Essay Questions About The Progressive Era

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In the 1890 s, American women emerged as a major force for social reform. Millions joined civic organizations and extended their roles from domestic duties to concerns about their communities and environments. In the years between 1890 and 1920, a time of social changes, that became known as the Progressive Era. In this time era, millions of Americans organized associations to come up with solutions to the many problems that almost everyone was facing, and many of these problems were staring American women right in the face.

Once where women were to be seen and not heard soon became a thing of the past. Women began to speak out against the laws that were deliberately set against them. Throughout this time period, all women were denied the right to vote in all federal and most state held elections. Women struggled to achieve equality; equality as citizens, equality in the work place, and equality at home.

During this time, Americans worked to fight corruption in government, reduce the power of big business, and improve society as a whole. For instance, just as the Irish wanted good work and the farmers wanted a good banking system, women wanted equality. During the late 1800 s and early 1900 s, women and women's organizations worked for various rights for different groups of people. They not only worked to gain the right to vote, they also worked for political equality and for social reforms. But how did this all start to happen? It didnt happen overnight, and it wasnt a one-person battle.

Women wanted the same rights as men already had. But they didnt just stop there, women played a major role in the rise of the child labor laws, stood up for minorities, and they wanted prostitution to end. Most people who opposed woman suffrage believed that women were less intelligent and less able to make political decisions than men were. Opponents argued that men could represent their wives better than the wives could represent themselves. Also, it was thought by some that if women had the right to a vote, they might use it to gain other rights that could ultimately lead to the end of family life that most were comfortably accustomed to. Progressivism was not just a single movement, rather it was several different organizations of people trying to accomplish their own goals.

Keep in mind, this era was a few decades long, so many things were accomplished over a long period of time. Women exercised what they saw as their rights as citizens to shape public policy and create institutions. Progressivism generally took two forms: Political and Social reform. What most social reformers found was that they could not rely on people doing the right and moral thing all the time. If law is going to be used for social reform, who is going to make the law? Politicians.

However, politics and politicians were seen as a big part of the problem, not the solution, therefore, Progressives seen that the future for a new America ultimately depended on changing the government and politics. Women acted through several various organizations during the Progressive Era, such as the Young Womens Christian Association (YWCA), the National Consumers League (NCL), Womens Trade Union League (WTUL), and other various trade unions. Female reformers also lead the movement against child labor and the womens suffrage campaign. They won minimum wage and maximum hours for women workers through Muller V.

Oregon, public health programs for pregnant women and babies, and improved educational opportunities for both children and adults all in a mater of a few decades. But thats not the end of the array of accomplishments, they even succeeded in creating the Childrens Bureau (1912) and the Womens Bureau (1920) in the federal Department of Labor. All in all, womens activism created a better relationship between citizens and their government, which was a primary focus of attention. But, who was responsible for all of this you might ask? Well, there were many leaders for many different organizations. Florence Kelley, Jane Addams, Ellen Swallow Richards, Susan B.

Anthony, just to mention a few, had an impeccable impact on the way everyone, not to mention women, live life today. Among the many famous and powerful women whose names are associated with the progressive era, arguably, one of the most remarkable was Florence Kelley. Kelley had many roles in many movements, including a role in the abolishment of child labor, the passage of protective legislation for working women, the establishment of minimum wage laws, and the development of maternal and child health services. However, she wasnt working entirely alone. As secretary-general of the NCL, Kelley helped establish sixty-four local consumers' leagues throughout the United States, traveling extensively among them each year to promote policies agreed upon by the national board. Perhaps she is best known for the successful defense of the ten-hour-working-day legislation for women in the 1908 U.

S. Supreme Court decision Muller v. Oregon that she and the Oregon League put together. In this case, Kelley's friend / attorney , Louis Brandeis, made legal history in this case with the first time use of scientific and social data to argue their case before the Court. For many weeks before the hearing, Kelley and her assistants worked long hours to present to the Court a wide range of evidence regarding the harmful effects of long working days (then, 12 to 14 hours) on womens health. Kelley wasnt alone when it came to her battles in the progressive era.

