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The progressives | History homework help


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The Progressives
The Progressives were a heterogeneous collection of reformers in the United States. This group originally from Europe, they carried out efforts to reform American society and governance on all fronts. One main goal of the Progressive movement was purification of government, as Progressives tried to eliminate corruption by exposing and undercutting political machines and bosses. As Howard Zinn wrote in his book, “the progressives was a movement whose principles seemed almost inherent in human nature…we are all striving in the career of life to acquire riches of honor, or power, or some other object, whose possession is to realize the day dreams of our imaginations; and the aggregate of these efforts constitutes the advancement of society” (Zinn 120). They numbered among their ranks economic Progressives such as Richard Ely, the noted Wisconsin economist who emphasized the need to prevent great concentrations of economic power, social Progressives such as Jane Addams, the founder of the Hull House settlement movement, legal Progressives, and many others in all fields of life trying to make change.
True, the Progressives brought about a cleaver array of reform proposals especially during the 1890’s to the 1920’s among which numbered great reforms such as the settlement house movement, housing and sanitation reforms, beautification reforms, anti-prostitution campaigns, woman suffrage, factory, safety regulations, limits on working hours (mainly for women), workers compensation for injuries, Temperance, then prohibition, kill the political machine, Initiative, referendum, recall and popular election of senators (17th amendment), meat inspection act and anti-trust regulations. A race riot in Springfield, Illinois, prompted the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1910. Whites dominated the leadership of the new organization; Du Bois was the only black officer. He was also the first editor of the NAACP. The NAACP concentrated on legal action and education. “Persistent manly agitation is the way to liberty.” What was clear in this period to blacks, to feminists, to labor organizers and socialists, was that they could not count on the national government. True, this was the “Progressive Period,” the start of the Age of Reform; but it was a reluctant reform, aimed at quieting the popular risings, not making fundamental changes (Zinn 327). The settlement house movement arose because the progressives saw a need to improve the lives of slum-dwellers by providing education and child care, teaching English and other basic skills, helping the immigrants get better jobs and housing, and uplifting them culturally. Part of the mission of the settlement house workers was also the Americanization of immigrants; to teach the immigrants middle-class values. The beautification campaigns came about because some progressive reformers wanted to improve the urban environment by making it more pleasant and attractive. This, like the housing reforms, was based on their idea that an improved environment meant improved people. The Progressives war on saloons was motivated by a sincere concern for the real dangers of alcohol consumption and its effect on families, particularly on innocent women and children. Prohibition also had an economic motivation: employers wanted sober, efficient workers. When proposing anti-trust reforms, the Progressives sought more fairness in the capitalist economy and thought that if businesses became too big and powerful, then they could exploit consumers and workers and drive out small businesses. Progressives believed that the government needed to intervene to regulate the size and power of corporations and an example of a very famous anti-trust act was the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (Zinn 328).
By definition, the Gilded Age refers to the era of rapid economic and population growth in the United States during the post–Civil War and post-Reconstruction eras of the late 19th century. An interesting analysis I found during this era was that, 90% percent of the multimillionaires that existed in this time started from middle and upper classes, whereas only about 10% of these wealthy people started from very poor backgrounds (zinn 235). This unequalness or disparity between the two parties has led to a very great gap between their standards of living, and left a clear demarcation in the fact that the poor “might forever remain poor because they will forever work for the rich.” Also, much bribery and corruption existed during this period between the 1890’s and 1990’s.
Did the Progressive reforms succeed in doing what they intended by stabilizing the capitalist system by repairing its worst defects, blunt the edge of the Socialist movement, restore some measure of class peace in a time of increasingly bitter clashes between capital and labor? To some extent, perhaps, but the Socialist party continued to grow and shortly after Woodrow Wilson took office there began in Colorado one of the most bitter and violent struggles between workers and corporate capital in the history of the country. This was the Colorado coal strike that began in September 1913 and culminated in the “Ludlow Massacre” of April 1914. Eleven thousand miners in southern Colorado, mostly foreign-born-Greeks, Italians, Serbs-worked for the Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation, which was owned by the Rockefeller family. Aroused by the murder of one of their organizers, they went on strike against low pay, dangerous conditions, and feudal domination of their lives in towns completely controlled by the mining companies. Mother Jones, at this time an organizer for the United Mine Workers, came into the area, fired up the miners with her oratory, and helped them in those critical first months of the strike, until she was arrested, kept in a dungeon like cell, and then forcibly expelled from the state.(Zinn 333)
The bottom line is that much of the Progressive legacy is now mainstream American ideology in a sometimes “kinder, gentler nation.” And there’s the rub. Politicians, pundits and public relations counselors know that it so much easier to be against something, especially on prime time television. But in the Progressive period, it was clear that many Americans approved of the legacy of that era of reform, and still do. (Americana). The progressive era definitely set a much higher degree of awareness in the minds of many Americans. For example when the progressive Upton Sinclair published The Jungle in 1906, which publicized the disgusting methods of meat-packing plants, the public became outraged and many American sought for Government to implement better, safe business practices.
Glenn Beck Claims that the Progressives Are the Most Racist People in US History. (politicususa) He says, “The most racist people ever to live. The most racist people ever to live in America were the progressives, really radical, awful racist people.” Beck got on his Woodrow Wilson kick again because US News and World Report wrote that he was wrong about Wilson, “All you have to do is read Woodrow Wilson and you will know the truth. These people are trying to spin history yet again on Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt…He put over 30,000 people in jail for speaking about his policies. 30,000 Americans went to jail, and I find it really fascinating that those were the only time we have rounded people up and put them in jail for either their skin color or their points of view, under progressive Democrat Woodrow Wilson, and progressive Democrat Franklin Roosevelt. Those are the only two times in American history, and their washed, nobody talks about them. Nobody looks at them. Nobody remembers who they did it to.” Beck complained that, “These people constantly morph and they constantly change the argument, and change the language.” In a support argument giving Glenn some credit for his view is the fact that when implementing the Settlement house movement reforms to improve the lives of slum-dwellers, the most famous settlement house was Hull House in Chicago, led by progressive Jane Addams, while Black middle-class women ran separate settlement houses for fellow African-Americans illustrating the racial segregation of the Progressive movement. Also, there has been a recent case about a Progressive Federal Judge who passed on a racist email attack on President Obama. In the email he wrote, “A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?'” the email joke reads. “His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!” (Theprogressiveinfluence).

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