Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

The Progressive Era

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
The Progressive Era

As the United States entered the twentieth century, the nation found itself in strife with domestic issues, the cause of which were planted decades before. For decades Americans had been focused on building an industrial economy. As an economic recession and workplace issues boiled into strikes, Americans began to add up the costs: a frightening concentration of corporate power, a rebellious working-class, growing misery in cities, and the corruption of the process of politics. Reform became the new American focus around 1900 and set reform activity going as a significant, self-supporting phenomenon. From 1900 to World War I, this period is known as the Progressive Era. Keep on reading to learn more about the characteristics, women, and more.

Origins of Progressivism

Progressivism is often described as a movement, but there was no agreed-upon agenda and no central unifying organization. Both the Republicans and Democratic parties had progressive wings. And different social groups became active at different times and places. The term “progressivism” describes a widespread, many-sided effort to build a better society. However, many interconnected movements have one thing in common: the growing urban middle class.

Progressivism is born from the realization that the industrial economy of the United States had no substantial socioeconomic middle class. Urbanization and industrialization created a wealthy elite, poorly skilled workers, and very few. This generational crisis gave credence to the progressive reform. Change the social, political, and economic systems to support and grow an urban middle class.

Progressivism: A social and political movement of the early 1900s significantly changed American society and government. The main focus of progressives was the concentration of wealth, and the need for reform focused on women's rights, workers' rights, urban reform, and political reform.

Social Gospel Movement

The generational crisis was also a crisis of faith. Progressives characteristically grew up in homes embroiled in Christian ideals but found themselves falling away from the faith of their parents. Protestant clergy adapted to this crisis in faith, translating a long-felt concern for the poor into a theological doctrine: The Social Gospel Movement. In churches around the country and most major cities, preachers stated that their congregations should embrace the social aims of Jesus, meaning that to get to heaven, you should not focus on your salvation but work for the cause of humanity and social justice.

The Social Gospel Movement: A religious and social movement within progressivism, promoted by Protestant clergy that tied social and good works to one’s salvation.

Muckrakers

The feeling of needed reform is one thing; knowing what to target with these newfound sentiments is another. As progressivism took root, a wave of investigative journalism began to expose the misery of the working class, the corruption of big business, and the machine of politics. Several prominent journalists exposed significant issues in the early 1900s:

  • Lincoln Steffen exposed the corrupt connections between business and political parties.

  • Ida M. Tarbell exposed corruption and moral issues with Standard Oil's monopoly.

  • David G. Phillips exposed the power of lobbyists in the Senate.

  • William Hard exposed industrial accidents and the horrors of child labor.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt compared these journalists to the man with a muckrake in “Pilgrim’s Progress” (a work by a priest in the 1600s) who was absorbed with raking the filth from the floor as a means of bettering himself. Thus, the term muckraker became attached to journalists who exposed the underside of American society. Their significance: calling people to arms over needed reforms

Characteristics of the Progressive Era

Finding solutions to the issues brought to light by muckrakers was easier said than done. Finding answers depended first on the emergence of an intellectual style that would characterize ‘progressives”: scientific investigation and pragmatism.

If the facts were known, then tangible change was possible. That was the starting point for progressive thinking. Progressivism saw a burst of enthusiasm for scientific investigation: statistical studies, foundations for privately funded research, municipal commissions looking into prostitution, gambling, and other moral issues of urban society. In addition, progressives relied heavily on the expertise of academics who were experts in their focused areas of reform, and the many regions of reform inspired progressive movements.

Urban Reforms

Progressive reformers targeted the plight of the poor urban working class. Progressive movements in the early 1900s focused on:

  • Equitable taxation policies focused on big business, corporate property, and the railroads.

  • Reform of tenement housing practices

  • Better schools and systems of education

  • Expanding social services in cities for the poor.

Progressives also moved to change the workplace environment for poor urban workers. With targeted movements to address:

  • Workplace efficiency

  • Workplace Safety

  • Curtailing child labor

  • Improving Union efficiency and effectiveness

  • Better workman’s compensation and establishing minimum wages.

  • Improving working hours for women in the workforce.

