Today is the birthday of a great American, Jane Addams.

Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac” offers this tribute.

It’s the birthday of the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize: public health worker, community organizer, and social activist Jane Addams (books by this author), born to a wealthy Quaker family in Cedarville, Illinois in 1860.

She suffered from depression and went to Europe, thinking it would help. She visited a settlement house in London, a place that offered social services to the poor. She was deeply impressed by it, and after founding an experimental house like this in England, she returned to the states to establish one on the South Side of Chicago in the 19th Ward, a neighborhood full of poor immigrants from Russia, Greece, Italy, and Germany. It was in an abandoned mansion formerly owned by Charles Hull, and so she called it Hull House. It had a communal kitchen, a day care, a library, and a little bookbinding business.

Women boarded at Hull House, and it was also a neighborhood center, a performing arts center, and a space where book club meetings and classes were held. Two thousand people showed up each week from the area, and Hull House grew to add a dozen more buildings. Addams wrote about it in some of her books, including Twenty Years at Hull House (1910).

Addams was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, fought for immigrants’ rights, and lobbied for labor reform. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

She’s the author of several books, including The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (1909) and Peace and Bread in Time of War (1922).

There is one important fact about Addams that is not included: she was a pacifist and she opposed America’s entry into the Great War. Immensely popular, she risked her reputation by speaking out against the war.

She is a secular American Saint because of her courage, her compassion and her activism.