Jane Addams was born Laura Jane Addams in Cedarville, Illinois, on September 6, 1860. She graduated from Rockford Female Seminary with the hope of attending medical school. Her father opposed her unconventional ambition and, in an attempt to redirect it, sent her to Europe. In London, Addams was moved by the work done at Toynbee Hall, a settlement house. Upon her return to the United States, she began her lifelong fight for the underprivileged, women, children laborers, and social reform. In the space of four years she received Yale University's first honorary doctorate awarded to a woman, published her first book, was the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, and was elected vice president of the National American Women Suffrage Association. In 1915 she became the first president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. With Ellen G. Starr, Addams founded Hull House in Chicago, a renowned settlement house dedicated to serving the disadvantaged and the poor. Addams went on to author twelve books, including Twenty Years in Hull House, Newer Ideals of Peace, and Peace and Bread in Time of War. The latter title was written to protest the U.S.'s involvement in World War I and was based on Addams's experience assisting Herbert Hoover in sending relief supplies to women and children in enemy nations. Hospitalized following a heart attack in 1926, Addams could not accept in person the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1931. She was the first American woman to receive the honor. Addams died in 1935.
Henry Steele Commager was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1902. He was educated at the University of Chicago. He taught history at New York University, Columbia University, and Amherst College. In addition to lecturing at many universities throughout the world, he was Harmsworth Professor at Oxford University and Pitt Professor at Cambridge University, where he was also an honorary fellow at Peterhouse College. His writings range widely over such topics as education, the Civil War, civil liberties, the Enlightenment, and immigration. Many of his books reflect his keen interest in constitutional history and civil liberties. He was also a documentarian, who has said to consider Documents of American History (1934), the 1988 edition of which he coedited with Milton Cantor, to be his most significant contribution. He died on March 2, 1998.