The progressive movement emerged from the year 1900 to the 1920s. Many Americans believed that a very big change needed to happen in society to help protect people. Eventually, this happened. People who held the power were people such as journalists, social workers, politicians, people in the media and teachers/educators. Altogether this was known and the Progressive reform. Progressivism didn’t develop into a political movement straight away. Because it wasn’t recognised or taken seriously by the government, it was only seen as a social movement. This meant that it was identified and backed by the government. At the beginning, Social Darwinism was ignored by progressives. Social Darwinism is a term which means that people should work and fight for where they want to be in life. They shouldn’t be forced and reach their goals (do it yourself). A french term which illustrates this is laissez-faire. This group of people believed that societies problems could be solved by ensuring that everyone received education, treated fairly, a safe place to live and grow up. Progressives had good education and were very aware of the wrong doings that were happening in society. They believed that the government were a very strong factor for reform. Jacob Riis and Jane Addams are two people who had great influence and stood up for Progressivisms. They were social reformers as well as journalists. Areas that progressives considered were scientific progress and professional expertise, business regulations, democracy, prohibition and conservation. I will be looking into detail on how these factors are linked and affected women, immigrants, the poor and African Americans.
During the beginning of the twentieth century, people living in this day and age were going through a lot of confusion. This was because a lot of changes were happening that they weren’t used to. People grew up in farms and were shocked to see the workforce changing because of new immigrants and also the growth of the cities. Some social movements attempted to make changes by bringing to light some of these changes but barely anything was done until they gained more power which was post 1900. Lincoln and the Union Army were the Republicans. Their aim was to impress and serve Civil War veterans. This was a disadvantage in some cases because business and government were getting mixed up. Robert M La Follette was an American Republican and Progressive politician. He became a memorable leader because of the skills and ideas he came up with to represent progressivism. The Wisconsin system looked at the reform of government and looked at reducing corruption. This was done by the control of the people/voter rather than officials and people higher up the hierarchy who had more power. The university of Wisconsin was a huge factor when it came to reform because they helped legislators make laws.
Progressivism main focuses were corruption and inequality. There were many social justices that were tackled in order to improve society. The labor legislation was put into place to stop young children being exploited. In 1809 more than one million children aged 10-15 worked in America. By 1910 it doubled, with two million children as young as 5 working nearly 20 hours a day. Employers liked to hire children to work. This was because they believed that children were less likely to strike, and they could get away with paying them ridiculously low wages. The hours that children worked didn’t correlate to how much they were earning. Conditions of the work place were very poor, dirty and dangerous and wasn’t a safe environment for a child to be around. The death toll was also high because they also worked in coal mines. Injuries were common as well. They had to use dangerous objects and tools to carry out the work they had to do. The results of child labour were that children lacked education. They couldn’t attempt school because of the amount of hours that they had to work. Children would develop diseases and illnesses due to the work enivronement being so damp and cold. Progressives indentified that this was no place for a child to be. Efforts were then made to make a change. They believed that children should be protected from this. Some of the goals included that there should programmes which are implemented to lessen child labour and get children more involved in education. The national child labour committee was founded in 1904. Their aim was too completely end child labour and get all children into free education. Some examples of child labor laws that were put in place were 1916-”Tax on Employment of Child Labor”- placed a 10% tax on all businesses that employed children under the age of 14. This meant that businesses would want to save money they’d have to look at employing older people who are less efficient in their eyes compared to a child. Another law was 1917- Smith- Hughes Act- gave $1 million to states that provided vocational education programs in their public schools. Vocational education programs were courses that enabled for students who weren’t as academic and able to take a different route that was better suited to them. Vocational courses are narrow in terms of careers and future however, this an option instead. By 1929 every state banned children under 14 from being employed. This was a major achievement for the progressivists. Although the law started with only helping or benefiting them eventually, throughout years of hard work they were able to banish it.
The civil rights achievement of the 20th century stemmed from progressivism. As well as affecting child labour, progressivists had an aim to help more members of society. A group called the NAACP was formed which eventually got rid of women’s suffrage. The lead up to civil rights were because of the inequality of women. This was because women didn’t have the right to vote. Alice Paul was a suffragette whose mission was to get women’s their fully rights. She had gone into prison due to her hard work and attempts to stand up for women. Eventually she came out. When she came out she introduced the civil rights amendments in congress. She eventually led women to victory because by 1920, women had the equality of getting the vote like men. It wasn’t just women who were oppressed in society during this period, African Americans, immigrants and gays and lesbians were also affected.
Racism was still apparent. People were being discriminated, bullied and attack due to the colour of their skin. African-Americans faced public segregation. For example, not being able to sit in certain seats on the bus. Instead they had allocated seats which was labelled for them. Also had to drink out of certain fountains and not mix with the whites. They also had limited healthcare and education. Leaders for the African- Americans were W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida Wells-Barnett. William Monroe Trotter and Oswald Garrison Villard. Ida Wells-Barnett was an African American journalist. She brought to light the common issues that were happening in society. She spoke on racial inequality, especially the practice of lynching. Lynching is when a lot of people come together and decide to take the law in to their own hands by intentionally hurting or killing someone. The NAACP also known as the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People were a group who formed to abolish the raced-based discrimination. They were inspired by the niagra movement. Also, ethnic groups were limited from certain houses to live in.
Amongst the first few people that founded the reform were a group of journalists that decided to bring to light social, economic, and political injustices. This group became known as the ”muckrakers”. They were given this name by Theodore Roosevelt as they dug up dirt and secrets, from his writings which he wasn’t happy about. At first their attention wasn’t on government. After a while, they diverted their attention on exposing corruptions and scnadals. Lincoln Steffens was one of the most influential ”muckraker” who was a reported for the Mclure’s magazine. His portraits of “machine government” “boss rule”; his exposures of “boodlers” in cities as diverse as St. Louis, llllDeapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York; tone of studied moral outrage (as reflected in the title of his series and the book that emerged from it, The Shame ofthe Cities)-all helped arouse ;entiment for urban political reform. (Unfinished nation: a concise history of the American people, A Brinkley p557). By the early twentieth century, another group was formed called the ‘Social Gospel’. They developed because there was a sence of anger and outrage at social and economic injustice. This led to then linking this with social responsibility.
Democracy played a big part in the progressivism era. Through a lot of hardship and fight, great success and equality was found. Party primary was introduced which meant that this was a system where candidates were selected for office which was a democratic way of electing. Another development was public participation. This meant that if anyone spotted any sort of public corruption, they had the power and opportunity to vote against that person from office. This was a very democratic approach. Giving the public a fair chance for the government they would live under meant that there was less fear of the government and more equality was being praised as women and non-white people were also allowed to take part. America was starting set an example for reform and was considering the future. Acceptance of change was something that many parts of the wold was struggling with which is understandable to me. This is because if you’re so used to certain moral and values and have been brought by them, and this more and values have been implemented for many years, of course people are going to struggle to adjust to them. For example, seeing none white people living your country when all you’ve seen your entire life and the past generations have also only been used white people and now African Americans and immigrants want to settle in your country, it’s a very big change. Considering the morals and values I mentioned, this was aimed at the women’s right to vote. Men and women have had set roles in society. For hundreds of years women haven’t had the right to vote and society had become used to that idea. However, this doesn’t mean that because society has accepted ignorant views towards different groups of society that they should be neglected for ever.
A Brinkley, (1993) Unfinished nation: a history of the American People, New York: McGraw-Hill, pp.557-581File
H Brogan, (2001) The Penguin History of the US, (second edn), London: Penguin, pp.407-434File