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The Progressive Movement In America Essay

1040 words - 4 pages

Progressivism was the reform period in America during the 20th Century that changed the lives of everyone. Industrialization, urban growth, the rise of great corporations, and widening class divisions during the early 1900s affected all Americans. For all its benefits, industrialization led many factory workers and slumdwellers to endure a desperate cycle of poverty, exhausting labor, and even early death. Seeing these conditions, a new middle class of white-collar workers and urban professionals -- who had gained political influence -- middle class women -- who had joined clubs and reform organizations -- and the urban-immigrant political machines -- and workers themselves -- sought to focus the country’s attention on urgent social issues. These issues first were addressed by women-led organizations in the 1890s at the city and state levels. Thereafter, as journalists, novelists, religious leaders, and politicians joined in, these grass-roots efforts morphed into a national movement. This movement of reform was called the progressive movement.

The progressive movement included, among others, four areas of reform: social, economic, moral, and efficiency. In the area of social reform, the main problems that were put at task were poverty, education, living conditions and women’s rights. To help solve these problems, for example, settlement houses, created by people such as Jane Addams, provided social and educational opportunities for working class people--many of them recent immigrants--in the surrounding neighborhood. Others sought to improve living conditions by seeking legislation; in 1911, for example, the New York legislature imposed strict health and safety regulations on tenements, thus providing a model for other cities and states. Finally, although as late as 1910 women could only vote in four western states, women’s active role in progressive reform movements revitalized the suffrage cause.

Similarly, in the area of economic reform, the progressive movement sought to regulate corporations and labor laws. At the time, industries were corrupt and had no direct intervention by the government. The government then created the Federal Trade Commission which investigated violations of federal regulations. Many business were buying each other out and causing monopolies which in turn caused the government to pass the Clayton Anti-trust Act to help counteract any unfair business monopolies. The work force was another area that was in desperate need of reform. Many children at the time were forced into child labor to provide for their families and themselves. They worked long tedious hours in dangerous conditions. Advocates like Florence Kelly spoke out about the working conditions and the public began to pay attention. The government then passed child labor laws to prevent the overworking of children which in turned allowed them to receive an education. After child labor laws were recognized, legislatures sought to regulate...

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