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Leading the Way: The Progressive Movement, 1890-1920
Chapter 21 Study Guide
Terms in this set (21)
The Origins of the Progressive Spirit in America
In its first decade, the Progressive Era was a grassroots effort that ushered in reforms at state and local levels... The challenges of the late nineteenth century were manifold: fast-growing cities that were ill-equipped to house the working poor, hands-off politicians shackled into impotence by their system of political favors, and rural Americans struggling to keep their farms afloat... Together, Progressives sought to advance the spread of democracy, improve efficiency in government and industry, and promote social justice.
Unlike the "yellow journalists" who were interested only in sensationalized articles designed to sell newspapers, muckrakers exposed problems in American society and urged the public to identify solutions. Whether those problems were associated with corrupt machine politics, poor working conditions in factories, or the questionable living conditions of the working class (among others), muckrakers shined a light on the problem and provoked outraged responses from Americans.
In his book, How the Other Half Lives (1890), journalist and photographer Jacob Riis used photojournalism to capture the dismal and dangerous living conditions in working-class tenements in NYC
Progressives also agreed that democracy had to be balanced with an emphasis on efficiency, a reliance on science and technology, and deference to the expertise of professionals. They repudiated party politics but looked to government to regulate the modern market economy. And they saw themselves as the agents of social justice and reform, as well as the stewards and guides of workers and the urban poor.
Progressivism at the Grassroots Level
But what tied together these disparate caused and groups was the belief that the country was in dire need of reform, and that answers were to be found within the activism and expertise of predominantly middle-class Americans on behalf of troubled communities. Some efforts, such as the National Child Labor Committee, pushed for federal legislation; however, most Progressive initiatives took place at the state and local levels, as Progressives sought to harness public support to place pressure on politicians... Mainstream Progressives and many middle-class Americans feared groups such as the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, which emphasized workers' empowerment and direct action
A proposed law, or initiative, placed on the ballot by public petition
a process that allows voters to counteract legislation by putting an existing law on the ballot for voters to affirm or reject
Recall to remove a public official from office by virtue of a petition and vote process
Robert La Follette "Fighting Bob" supported numerous Progressive ideas while governor: He signed into law the first workman's compensation system, approved a minimum wage law, developed a progressive tax law, adopted the direct election of U.S. senators before the subsequent constitutional amendment made it mandatory, and advocated for women's suffrage
Fredrick Winslow Taylor
Through time-motion studies and the principles of standardization, Taylor sought to place workers in the most efficient positions of the industrial process. Management, he argued, should determine the work routine, leaving workers to simply execute the task at hand
In 1900, U.S. census records indicated that one out of every six children between the ages of five and ten were working, a 50% increase over the decade
Triangle Shirtwaist Factor Fire
In 1911 a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company on the 8th floor of the Asch building in NYC, resulting in the deaths of 146 garment workers, most of them young, immigrant women. Management had previously blockaded the doors and fire escapes in an effort to control workers and keep out union organizers; in the blaze, many died due to the crush of bodies trying to evacuate the building. Others died when they fell off the flimsy fire escape or jumped to their deaths to escape the flames. This tragedy provided the National Consumers League with the moral argument to convince politicians of the need to pass workplace safety laws and codes
Women's Christian Temperance Union
The WCTU and Anti-Saloon League moved the efforts to eliminate the sale of alcohol from a bar-to-bar public opinion campaign to one of city-to-city and state-by-state votes. Through local option votes and subsequent statewide initiatives and referendums, the Anti-Saloon League succeeded in urging 40% of the nation's counties to "go dry" by 1906, and a full dozen states to do the same by 1909. Their political pressure culminated in the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1919, which prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages nationwide
Debs himself ran for president as the SPA candidate in five elections between 1900 and 1920, twice earning nearly one million votes
By 1912, the Wobblies had played a significant role in a number of major strikes, including the Paterson Silk Strike, the Lawrence Textile Strike, and the Mesabi Range Iron Strike. The government viewed the Wobblies as a significant threat, and in a response far greater than their actions warranted, targeted them with arrests, tar-and-featherings, shootings, and lynchings.
New Voices for Women and Africans Americans
The Progressive commitment to promoting democracy and social justice created an environment within which the movements for women's and African American rights grew and flourished. Emergent leaders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Alice Paul spread the cause of woman suffrage, drawing in other activists and making the case for a constitutional amendment ensuring a woman's right to vote.
Jim Crow Laws
Laws that separated whites and blacks
Booker T. Washington
Born into slavery in Virginia in 1856, Booker T. Washington became an influential African American leader at the outset of the Progressive Era... Washington extolled the school's graduates to focus on the black community's self-improvement and prove that they were productive members of society even in freedom--something white Americans throughout the nation had always doubted. In a speech delivered at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta in 1895, which was meant to promote the economy of a "New South," Washington proposed what came to be known as the Atlanta Compromise. Speaking to a racially mixed audience, Washington called upon African Americans to work diligently for their own uplift and prosperity rather than preoccupy themselves with political and civil rights... Wealthy Industrialists such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller provided funding for many of Washington's self-help programs, as did Sears, Roebuck & Co. co-founder Julius Rosenwald, and Washington was the first African American invited to the White House by President Roosevelt in 1901.
Booker T. Washington' speech, given at the Atlanta Exposition in 1895, where he urged African Americans to work hard and get along with others in their white communities, so as to earn the goodwill of the country.
W. E. B. Du Bois
By 1905, he had grown wary of Booker T. Washington's calls for African Americans to accommodate white racism and focus solely on self-improvement. Du Bois, and others alongside him, wished to carve a more direct path towards equality that drew on the political leadership and litigation skills of the black, educated elite, which he termed the "talented tenth." But the movement laid the groundwork for the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909
Progressivism in the White House
The courage Theodore Roosevelt displayed in his confrontation of big business and willingness to side with workers in capital-labor disputes, as well as his commitment to the preservation of federal lands, set an agenda his successors had to match... Roosevelt's third-party challenge as a Progressive split the Republican vote and handed Woodrow Wilson the presidency in 1912... He, too, sought to limit the power of big businesses and stabilize the economy, and he ushered in a wave of Progressive legislation that grassroots Progressives had long called for. The nation's entanglement in WWI, however, soon shunted the Progressive goals of democracy, efficiency, regulation, and social justice to the back burner. The nation's new priorities include
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