What caused the Progressive Movement?
What caused the Progressive Movement? The Progressives believed that the government should take a more active role in solving the problems of society, restoring order and protecting the welfare of Americans by conservation and environmental reforms. The causes of Progressive Movement were extremely wide ranging and included in the following list. We recommend that reference is made to following articles that provide facts, information about:
Causes of the Progressive Movement
Causes of the Progressive Movement: Bribery and Corruption in politics that had been encouraged by the Spoils System
Causes of the Progressive Movement: The Political Machines that controlled the towns and cities
Causes of the Progressive Movement: The Negative impact of Industrialization that led to the emergence of poor working conditions in the factories
Causes of the Progressive Movement: The rapid Urbanization in America and lack of planning that led to appalling housing and squalid living conditions in the towns and the cities
Causes of the Progressive Movement: The economic system of Free enterprise and the concept of 'Laissez-Faire' by which private businesses operated in competition and largely free of state control.
Causes of the Progressive Movement: The Rise of Big Business and Corporations and the greed and unchecked and unethical practices of the Robber Barons
Causes of the Progressive Movement: The crusade against Alcohol, its effects on society and the call for prohibition
Causes of the Progressive Movement: Discrimination and inequality on the grounds of race, religion and ethnic background
Causes of the Progressive Movement: Discrimination against women - refer to Women's suffrage
Causes of the Progressive Movement: The rise of crime in the cities during the Urbanization in America
Causes of the Progressive Movement: The call for banking reform to help small businesses and the farmers
Causes of the Progressive Movement: The call for labor reform relating to wages, working conditions and unionization
Causes of the Progressive Movement: Protests against the use of Child Labor and the need for improved education
Causes of the Progressive Movement: The Conservation Movement and the Environmentalists fought to protect and end the waste of natural resources, the destruction of wildlife and against pollution
Causes of the Progressive Movement
Progressive Movement Goals
The Goals of the Progressive Movement were to:
● To curb power of the Trusts, Big Business and Corporations and regulate business
● To eliminate the bribery and corruption of the political machines
● To bring about political reform
● To address the issues of social injustice and inequality and bring about reform
● To raise awareness of social injustices such as child labor, and the effects of illiteracy, alcohol abuse and crime
● To improve the lifestyles, living and working conditions of Americans
● To establish Health and Safety codes
● To conserve and protect natural resources
Progressive Movement for kids: Who were the Progressives?
The Progressive Movement was led by male and female Progressives from all walks of society including:
● Members of the Republican and Democrat political parties
● Well educated middle-class Americans
● Poorer Americans, often union activists
● Crusading Journalists, photographers and authors, also known as Muckrakers
● Teachers and Educators
● Members of the clergy
Progressive Movement for kids: Names of the Leaders of the Progressive Movement
The list of names of famous Progressive Leaders, who consisted of reform activists, politicians and 'muckrakers', included Jacob Riis, John Dewey, Lester Frank Ward, Frank Norris, Ida Tarbell, Thomas Nast, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Robert La Follette, Henry Demarest Lloyd, David Graham Philips, Upton Sinclair, Charles Edward Russell, Alice Paul, John Spargo, Eugene Debs, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, Jane Addams, Booker T. Washinton, W.E.B. DuBois, Theodore Dreiser, Walter Rauschenbusch and Ida B.Wells. Many of these men and women were labeled as Muckrakers. Theodore Roosevelt was the most influential of all the leaders of the progressive movement and his presidency and focused on efficiency and fairness.
