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Progressive era

The Progressive Era

Progressivism in the United States took place in the period between the Spanish-American War and the entry of the United States into the great World War. It was a time for change in America in all walks of life, as well as a time for reform. It was marked by Theodore Roosevelt's 7 and a half years in office, the Rough Rider put it upon himself to make the first strides towards reform. These reforms included the cracking down on illegal monopolies and so forth. During this era large cities transformed into large metropolises, small towns into large cities and new towns sprang up nearly everywhere. Reforms also included the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth amendments. The progressive era really had significant impact in America's history.

The progressive movement had many origins. One of these was the battle against governmental corruption and inability, in other words a struggle for civil services reform. The progressive movement was initiated by liberals in both political parties, the fight for government reform can be traced back to Liberal Republicans(An Oxymoron, Mr. Jetel?) during the Grant administration and Mugwumps. Citizens were enraged, with big businesses' growing influence in all branches of government and sought ways to purify it.

Big Business was also a target of progressivism. During this time presidents like Roosevelt and William Howard Taft tried to regulate and control big business. Many well educated people of the time, as well as moderately prosperous businessmen and members of other professions(middle class) felt threatened by the increasing power of big business and the tycoons. These people were also disturbed by the Big business' influence in politics, making a mockery of the democratic system. Then with the failure of the interstate commerce act and the Sherman act, made big business look unstoppable. As the middle class in America began to develop and grow, they gained power. They were the people who wanted change and ultimately they won with the start of progressivism.

Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Henry Lloyd all made significant contributions to the start of the Progressive movement with their writings. These people and others similar to them were labeled as muckrakers. These Muckrakers attacked big business in an attempt to turn the common people against them. For example Tarbell wrote of how tycoons, such as the Rockerfeller, amassed their monstrous fortunes. She illustrated all of the corruptness and cruelty directed towards the unskilled worker brought upon by big business. Upton Sinclair became famous for his book The Jungle which even grabbed the attention of Teddy Roosevelt. It was about the horrible conditions at the meat-packing warehouses in Chicago that eventually prompted a federal investigation. Those in the progressive movement ranged from the common to the esteemed intellectual.

Whether the Progressive was actually progressive or not has been a topic of debate. In ways the era was progressive but at times it was also unsuccessful. The people would gain rights and then on the other side of the spectrum, big business could get away with anything. One such example is the coal strike of 1902, where miners returned to work after receiving 9 hour days and an increase in pay. Despite this advancement, companies ignored the unions and raised the coal prices to compensate for lost net income. The companies suffered nearly nothing while the worker gained little. The women gained rights as well during the progressive time, including the right to vote and the formation of unions. However, because of male prejudices, most of these unions were quietly dissolved. The progressive era had significant impact, but really isn't worthy of its name. Sure there were changes, but the progressive era left lots of room for improvement.

Some formal reforms came into play during the Progressive era. These reforms included the 17th and 19th amendments, the 17th provided the direct election of senators(POWER TO THE PEOPLE!), while the 19th gave women the right to vote(HooYah!). The 17th is looked upon as a progressive achievement which gave power to the people. Political democracy was a theme of the progressives and the amendment greatly helped their cause. Finally the hard work of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton and the Women's Suffrage association finally paid off with the passing of the 19th amendment. Also during this time members of congress managed to limit the power of the speaker so more voices could be heard on the floor. Before this the speaker had to grant permission and this made it difficult for some to be heard on the floor.

Unfortunately during the Progressive era many minorities failed to take important steps to reform, but African Americans became the exception. Asian immigrants were heavily disregarded while American Indians became seen as inferior. Many whites believed it would take several generations before the American Indian could function normally in American society. Because of the stereotype they were regulated to minimal paying unskilled jobs. Blacks on the other hand made great strides during the Progressive era. Blacks wanted to be equal and lift them selves up in their own way instead of conforming to white society as Washington suggested. They marched on Washington and demanded the unrestricted right to vote as well as an end to all forms of segregation, equality of economic opportunity, higher education, equal justice in courts and an end to trade union discrimination. These demands stirred many whites abroad and set the groundwork for the civil rights movement. Blacks also became proud of themselves forming organizations to create pride for black heritage.

The Progressive era came about as the result of several motives. The forces behind it ranged from the common man to the politicians as well as intellectuals. The era's true progress is sometimes contended, while in some instances reform measures did come about. Big business finally became somewhat regulated and the governmental power somewhat shifted back to the people. The progressive era evidently shaped up to be quite a significant part of our history.

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