Muller v Oregon 1908

Josephine S. Lowell founded the Consumer’s League in 1890, intending to improve wages and working conditions. Soon the organization grew in number and influence, with prominent leaders in major cities such as Florence Kelly in Chicago. Under Kelly’s leadership, the Consumer’s League pushed for protective policies for women and children.

Among the Consumer’s League’s achievements is the Supreme Court case Muller v. Oregon, which upheld an Oregon law limiting the workday for women to ten hours. This decision had far-reaching implications; it approved an expanded welfare role of the states and cleared the way for an extensive lobbying campaign by women organizations who would see court victories over policies such as:

  • Laws assisting mothers with dependent children.

  • The first minimum wage law for women.

  • More effective child labor laws.

The Children’s and Women's Bureaus were established in the U.S. Labor Department.

American Suffrage Movement

Women reformers like Florence Kelly breathed new life into the women's suffrage movement. By 1910, suffrage activity began to quicken. In Britain, suffragists began to protest parliament. Inspired by their example, women's organizations brought similar tactics of demonstrations and hunger strikes to the U.S. One of the women leaders inspired to action was Alice Paul. In 1916 she organized the National Woman’s Party that advocated for an amendment to expand suffrage to women. By 1919, the 19th Amendment granting women's suffrage is ratified.

The Progressive Era, Woman Suffrage Headquarters of Ohio, StudySmarterA picture from 1912 showing the Woman Suffrage Headquarters of Ohio.

Progressivism in Politics

Progressivism began at the state and local levels, where problems were immediate and easily seen. But reformers soon realized that many social issues, such as child labor and industrial safety, were best handled by the federal government. Because these issues were usually the concern of big business, there was no place else to turn. Seasoned reformers turned their attention to Washington and lobbied for a progressive bloc of legislators in Congress.

Progressivism burst onto the stage not through Congress, however, but by way of the presidency. This was partly because the president could become an influential spokesperson for progressive policies. The early twentieth century saw several presidential administrations from the Republican and Democratic parties have progressive tenancies, such as Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson.

The Early Progressive Presidents

The Progressive Era, President Theodore Roosevelt, StudySmarterPresident Theodore Roosevelt.

The Progressive Era, President William Taft, StudySmarterPresident William Taft.

The Progressive Era, President Woodrow Wilson, StudySmarterPresident Woodrow Wilson

Progressive era politics saw policy changes and constitutional changes:

  • The creation of direct primaries allows all voters to voice their opinion on their party's nominations.

  • The process of creating initiatives for a public-backed proposition or law to be voted on.

  • The referendum process allows voters to enact policy.

  • The ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913: established the direct election of senators.

  • The 18th Amendment in 1917 prohibited the manufacture or sale of alcohol.

  • The 19th Amendment in 1919 granted women suffrage.

Failures of the Progressive Era

Even with all the political and social successes of the progressive era, there is one area of society in which the progressive movement failed: race relations and racial reform.

The Progressive Era, W.E.B. Du Bois, StudySmarterW.E.B. Du Bois, an African American progressive who was one of the founding members of the NAACP

Several African American social and political groups adopted the characteristics of the progressive movement, looking to enact similar change for African Americans oppressed by Jim Crow laws, unfair political policies, and social stratification. African American progressive leaders such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells took on movements to combat sexism, racism, and discrimination. During the progressive era, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded, along with other groups that targeted segregation as the main issue.

However, black progressives came up against an unexpected adversary: white progressives. With segregation as the central issue, white progressives worked against their black counterparts. For many white progressives, the plight of African Americans was caused by the integration of black and white society after the Civil War. For them, segregation was the progressive answer, not enacting policies to improve integration.

This blight on the progressive movement would remain until a rejuvenated social movement emerged following World War II, laying the foundation for the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s that would adopt many of the political and social organization lessons learned during the progressive era.

The Progressive era - Key takeaways

  • Progressivism is a social and political movement of the early 1900s that significantly changed American society and government. The main focus of progressives was the concentration of wealth, and the need for reform focused on women's rights, workers' rights, urban reform, and political reform.
  • The Progressive Era brought about change in urban reform, workplace reform, political reform, and women's rights and suffrage.
  • Politically, the progressive movement pushed the United States towards more democratic practices such as the direct election of senators, the referendum process, and extended suffrage.
  • Even with all the political and social successes of the progressive era, there is one area of society in which the progressive movement failed: race relations and racial reform.