Robert La Follette and the Progressive Movement
One of the famous leaders of the Progressive Movement was Robert La Follette (1855 – 1925) aka "Fighting Bob" who started his political career as an American Republican and later became a Progressive politician who initiated the Wisconsin Experiment. Robert La Follette became a rallying point of many of the progressives in the diverse sectors of the Reformist Movement. Robert La Follette, "Fighting Bob", fought against corporate monopoly in America and imperialism abroad. As a Socialist he believed that major industries, run by Big Business and corporations, should be owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies. The ideals of Socialism are based on a democratic, non-racist, classless and feminist socialist society in which working people had control over their lives and Robert La Follette, "Fighting Bob", fought for all these issues. His radical, left wing political views, attracted women, organized labor movements, minority groups including many African Americans and farmers. His militant, Progressive platform earned him the nickname of "Fighting Bob" and the admiration of the working classes and the fear of the establishment. He called for the government takeover of the railroads and the coal industry and fought for the rights of workers and unions and the abolishment of child labor. Robert La Follette ran for President on the Socialist platform in 1924 and gained 5 million votes.
Progressive Movement Accomplishments
The accomplishments of the Progressive Movement were as follows:
Accomplishments of the Progressive Movement
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: The 1887 Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was an early example of Progressive Reforms and other helpful laws followed (refer to the timeline below)
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: Laws were passed to protect the public’s health and welfare
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: Anti-trust legislation was passed to prohibit monopolies
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: Big Business and corporations were regulated as the process of arbitration was included in the negotiation process
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: The Unionization of all the important industries
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: The commission system of local government, replacing the mayor, city council and political machine was introduced
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: The crusading 'muckrakers' raised awareness of social issues which led to the formation of pressure groups and reform
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: The federal government started to act as mediators between opposing sides
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: The number of hours that children were allowed work were limited, and education improved
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: Laws were passed to protect the environment and address pollution
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: The 17th amendment to the Constitution was ratified to counter Senate corruption
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: The 18th Amendment was passed prohibiting the sale and manufacture of alcohol
Progressive Movement Accomplishments: The 19th Amendment was passed that gave women the right to vote - refer to Women's suffrage
Accomplishments of the Progressive Movement
For additional facts refer to the articles detailing the Progressive Era Timeline and theProgressive Reforms that were introduced at city, state and federal levels.
Progressive Movement for kids: The Limits of Progressivism
The progressive movement addressed social problems, passed laws, amendments and reforms to protect workers and regulate the economy and big business but there were limits of Progressivism. The most conspicuous limit to progressivism was its failure to address African-American reform and racial issues. African-American progressives therefore took action themselves and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed in 1909.
Progressive Movement for kids: The End to Progressivism
The nation's problems regarding the economy, racism, immigration and labor unrest following WW1 heralded the end of the progressive movement and the Progressive Era. Warren Harding, the Republican candidate called for a return to 'normalcy' and the simpler way of life before all of the Progressive reforms. Americans agreed with his sentiments and Warren Harding won a landslide victory in the presidential election.
Progressive Movement for kids - President Theodore Roosevelt Video
The article on the Progressive Movement provides detailed facts and a summary of one of the important events during his presidential term in office. The following video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 26th American President whose presidency spanned from September 14, 1901 to March 4, 1909.
● Facts about the Progressive Movement for kids and schools
● Summary of the Progressive Movement in US history
● The Progressive Movement, a major event in US history
● Theodore Roosevelt from September 14, 1901 to March 4, 1909
● Fast, fun facts about the Progressive Movement
● Foreign & Domestic policies of President Theodore Roosevelt
● Theodore Roosevelt Presidency and Progressive Movement for schools, homework, kids and children
Labor in Progressive Era Politics
The Industrial Backbone
The Progressive Era was a difficult time to be a worker. While Progressives did try to make working conditions better for laborers, their efforts only yielded mixed results. Furthermore, workers' own actions sometimes proved more effective than the Progressive reforms enacted in their names.
America never could've risen to its preeminent place in the world of industrial nations without the backbreaking toil of its workers in the 19th and 20th centuries. Laborers were behind the railroads that stretched across over 3,000 miles of the continent, the steel rails that provided the tracks, the skyscrapers that dominated the city skylines, the textiles that clothed the Western world, and the coal and oil that fueled a transportation revolution. They toiled in the steel mills of Braddock and Homestead, the textile factories of the South, the coal mines of Allegheny County, and among the oil derricks of northwestern Pennsylvania.