She shared similar qualities with many others, male and female alike, they were known as progressives. They tended to be old-stock, upper and upper-middle class Americans. They wanted to preserve traditional American values against what they believed to be a threat against their way of life. They were strongest in the cities mainly due to its close location to where conflict took place.

During the progressive era, American had a immigrant problem. For the most part, it was handles by some of the progressives. Many of these female reformers were educated in colleges (womens colleges appeared in late nineteenth century). Even though they possessed a college education, they were still banned from most professional careers.

Just as a way to keep busy and active in the community, the women associated themselves with the WTUL, WCTU, the NCL, and a system of centers that were known as settlement houses. These organizations were meant to purify the public men of corruption. For example, the WTUL and the NCL went after male-owned garment factories in which female workers were harshly treated. The Temperance Union sought to eliminate the dominantly male img...

Free research essays on topics related to: social reform, minimum wage, child labor, progressive era, american women

Research essay sample on Women In The Progressive Era

Essay on Progressivism

Thesis statement: it is hypothesized that Progressivism was a wide and varied movement that changed American values and lifestyles having everlasting impact on American history.


Progressivism, ranging from 1880 to 1920, was a well-planned and well-organized movement in the United States having wide as well as diversified goals. Leaders of progressivism movement focused on humanity element and tried to make advancements by promoting liberation to stimulate human force along with exploiting human potential to remove restraints imposed by contemporary liberalization. The paper will present an overview of Progressivism as a wide and varied movement. It will also discuss the goals of movement and mention some of the prominent people who took part in it. At the end, the significance of Progressivism to America will also be highlighted.

Progressivism - A Wide and Varied Movement

Progressivism expanded in American cities and confronted political mechanism full of monopolies and corrupt leaders. For the resolution of diversified problems existing at the local and state levels, progressivism focused on promoting idea of public ownership of government run by professional city bosses. Leaders of the movement strived to resolve the issues created by the wave of industrialization. At the time of movement the main problems confronted by the American society was the gigantic growth of cities and industries. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans started migrating to the northern cities. This huge wave of migration being main cause of growth coupled with disastrous working conditions presented a worse scenario.

The new comers strived to adapt to entirely new conditions at one hand while trying hard to maintain their distinctive culture and language system on the other creating a complex situation. Wealth concentrated in few hands and a large segment of people were caught in the vicious circle of poverty. Low wage-rates, dangerous working conditions, and long working hours were among several grave problems faced by most of the Americans. Swift technological advancements and rapid speed of industrialization altered the life styles of Americans.

In this context, progressive leaders advocated and strived to introduce reforms for solving the grave issues. Progressivism movement was wide in nature with varying goals. It introduced urban reforms and had offensive attitude towards dishonest leaders and corrupt political system. Leaders of progressive movement favored taking ownership of public utilities by government supporting different social welfare programs to resolve mainly the problems of immigrants, working class, and poor. At the state level, Progressive movement introduced specific democratic reforms. The purpose of democratic reforms was to allow American citizens to select leaders as per their choice, independently and freely.

Basically, the roots of Progressivism had been in the transitional era of United States from a nation comprising farmers to a nation of consumers and employees manipulated by large firms, exploiting and misusing resources, supported by the corrupt government. Progressive movement started with the intentions to rectify these problems. Moreover, it focused on providing solutions to the issues raised by urbanization and industrialization, as discussed above.

Progressive leaders felt that their democratic reforms were threatened by the corrupt governmental policies and dishonest leaders. Progressivism confronted ending corporate power and to abolish monopolies. Democracy, they believed, was the solution of problems faced by most of the Americans, especially lower class. They tried to protect working people and aimed to break the vicious circle of poverty by eliminating the gap between different social classes.