References

  1. Rothbard, M. N. (2017). The Progressive Era. Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Progressive Era

 A social and political movement of the early 1900s significantly changed American society and government. The main focus of progressives was the concentration of wealth, and the need for reform focused on women's rights, workers' rights, urban reform, and political reform. 

From 1900 to 1914 approximately, many progressive sentiments continued throughout American society. 

Extended suffrage to women, urban reforms, political reforms, and workplace reforms such as child labor laws. 

The progressive era ended due to the changing societal needs brought about by the outbreak of World War I. 

Progressivism is born from the realization that the industrial economy of the United States had no substantial socioeconomic middle class. Urbanization and industrialization created a wealthy elite, poorly skilled workers, and very few. This generational crisis gave credence to the progressive reform. Change the social, political, and economic systems to support and grow an urban middle class.  

Final The Progressive Era Quiz

Question

Who won the 1912 presidential election?

Show answer

Answer

Woodrow Wilson

Show question

Question

What was the "Bull Moose Party"?

Show answer

Answer

A popular name for the Progressive Party 

Show question

Question

Why did Roosevelt run for president in 1912?


Show answer

Answer

He was unhappy with the conservative policies of William Howard Taft 

Show question

Question

What set of ideals were very popular in the 1912 election 

Show answer

Answer

Progressive

Show question

Question

How did Taft campaign in the 1912 presidential election?

Show answer

Answer

He ignored campaigning 

Show question

Question

The 1912 presidential election had the best showing for third party candidates in US history 

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

The Progressive Party split off what which other political party 

Show answer

Answer

Republican Party 

Show question

Question

William Toward Taft won the Republican presidential primaries in 1912 

Show answer

Answer

False 

Show question

Question

Democrats had only taken the presidency once between the Civil War and the 1912 presidential election 

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

What was Roosevelt's 1912 platform called?


Show answer

Answer

New Nationalism

Show question

Question

What was Wilson's 1912 platform called?

Show answer

Answer

New Freedom

Show question

Question

What was the goal of the Women's Temperance Movement?

Show answer

Answer

To fight societal ills through a national alcohol prohibition. Women and children bore the brunt of many of the ill effects of alcohol use. 

Show question

Question

Who was the unconventional protestor that was known to use a hatchet in her efforts?

Show answer

Answer

Carry Nation was a temperance leader in Kansas who fought illegal saloons by destroying stock and the establishments. 

Show question

Question

What constitutional amendment enacted national prohibition in the United States?

Show answer

Answer

The 18th Amendment of the US Constitution which was enacted in 1919.

Show question

Question

What was the first international women's organization?

Show answer

Answer

The Women's Christian Temperance Union. Established in 1874 and the international sister organization was formed in 1883.

Show question

Question

Who was the first president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union?

Show answer

Answer

Annie Turner Wittenmyer, at the first convention in Cleveland, Ohio, and the formation of the WCTU in 1874.

Show question

Question

Why did the temperance movement and women's suffrage eventually separate?

Show answer

Answer

The temperance movement made powerful enemies in the alcohol industry and as long as the issues were presented together, women's suffrage was also opposed.

Show question

Question

What political party included women from the temperance movement in their ranks?

Show answer

Answer

The Prohibitionist Party, was a political party with the main goal of achieving federal prohibition. 

Show question

Question

Why were women specifically concerned about alcohol consumption?

Show answer

Answer

Women and children were seen as vulnerable, and alcohol was believed to be a negative influence on the behavior of men in their household roles. Ie, desertion of family responsibilities, physical and mental abuse, and general criminal activity. 

Show question

Question

How did the temperance movement take away from investigating other societal issues?

Show answer

Answer

Alcohol seen as a supreme evil in the United States ignored the many other factors that impacted society. Education, poverty, and disease played a major role. 

Show question

Question

Which war was responsible for a large scale mobilization of women in war efforts?

