The Progressive Movement Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 21 October 2016

The Progressive Movement

Some forms of progressive movement are progressivism which embraces the widespread of many sided efforts to build a better society; scientific investigation the studies by the federal government of immigration; child labor; economic practices and social research by privately funded foundation; academic expertise to have the skills and knowledge about the problems America was facing during the 1900; pragmatism which judged ideas by their consequences; and muckraker journalists who exposed the underside of American life. During this time there were no agreed upon agenda’s nor were there any unifying organizations. Both the Republican and Democratic parties had progressive elements which caused each group to interact with different social groups with different views.

This period was the beginning of the analysis of human activity which offered solutions to waste, inefficiency in municipal government, schools, hospitals and homes. Scientific management thought Frederick W. Taylor, could solve the problems of the United States social ills that arise from our acts of ill-directed, or inefficient. Scientific management was an American invention which made America feels like a part of the transatlantic world. Also, the social politics overseas was much more advanced than the United States which made the Americans feel like we have fallen behind. America was no longer the leader in teaching how democracy worked but was learning about democracy from other countries.

The main objective was to resist ways of thinking that discouraged purposeful action. Social Darwinists beliefs that society developed according to fixed and unchanging laws was wrong. William James, Harvard philosopher said it is foolish to speak of the “laws of history” like it is inevitable, which science only has to discover and which anyone can then foretell and observe, but do nothing to alter or avert. Progressives prided themselves on being tough minded, and on being experts on making things happen. But they were not indifferent to the moral grounds for reform. Progressives were considered to be unabashed idealists. Progressive leaders characteristically grew up in homes imbued with evangelical piety. Many went through a religious crisis, ultimately settling on a career in social work, education, or politics where religious striving might be translated into secular action.

Some of the players in there reforms were Jane Adams taken up settlement-house work believing by uplifting the poor, she would herself be uplifted: she would experience “the joy of finding Christ” by acting “in fellowship” with the needy. Lincoln Steffen article is credited with starting a trend about writing about “the shame of the cities” – the corrupt ties between business and political machines. Ida Tarbell attached the Standard Oil monopoly, and David Graham Phillips told how money controlled the Senate William Hard exposed industrial accidents in “Making Steel and Killing Men” (1907) and child labor in “De Kid Wot Works at Night” (1908). Hardly a sordid corner of American life escaped the scrutiny of these tireless reporters. Theodore Roosevelt, among many thought they went too far.

However the muckrakers became attached to the journalists who exposed the underside of American life. There efforts were in fact health giving. More than any other group, the muckrakers called the people to arms. Women progressives shouldered the burden of humanitarian work in American cities. They were the foot soldiers for charity organizations, visiting needy families, assessing their problems, and referring them to relief agencies. Josephine Shaw Lowell of New York City concluded giving assistance to the poor was not enough. She felt it was better to save them before they go under, than to spend your life fishing them out of afterward.

The welfare state, insofar as it arrived in America in these years, was what women progressives had made of it: they erected a “maternalist” welfare system. During the progressive years, scores of settlement houses sprang up in the ghetto of the nation’s cities, serving as community centers and spark plugs for neighborhood reform. Jane Addams led battles for garbage removal, playgrounds, better street lighting, and police protection. The main goals of the Progressive reforms were:

1) To change other people by having them adopt the Progressive vision of middle class behavior and thought. This particularly applied to issues of recreation and leisure, the status of the family, sexual orientation and behavior. Protecting Social Welfare. 2) Toe end class conflict between the “have’s” (the privileged class) and “the have less, “(or have not). Fostering Efficiency. 3) To effect a measure of control over big business. Moral Improvement. Another movement was segregate society into groups, based on occupation (labor, management, etc.) race, sex (laws protecting women insured secondary status in employment), and immigration status. Segregation of the races was seen by Progressives as a method of stabilizing race relationship. Economic Reform.

The major players in these reforms were Cleveland, McKinley, T. Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge all of them were presidents of this era. Their foreign and domestic policies shaped their world and whose policies continue to impact our world. It is amazing how some of the things are still incorporated in our society today. I think the movements were genuine concern for social problems. As a matter of fact because of the some of the progressive movement some people are still reaping the benefits of their labor today. However, I do feel like some of the people that are benefiting from some of the reforms have caused themselves to be control by trying to live off of the system rather than using it as a stepping stone to do better for themselves.


Henertta, James A & Brody, David (2010). America A Concise History. Boston & NewYork: Bedford/ St. Martin’s

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