Progressive Era: Social Problems

women's sufferage
Figure 1.--Here a Mrs. Suffern in 1914 wears a sash and carryes a sign that says "Help us to win the vote". She is surrounded by a crowd of men and boys who don't look all that sympatheic. There is also a liitle girl in the ctows.

The Progressive Movement in America was an in part an attempt to address social problems that developed in America after the Civil war as a result of industrialization. Progressives also addressed some more long term problems such as woman's sufferage. America had changed considerably since the Civil War. The frontier had been settled, America had emerged as the world's greatest agricultural and industrial power, there was an experiment with imperialism, great cities had developed, and huge numbers of immigrants accepted. America bustled with wealth, optimism, and industrial expansion. Many Americans had benefitted from the rise of America as an industrial power. Many Americans had not. Large numbers of Americans subsisted on an economic edge. Children and women toiled in sweatshops and mills for pitiful sums. Poor children were often unable to attend school. Public health programs were week and products sold were sometimes unhealthy. Working conditions were often unsafe and there was no work place protections or disability insurance. There was no protection for widows and orphans and no old age protecion schemes. Eugenics was a discipline endorsed by some progressives. Prisons and state hospitals for the retarded and mentally ill were commomly horror houses. State and Federal goverments were often run on the spoils system. Legislators in many states as well as senators were not selected by direct vote. Monoplies and trusts gained great power in the American economy. A growing movement to prohibit alcoholic beverages were a part if the progressive movement. And with the outbreak of World War I, many progressives took up the cause of pacifism. The interesting thing about the Progressive program is how many of their issues were eventually addressed by legislation and government action or programs.

Women's Sufferage

Progressives also addressed some more long term problems such as woman's sufferage.

Changing Economy

America had changed considerably since the Civil War. The frontier had been settled, America had emerged as the world's greatest agricultural and industrial power. great cities had developed, and huge numbers of immigrants accepted. America bustled with wealth, optimism, and industrial expansion. Many Americans had not, especially recent immigrants. It would be incorrect to say that the undustrial revolution created poverty. It dod not. It created wealth. That wealth was poorly distributed, but even so, workers flocked from rural areas to seek jobs in the cities. Povery existed in rural areas long before the industrial revolution. It was, however, less visible than in the densely packed tenaments of the big industrial cities.

Labor unions

Large numbers of Americans subsisted on an economic edge. They attempted to improve their economic conditions through labor unions, but many employers were histile to the unions.

Women and child labor

Child labor is to often associated with the industrial revolution. This is a misconception. Children toiled on farms for centuries before the industrial revolution. Thdy worked for their parents or for neighbors. What changed with the indistrial revolution was the recognition of child ;abor as aocial problem. Here thecexplotation of children was often egregious, in part because unlike the situation in riral areas, there was often no cinnection between employers and workers. But also the issue of child labor became more pronounced in the public mind because it was more visible. Children and women toiled in sweatshops and mills for pitiful sums. There were advantages to hiring women and children. They were willing to work for less and they were more docile. more willing to accept the dictates if managemebt thn adult male workers. And for some jobs, the small size of children as well as their nimbel fingers were an advantage. The first stirings of concerns about child and women labor was raised by labor unions in the mid-19th century, primarily out of concern over competition. By the late-19th century it had become more of a moral issue. Muckraking journalists and poltically conscious photo-journalists had a huge impact on public opinion. Many states began to take action restructing child labor, but Supreme Court decesions made Federal action on a national level impossible until the New Deal.

Working conditions

Working conditions were often unsafe.

Monopolies and trusts

Monoplies and trusts gained great power in the American economy.

Prohibition

A growing movement to prohibit alcoholic beverages were a part if the progressive movement.

Workmen's disability insurance

and there was no work place protections or disability insurance. There was no protection for widows and orphans and no old age protecion schemes.

Eugenics

Eugenics was a discipline endorsed by some progressives.

State Facilities

Prisons and state hospitals for the retarded and mentally ill were commomly horror houses.

Direct Election

State and Federal goverments were often run on the spoils system. Legislators in many states as well as senators were not selected by direct vote.

Public education

Poor children were often unable to attend school. Public health >p> Public health programs were week.

Product saftey

Products sold were sometimes unhealthy.

Imperialism

There was an experiment with imperialism. Many Americans had benefitted from the rise of America as an industrial power.

Pacifism

And with the outbreak of World War I, many progressives took up the cause of pacifism.






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Created: 6:22 AM 12/3/2006
Last updated: 2:41 AM 1/16/2009