Progressives and Government Intervention

The 20th century Progressives were a very diverse group of reformers that were concerned with a changing society. These reformers consisted mainly of middle-class women whom today would be considered the lower-upper class. They were concerned with industrialism and sought to rid the government of corruption.  Progressives wanted to Americanize, they wanted to take the new immigrants and eradicate the differences they brought. These reformers were pro-government but disliked political parties because they thought they were seeds of corruption. They largely used the government in order to make law. Through their reforming, progressives were attempting to stop the democratic promise of the US from failing and to move towards centralization.

“The Progressive Era was a hopeful time”(Sage), these reformers hoped to bring change to the problems that plagued the American life. In order to get effective results, progressives knew they needed the best of the best. This is why they looked to elite control. Elite control meant that they attempted to get people in control who were the best for the job in order to make sure they reached their goal. They made sure people on their commissions were experts. Another way these progressives brought about change was through the work of muckrakers.  Muckrakers were “journalists who wrote books and articles exposing the flaws of America’s capitalist society”(Sage).

Some of the main targets of the Progressive Movement included  working conditions such as hours, safety, wages and job security. The reformers also attacked abuses of the capitalist system. Other issues that were addressed were based upon morals, including prostitution and alcohol abuse. Regarding working conditions, Progressives were very passionate about making a change. Workers, themselves, did not at first participate in the reforms because they were too worn out from the treatment in factories and other jobs. But soon, the Progressive movement was supported by the working class. The government should set hour laws, regulate safety, prohibit child labor, set a minimum wage, and institute other work laws because all of these acts ensure the safety  and happiness of workers. If employees are not safe, if they are not happy in their jobs it will make their daily lives miserable. “While labor legislation might seem like a bureaucratic hassle for your business, these laws help keep your employees safe, healthy and happy, and satisfied employees tend to be more productive”(Thompson).

The Progressive Era brought about massive change in America. Although the reformers were not successful in every aspect of their reforms, they saw many influential changes. The changes were specific to certain groups, however, these were the groups who were advocating for change and trying to make a difference. An excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt in Henry J. Sage’s article, entitled The Progressive Era: The Great Age of Reform, states perfectly the goal of Progressives. “In every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objects, and often the only object, has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity. In the struggle for this great end, nations rise from barbarism to civilization, and through it people press forward from one stage of enlightenment to the next. One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege. The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows. That is what you fought for in the Civil War, and that is what we strive for now”(Theodore Roosevelt, Sage). Not all Progressive reforms were successful, and most were exclusive, but they brought about massive change and helped shape our nation.

Sources: Sage, Henry J. “The Progressive Era: The Great Age of Reform.” The Gilded Age: 1865-1900, sageamericanhistory.net/progressive/topics/progressive.html. Thompson, Van. “Importance of Labor Laws.” Small Business – Chron.com, Chron.com, 27 Nov. 2018, smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-labor-laws-62734.html.

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