It is pertinent to mention that Progressive movement was wide in a sense that it included both Democrats and Republicans. The movement heavily impacted the political structure at local, state, and national levels. It had significant influence on cultural and social life of America. It was, in fact, a dynamic movement introducing reforms at varied platforms including democratic, social, and political fronts. The agenda also had variety and diversification. It comprises social as well as political agenda. However, the main aims were elimination of corruption, protecting common people especially lower- class, elimination the continuous gap between different social classes, and promoting scientific as well as technological developments ensuring welfare of people.

With varying nature and wider in scope, Progressivism concentrated on providing effective tools to build trust of people in government and business organizations. However, a small group in the Progressive movement also supported ownership of production by government. Amendments to the Constitution showed their priorities at the political front as they provided new ways for electing senators and tried to eliminate monopolies. The wide spectrum of Progressivism can be viewed from the fact that not only it focused on fighting at the political platform, the movement tried to address the problem of urbanization. It is also pertinent to highlight the shortcomings of Progressive movement as their failure in the areas of limiting child labor and not addressing racial problems of blacks especially African Americans who had migrated from South. At the end of first phase of Progressive movement ranging from 1880 to 1920, the election of 1912 was fought by contenders with Progressive approach having varied goals from different labor issues to problems at political as well as social level. More power was given to Congress in this era. Election of Senators was to be made by the public and women gained voting powers in this particular era.

Goals of Progressivism and People who Took Part in It

Progressivism was a movement starting at the end of nineteenth century (1880) and ended in the second decade of twentieth century (1920). In this era tremendous changes at the economic, social, and political level were made. People taking part in the movement had diversified backgrounds, different political views, and varied social interests. It included political leaders from both Democrats and Republicans. The movement was led by people of different groups comprising teachers, political leaders, labor leaders, religious leaders, journalists, from both genders. It included famous people like; Theodore Roosevelt- President of the United States; Woodrow Wilson- President of the United States; Robert M. La Follette, former governor of Wisconsin.

Muckrakers, a group of journalists such as Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell, exposed corruption practices in government and highlighted business scandals. They portrayed the miserable working conditions of poor and exploitations of large industries along with issues of concentration of wealth. Henry Ford introduced a lucrative pay scale for his workers during Progressive era. Among prominent ladies were Lucy Burns- an advocate of women's rights, and Jane Adams- a social worker and first women winner of the Noble Peace Prize. As regards goals of Progressivism, one of them was 'social welfare' aiming to provide social justice to everyone irrespective of social class. It strived to eliminate differences in social classes and supported attaining social justice by promoting the idea of charity and welfare by large organizations. For this purpose a large force comprising social workers was prepared and trained to perform their task effectively. Second goal of Progressivism was 'promotion of moral improvement', for example women's Suffrage by providing women the right to vote. Certain prohibition laws were introduced, for example Progressive leaders were of the view that usage of alcohol limited thinking and working of a person. Third goal was to provide 'economic reforms' by regulating especially large corporations to ensure independence and remove restrictions imposed by capitalism. The fourth main goal of Progressivism was 'efficiency'. Among other ideas, it included creating professional city manager to run affairs at local, state, and national level more effectively. Moreover, leaders of Progressivism reduced powers given to local wards through effective organization of city governments.

Lasting Significance of Progressivism to American History

The Progressive period is known for its tremendous successful efforts having everlasting impact on American economy and society by making remarkable changes at the social, economical, and political levels. Although, reformers of this movement belonged to a diversified group from labor and religious leaders, journalists, politicians, and teachers- both men and women- one thing common among them was to protect people, especially working class, solve problems of urbanization and industrialization, and concentrate on social welfare of American people. At the end of the movement by 1920, newly formed laws at state, local, and national level changed the entire scenario of America in all three major areas; economic, social, and political, having everlasting impact on the country.


Efforts have been made in the paper to present everlasting impact of Progressivism - a wide and varied movement from 1880 to 1920- that brought tremendous changes at the economic, social, and political levels of America. Goals of the movement and people who took part in it have also been highlighted. On the basis of arguments presented in paper it is concluded that Progressivism movement had an everlasting impact on America changing American values and lifestyles.


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