They typically worked seven days a week, 12 hours each day, some enduring 24 straight hours of intense labor every other Sunday on what was known as the "long turn." This was hard manual labor that seldom gave employees any pause for rest during their shift. There was no nationally mandated minimum wage until 1938—railroad workers in the 1880s could expect to make about 10¢ an hour and if the economy turned sour, the company would cut all wages down to 9¢. It was an excellent month for a railroad worker if he made as much as $25. Steel workers could make 14¢ an hour in the late-19th century and 17¢ an hour by 1908—this amounted to about $13 for 84 to 96 hours' worth of work.
Author Thomas Bell, himself a descendant of Slovak immigrants who worked in the steel-mill town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, noted that with such a wage, a couple "could just keep alive. [...] Two people, if they were thrifty and their wants were simple, could manage on that; two people with debts and growing children could not."54
And poverty for hardworking Americans wasn't confined to Braddock, Pennsylvania. As historian Alan Brinkley has noted, "[At] the turn of the century, the average income of the American worker was $400 to $500 a year—below the $600 figure that many believed was the minimum required to maintain a reasonable level of comfort."55
Workers in the early-20th century paid about $5 a month in rent and their wives ran boarding houses, did laundry, and performed seamstress duties in order to earn the extra income that might help make ends meet. If the workers had daughters, they began working in childcare or other odd jobs before the age of 15 to help the family survive. Boys as young as 12 got jobs crawling into newly blasted areas in the coal mines to scoop up loose chunks of coal.56 Other young boys adjusted spindles on the large textile machines of southern factories, where their mothers often also worked. Of the 20 million industrial workers nationwide in 1900, 1.7 million were children—this was twice as many child laborers as there'd been in 1870.57
If employees were hurt on the job, there was no form of workers' compensation offered to support them until 1910. Before that, workers faced what Thomas Bell described as "an appallingly bad accident record" in the steel mills, mines, and railroads of the United States.58
Between 1880 and 1900, some 35,000 workers perished each year in factory and mine accident—the highest rate in the industrial world. Another half million to a million laborers were injured every year. Exhausted workers couldn't afford to make any mistakes, as the intensely hot steel furnaces and the potentially unstable mines constantly threatened injury or death.
Even still, some accidents proved beyond human control. In these cases, a company might make a $75 contribution toward funeral expenses—families had to rely upon worker's associations and unions for the rest. Widows and orphaned children were left to their own devices for survival. And retirement was a pipe dream for most Americans—pension plans and social security didn't come into widespread existence until the Great Depression.
Progressives and Workers
Many Progressives responded to industrial America's deplorable working conditions by trying to make life better for workers, particularly the women and children who, according to Christian teachings and social tradition, were considered the most vulnerable, weak, and impressionable.
By 1900, women composed 20% of the manufacturing workforce, many performing double duty as wage workers and unpaid homemakers who were held responsible for the childcare, cooking, and cleaning. They were paid less than male workers, who weren't even making living wages themselves. At the same time, over 1.7 million children under age 16 worked in factories or fields—20% of all boys and 10% of all girls aged ten to 15 labored for wages. Progressives—especially middle-class female activists—helped spearhead the movement for laws that restricted child labor in 38 states by the late-19th century.59
But these laws didn't eradicate child labor—they usually just set a maximum ten-hour workday and established the minimum age for employment at 12 years. And 60% of child workers labored in agriculture, which remained exempt from child labor laws. Nor did these laws address the overwhelming poverty and the lack of adequate childcare that brought about child labor in the first place.60
Addressing these issues, Progressives helped enact state legislation that granted financial aid in an early form of welfare to working mothers in eight states by 1913 and in all but four states by 1930. Some states also began to provide relief for the elderly poor—a very early and limited version of social security—in 1914. Progressives also pushed for public accident insurance plans, which would provide accident victims and their families with a monetary payment to offset expenses. Such plans were enacted beginning in 1910 and a policy in all states but five by 1920.61
But several of the most substantial gains won by workers in the early-20th century weren't the design or product of Progressive agitation. After a horrific fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York killed 146 garment workers in 1911, public outrage prompted the creation of a state commission to study the origins of the fire and the condition of the industrial workplace. Senator Robert E. Wagner and Assemblyman Alfred E. Smit—two Democrats from working-class backgrounds who were products of the New York political machine known as Tammany Hall—were actually responsible for leading the push for effective labor legislation.
