Progressive Era Summary Essay Samples

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Progressive Era: Political and Social Reforms

Many economic and social changes transformed the American society in the 20th century, including innovations in technology, science, living standards, mass communication, entertainment, gender roles and the role of the government. At the time of the Progressive Era (1900-1920), the leading reformers in the USA were looking for the solutions of the issues effected by the Industrial Revolution and growth of capitalism. They believed that the changes were essential for the creation of a new order fitting the industrial age.

One of the most substantial goals of Progressivism was to make the Government much more competent and quick to react and allow the public to take active part in the political processes. Progressives desired to introduce these changes with the help of different political reforms. Among the reforms was the preliminary election that allowed the party members to engage in the nomination. Its purpose was to restrict the regulation of political machines when choosing the candidates. Among other reforms were referendums, or voting on an initiative, giving people an opportunity to execute legislation that the governmental body is not able or unwilling to do; and recall, a procedure that allowed the residents to abolish elected officials with voting or petitions. These reforms are known as the Wisconsin Ideas, as they were introduced for the first time in Wisconsin and became the standard for other cities in the country.

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The Progressive Era witnessed the rise of the public control of gas, electricity, water; municipally owned utilities suggested people smaller rates than the private organizations. Private utilities were under the jurisdiction of commissions that inspected rates, unions and various business operations. The railroads and the transportation systems in cities were regulated in a similar way. Progressives were excited by the scientific management, that’s why the reforms were conducted not only in the political sphere but in social life as well. The anti-alcohol campaign had a little progress with the formation of Anti-Saloon League in 1893. This organization was aimed at prohibiting alcohol rather than persuading people not to drink. It was supported by the Protestant churches, and by 1917 about two-thirds of the states prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol. In December 1917, Congress ratified the Eighteenth Amendment that banned the produce of alcohol, its sale and transportation worldwide.

The National Child Labor Committee organized a campaign aimed at stopping the children exploitation. The photographs taken by Lewis Hine were the most efficient weapon in this movement. They showed young girls and boys working with the unsafe instruments in plants and mines. In 1910, most states established the minimum working age (between 12 and 16) and the maximum length of a workday. Besides, progressives aimed to limit the workday of women as the long hours in the factories affected their health. The Supreme Court agreed with that and limited the working day of the women laundry workers to no more than 10 hours a day. In 1911, there was a terrible accident in New York. More than 150 people died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire. In result, the New York State legislature established a 54-hour workweek for women and developed safety rules at factories. Although the limiting of women workday showed that they were weaker than men, women finally received the right to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution that gave that right was confirmed by all states in 1920.

The Progressive Era was the age of reforms in various spheres, it was a response to the Industrial Revolution. It influenced almost all Americans and reorganized the role of government in the society. The movement succeeded as it had great support from Democrats and Republicans, American middle class, labor and management leaders. The Progressive Era was a hopeful time with the progressive mood that laid the ground for future reforms in different spheres.

Compare and Contrast the New Deal with the Progressive Movement


From the years 1933 to 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed a group of domestic programs. The programs were designed to stimulate the economy and were a direct response to devastating economic effects of The Great Depression. The programs were based on three important ideas: relief, recovery, and reform. The Progressive Movement(before the New Deal) was a time from late 19th century to early 20th century in which political, cultural, and economic arenas were rapidly changing due to the Industrial Revolution. The New Deal differs from the Progressive Movement in that it was a time of regrouping and getting the people back on its feet, and the Progressive Movement was a time of moving ahead with great ideas an innovations.

The New Deal put food on people’s plates and gave them a roof over their heads. The plan allowed for work on roads, bridges, and railway tracks. The bridges and pass ways weaving through the Blue Ridge Mountains are a result of the New Deal. The country was being improved while people were making money. The Great Depression had hit hard and people had no food or jobs. The New Deal was a government plan that helped the people.

The Progressive Movement helped people also, but it seemed to push the wealthy class further beyond the lower class. The architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright soared, John Dewey explored the library catalog system, and Wilson spoke of a new government. Wilson also brought the country into WWI. Some may say his steps forward are what eventually led to the Great Depression. The country was moving full steam ahead at a million miles an hour. Yes, the New Deal had progressive roots, but the goals were entirely different. The Progressive Movement led to excesses that soon crashed down upon the United States society. The Progressive Movement eventually needed the New Deal to save the country.

The two movements were different in that one was a conscious movement toward a booming economy, The Progressive Movement, while the other was a response to a crashing and poor time, The New Deal. The Progressive Movement was a seeking of exploration and money for new adventures and the New Deal was a response to help people after the Great Depression. They were, however, similar in the fact that government was more involved in business and there was more industry regulation during both periods.

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