Show answer

Answer

The Civil War incurred such a large death toll that women were given a lead role in field hospitals and other war efforts. Also with the death of such a large number of men, women moved into different roles.  

Show question

Question

What is a settlement house?

Show answer

Answer

A center for a variety of services located within the served community.

Show question

Question

How did industrialization cause an increase of the urban poor?

Show answer

Answer

Movement from rural areas to the centers of manufacturing in order to gain employment exponentially increased the population. 

Show question

Question

Who was Jane Adams?

Show answer

Answer

She established the most famous settlement house in the United States, Hull House.

Show question

Question

What was different about the approach of charitable workers during the progressive movement?

Show answer

Answer

Charitable workers lived and provided services within the community instead of from the outside. 

Show question

Question

What educational tract emerged as a college curriculum during the progressive movement?

Show answer

Answer

Social Work became an official course of study at various universities in the United States.

Show question

Question

What was established first in NY in 1910?

Show answer

Answer

NY became the first state to enact a worker's compensation law. 

Show question

Question

Before Progressivism was aid rendered with the goal of self sufficiency?

Show answer

Answer

No, before progressivism poverty was seen as an inherent individual fault and not a societal problem that could be overcome. 

Show question

Question

Which industries were the two to first be mentioned in workplace safety efforts?

Show answer

Answer

Railroad construction and mining. 

Show question

Question

Before set worker's compensation laws, how did workers seek payment for workplace related injury or death?

Show answer

Answer

The individual worker had to sue the company for specific damages. 

Show question

Question

What was the goal of Urban Reform?

Show answer

Answer

To better the living and working conditions of the new Urban Poor.

Show question

Question

What methods did the Urban Reform movement use to reach their goals?

Show answer

Answer

Both service in communities and in political activism for legislative change. 

Show question

Question

What act passed in 1906 regulated the food and drug industry?

Show answer

Answer

The Pure Food and Drug Act

Show question

Question

Who was a champion for the improvement of asylums?

Show answer

Answer

Dorothea Dix

Show question

Question

What was a leading issue in Prison reform?

Show answer

Answer

Establishing separate facilities for juveniles instead of housing adults and juveniles together.

Show question

Question

How did industrialization cause a humanitarian crisis?

Show answer

Answer

Industrialization created a new class of Urban Poor. 

Show question

Question

How was Urban Reform impacted by Progressives?

Show answer

Answer

Progressives had a specific idea of morality and how assistance should be rendered. 

Show question

Question

How are weights and measures related to Urban Reform?

Show answer

Answer

Weights and measures were a portion of the regulation of food and drugs. 

Show question

Question

How were Women's Rights involved in the Urban Reform Movement?

Show answer

Answer

Women's suffrage was a leading legislative cause along with Temperance. 

Show question

Question

Who did Birth of a Nation present as heroic?

Show answer

Answer

The Ku Klux Klan

Show question

Question

What novel was Birth of a Nation based on?

Show answer

Answer

The Clansman

Show question

Question

Who Directed Birth of a Nation?


Show answer

Answer

D. W. Griffith

Show question

Question

Who wrote The Clansman?

Show answer

Answer

Thomas Dixon Jr.

Show question

Question

What effect did Birth of a Nation have on the KKK?


Show answer

Answer

The organization was able to reform and attract many new members.

Show question

Question

How did Birth of a Nation influence film?

Show answer

Answer

The film featured many innovations such as the use of extras for epic scenes and musing multiple angles in a single scene. 

Show question

Question

How did audiences react to Birth of a Nation?

Show answer

Answer

The movie was extremely popular but did receive protests and bans.

Show question

Question

What was the main reason Thomas Dixon Jr. wrote his novels?


Show answer

Answer

To spread his social and political ideas.

Show question

Question

Who led protests against Birth of a Nation?

Show answer

Answer

NAACP

Show question

Question

Who played the Black characters in the film?


Show answer

Answer

Black characters in the film were played by White actors in blackface but some Black extras appeared in the background of scenes.

Show question

Question

What were the "3 C's" of the Square Deal?

Show answer

Answer

Consumer protection, corporate regulation, and conservationism

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the The Progressive Era quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.