The Devil Baby: A Story of Immigration and America

Primary sources can reveal much about the life, times, and values of the culture that they were produced in. A rumor about a “devil baby” at Jane Addams’ Hull House sparks an investigation not only into the veracity of the story, but more significantly into the lives of immigrants to whom this folk story means so much. This lesson plan will allow your students to explore the broader themes of immigration, culture, and society in the Progressive Era through the mystery of the Devil Baby of Hull House. Your students will solve the mystery and work together in groups to create a larger picture of life in America at the turn of the century. 

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author...
Evaluate the topic or subject in multiple diverse formats and media.
Analyze what a text says explicitly and draw inferences; support an interpretation of a text by citing and synthesizing relevant textual evidence from...
Write informative/explanatory texts to analyze, synthesize, and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the...
Describe the difference between "old" and "new" immigrants and analyze the assimilation process and consequences for the "new" immigrants and their impact on American...
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 
  • The student will identify Jane Addams, Hull
  • House, and Addams’ impact on social reform.
  • The student will analyze the story of the Devil Baby through primary source texts and images to discover the living conditions of immigrants in America in the Progressive Era.
  • The student will document other social issues in America during the Progressive Era. 
Essential and guiding questions: 

How can we use the story of the Devil Baby to analyze the conditions of immigrants and social issues in America during the Progressive Era?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

There are several options that you can use for extension projects:

  • Students can read the full article (PowerPoint slide 28) from The Atlantic in which Jane Addams wrote about how the Devil Baby story was embraced by the older women of the immigrant communities and what it meant to them as immigrants in the New World.
  • Have your students create a guidebook for immigrants in the late 19th/early 20th century using what they learned in this lesson plan. Be sure to include what the cities were like, what kind of jobs they could get, what forms of recreation were available to them, etc.
  • Have your students write a report on social reformer Jacob Riis. The Library of Congress has an excellent exhibit on Jacob Riis. 

Helpful Hints


  • Devil Baby PowerPoint
  • Devil Baby Worksheet
  • H.I.P.P.O. Worksheet