, she was the most prominent reformer of the Progressive Era and helped turn the nation to issues of concern to mothers, such as the needs of children, public health, and world peace. In 1931 she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
While on a trip to East London in 1883, Jane Addams witnessed a distressing scene late one night: masses of poor people were bidding on rotten vegetables that were unsalable anywhere else. This scene haunted Addams for the next two years as she traveled through Europe, and she hoped to find a way to ease such suffering. Five years later, she visited Toynbee Hall, a London settlement house, and resolved to replicate the experiment in the U.S.