Progressive Era Sample Essay

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.

By the bend of the century. a reform motion had developed within an array of groups and persons with a common desire to better life in the industrial age. Their thoughts and work became known as Progressivism or the belief that changes in society were severely needed and that authorities was the proper bureau for rectifying societal and economic ailments. Get downing up about when Theodore Roosevelt became president and permanent though World War 1. America went through many alterations. New reform organisations. Torahs. and amendments continually shaped this epoch for better or for worse.

During the Progressive Era. many reformists were able to successfully make reform at a national degree ; nevertheless. the benefits of the federal government’s actions were more strongly felt economically and even politically instead than socially. Americans were get downing to believe it was their responsibility to get down action in order to see alteration. This frame of head had to make with the doctrine of pragmatism. John Dewey. one of the taking advocators. defined “truth” in a manner that Progressives found appealing: good and the true can non be known in the abstract and fixed ideals. people should take a practical attack to ethical motives and cognition.

Progressive minds adopted this doctrine because it enabled them to dispute fixed impressions that stood in the manner of reform. However to move. citizens first must be informed. Muckrakers. a term coined by Roosevelt. were journalists who wrote to the in-between category about corruptness. greed and strategies in political relations. Lloyd. a newsman. to the full exposed the corruptness of the monopoly. Standard Oil. With the public to the full informed about these ruling companies. Roosevelt took action on a ill written jurisprudence. the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. and began Trust-Busting.

Roosevelt decided which trusts were good and bad. and the 1s who caused injury to the populace and stifled competition were broken up. while the good trusts were regulated as seen in papers Angstrom. He severely wanted to break the Northern Securities Company and the Supreme Court upheld Roosevelt’s action in interrupting up the railway monopoly. Tonss of other big corporations were broken up for the benefit of the state. With more little concerns. there was more competition in the economic system. which is better for the in-between category or the reforms of the clip. Even though the older Sherman Antitrust Act was able to work for Roosevelt. it was a weak act in its diction and had its restrictions as trusts could still be formed.

The Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914. nevertheless. strengthened the Sherman Act. The Clayton Act now made it unacceptable and illegal for monopolies to organize ( doc Tocopherol ) . Price favoritism is improper under the Act and labour is non a trade good so antimonopoly Torahs do non use to labour organisations. This means labour organisations have gained influence and are now non prohibit to assist workers of the state Another reform brought to the federal government’s attending by the Muckrakers is about the conditions of nutrient. In a book written by Sinclair. called The Jungle. horrifying inside informations are recorded about the meat industry.

The public call for action was overbearing and Roosevelt himself was disgusted by the story’s facts. Other studies jumped onto the narrative. like The Neill-Reynolds Report. In papers B. it is evident that edifices were non adapted to suit the cleanliness of this industry. Congress acted with two Torahs and the Food and Drug Administration to clean up the nutrient concern. One jurisprudence was called The Pure Food and Drug Act. which forbid the sale of mislabeled nutrient and drugs. The 2nd had to make straight with The Jungle ; the Meat Inspection Act provided that federal inspectors visit the meat packing workss to guarantee a minimal criterion.

Not merely were the meat industrial conditions hapless but a visible radiation was shone on the conditions of all mills. The public wanted to repair the jobs and they were determined to make it with or without the government’s aid. Government voices can merely travel so far and Jane Addams realized this. Jane was a affluent educated adult female who couldn’t find a occupation so she started the Hull house in Chicago. Hull House was a colony house that aided hapless people. Many adult females stated them because they couldn’t find occupations in the male dominated economic system.

These adult females were progressive reformists who started organisations like the Women’s Trade Union League ( WTUL ) to buttonhole for legislative protection of female workers. They were a national organisation that had a profound impact on authorities action. They backed the Triangle Shirtwaist workers after the tragic fire and a garment work stoppage in Chicago. In document C. you besides learn that Jane is against child labour and against pedagogues allowing kids enter the work force alternatively of traveling to school.

The federal authorities doesn’t have much say on the issue of child labour because it was a province affair. President Wilson tried to go through the Keating-Owen Act to restrict child labour but it was struck down by the Supreme Court in the Hammer v. Dagenhart in 1918 ( doc G ) . The Supreme Court did non reflect the Progressive reform that many did and so federal kid labour Torahs were opposed and blocked by the coart. Child labour and instruction are two societal facets the authorities and reformists were non able to to the full assist work out.

Political reforms came approximately in the use of amendments. In 1913. Roosevelt realized the demand for political reform. He recognized and admitted in a address that the Electoral College was non sufficiently democratic and that the senators should be elected by direct ballot ( document D ) . This lead to the passing of the Seventeenth Amendment: the popular election of Senators. The vote reforms merely continued with increasing force per unit area from adult females. They still didn’t have right to vote and wanted it as seen in the exposure in papers H.

Progressive reforms had non covered adult females adequately. The twelvemonth is 1918. which is the same twelvemonth as WWI ended. Wilson is called a Kaiser because he sympathizes with Germans. who did non appreciate self-government. but non with American adult females. who can non vote. Again a societal reform is thrown under the coach as other precedences take over. In 1920. even one time the Nineteenth Amendment is passed for women’s right to vote. the figure of eligible electors decreased 13 % ( doc J ) .

Either the 19th Amendment was less important to the populace or even with adult females able to vote. people knew how to acquire what they wanted without holding their preferable election result. In fact. overall the engagement degree has gone down since the 1900’s. or Progressive epoch. Womans used to by and large stand for the societal facet of society and with the WTUL. and other organisations. they have been successful without the authorities so a lessening in electors does do sense.

Another group of citizens that felt the positive and negative effects of the epoch were African Americans. Groups like Industrial Workers of the World and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ( NAACP ) were founded to assist workers derive rights and regard from their foremans. W. E. B. Du Bois was an of import figure in the NAACP and helped make a magazine called The Crisis. Along with adult females rights being ignored. African Americans were besides being mistreated by reform authorities.

In a transition from the Crisis. Du Bois expresses his concern and confusion over African American rights. They are allowed to contend in the war to assist salvage democracy for “America and her highest ideals. ” They die in the name of their state yet if they come place they face a greater danger. They live in an America with an increasing lynching figure. in a land with ferociousness and a caste system intentionally forgotten ( doc I ) . Reform hit many countries but some were left short of alteration.

Even with progressive febrility distributing quickly non everyone was satisfied with reformers and desired more. Herbert Croly criticized Wilson in papers F. by connoting that Wilson’s New Freedom program wasn’t adequate to work out the “wrongs of modern society. ” The New freedom favored concern competition and little authorities. It wanted less federal control and more single energy to drive the market. This was a political and economic push instead than the more societal program of Roosevelt. His New National program was a more national attack ; he wanted a strong president that had efficiency in authorities and in society.

Roosevelt wanted kid. adult females. and labour Torahs with big concentrations of good capital and good trusts. Obviously. this would hold had more of a reform in the societal domain of life. Though Roosevelt did non acquire elected and was unable to advance his program. Wilson still implemented some societal reforms due to the force per unit area of the altering society and people like Croly. Throughout the Progressive epoch. reformers were trailing a dream of honing society. They went after instruction. working conditions and political facets. Some were more successful than others but still every action had an consequence.

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