Progressives typically opposed political machines as corrupt organizations antithetical to a true democracy, but at least in this case, those machines took the lead in spearheading important reform legislation. Other Tammany politicians in the New York legislature, not middle-class Progressive representatives, provided the necessary votes and support to impose restrictions on factory owners and provide means of enforcement for the new labor legislation.
In the West, it wasn't middle-class Progressives but working-class Americans who spearheaded the formation of the Union Labor Party, which prompted passage of California legislation to limit working women's maximum hours on the job, as well as a child labor law. Unions organized to support similar reforms in other states.
The Triumph of Conservatism
Recent studies have also indicated that Progressive reformers weren't solely responsible for enacting worker's compensation laws in the 1910s. The key economic interest groups with a stake in the legislation—employers, workers, and insurance companies—anticipated benefits from the new regimented system. Employers and insurance companies found themselves increasingly at risk for paying large sums due to recent state laws on employer liability, court decisions that limited employers' defenses in liability suits, and rising workplace accident rates.62
In other words, life insurance companies and employers found federal regulation preferable to potentially more radical state taxes and controls.
Similarly, some small businessmen favored stronger government regulation of railroads in the 1880s, because they were at a disadvantage compared with the preferential rates and treatment given to large industries. Most bankers, from Wall Street to small-town Main Street, could agree that the new federal controls and regulations of the Wilson administration offered their industry an important measure of stability. Besides, such regulation was certainly preferable to public ownership of the banking system. Additionally, public utility executives opted for government controls in order to avoid municipal ownership.63
Business support for such measures prompted revisionist historians like Gabriel Kolko to argue that the Progressivism really represented a "triumph of conservatism," as business groups exploited the reformist zeal of the Progressive Era to serve their own ends and circumvent more fundamental or radical remedies.64 And the Progressive reforms that did pass soon prompted a response from other employers and their alliances, like the National Association of Manufacturers, founded in 1895. These groups worked in order to influence legislators so they wouldn't pass laws governing working conditions. Employers sometimes helped to write the nominally reformist legislation and made sure that the government regulatory boards were staffed with "people favorable to their interests."65
The industrial giants possessed overwhelming wealth and power—employers actively prevented or diluted workplace laws and the conservative Supreme Court frequently reversed much of the key legislation that actually was passed.
Given all these factors, little in the way of fundamental change resulted from the Progressive push for political reform. Many Progressives gradually lost their faith in legislation as the means of obtaining real change in American society. Some, like muckraking writers Lincoln Steffens and Upton Sinclair, turned to socialism as the only cure for a system they considered irreparably damaged by capitalist greed and the influence of big business.
Workers benefited nominally from the reforms that did pass, but without real change, they turned to unionization or spontaneous strikes in order to obtain better wages and working conditions. But the unions of the American Federation of Labor persisted in excluding unskilled workers from their ranks. The government persecuted radical associations like the International Workers of the World. Between the elite unions of skilled workers and the splintering radical organizations, many industrial and agricultural employees struggled to find representation until the Great Depression. In the early 1880s, more than half of all strikes didn't involve a formal trade union organization. The proportion of work stoppages rose over the next 20 years, but by 1900, one-third of all strikes were still waged without union intervention. In the absence of effective legislation or union support, workers set out on their own to assert their collective power over the production process.
To the extent that Progressive reforms actually succeeded, it may have been that employers and the government welcomed legislative regulations as an alternative to strikes, which could disrupt large sectors of American society. In this sense, workers bolstered the Progressives' cause and played a direct role in the attempt to better their lives for themselves and their children.