The Progressive Era (1901-1917) (attitudes and motives (who were the…
The Progressive Era (1901-1917)
political reforms in cities and states
Progressives believed that the majority of voters would elect honest officials instead of the corrupt ones backed by boss-dominated political machines. Progressives advocated a number of reforms for increasing the participation of the average citizen in political decision-making.
Australian, or Secret, Ballot
In 1888, Massachusetts was the first state to adopt a system successfully tried in Australia of issuing ballots printed by the state and requiring voters to mark their choices secretly within a private booth, and it was adopted by all states in 1910.
In 1903, the Progressive governor of Wisconsin, Robert La Follette, introduced a new system for bypassing politicians and placing the nominating process directly in the hands of the voters--the direct primary. The system's effectiveness in overthrowing boss rule was limited, as politicians devised ways of confusing the voters and splitting the anti machine vote.
Direct Election of US Senators
Progressives believed that since US senators were chosen by the state legislature, the senate became a millionaires' club dominated by big business. In 1913, the adoption of the 17th Amendment required that all US senators be elected by popular vote.
Initiative, Referendum, and Recall
Amendments to state constitutions offered voters the initiative--a method by which voters could compel that legislature to consider a bill and the referendum--a method that allowed citizens to vote on proposed laws printed on their ballots. The recall enabled voters to remove a corrupt or unsatisfactory politician from office by majority vote before that official's term had expired.
origins of progressivism
it acquired national momentum only with the dawn of a new century and the unexpected swearing into office of a young president, Theodore Roosevelt, in 1901.
The Progressive era lasted through the Republican presidencies of Roosevelt (1901-1909) and William Howard Taft (1909-1913), and the first term of the Democrat Woodrow Wilson (1913-1917).
U.S. entry into WWI in 1917 diverted public attention away from domestic issues and brought the era to an end--but not before major regulatory laws had been enacted by Congress and various state legislatures.
attitudes and motives
A missionary spirit inspired some middle-class reformers. Protestant churches preached against vice and taught a code of social responsibility, which included caring for the less fortunate and insisting on honesty in public life.
Theodore Roosevelt and Robert La Follette in the Republican party and William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson in the Democratic party demonstrated a vigorous style of political leadership that had been lacking from national politics during the Gilded Age.
who were the progressives?
The groups in this movement were extremely diverse, and loosely linking reform efforts under a single label, Progressive, was a belief that society badly needed changes and the government was the proper agency for correcting social and economic ills.
Most Progressives were middle-class men and women who lived in cities. Members of this business and professional middle class took their civic responsibilities seriously and belonged to the hundreds of national business and professional associations that provided platforms to address corrupt business and government practices and urban social and economic problems.
The Progressives--like American reformers before them--were committed to democratic values and shared in the belief that honest government and just laws could improve the human condition.
They believed that people should take a pragmatic, or practical, approach to morals, ideals, and knowledge. Progressive thinkers adopted the new philosophy of pragmatism because it enabled them to challenge fixed notions that stood in the way of reform.
Many progressives believed that government too could be made more efficient if placed in the hands of experts and scientific managers. They objected to the corruption of political bosses partly because it was an inefficient way to run things.
African Americans in the Progressive Era
African Americans were, for the most part, ignored by Progressive presidents and governors. With the Supreme Court's "separate but equal" decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), racial segregation had been the rule in the South and, unofficially, in much of the North. The Progressive era coincided with years when thousands of blacks were lynched by racist mobs.
Economic deprivation and exploitation was one problem; denial of civil rights was another.
Booker T. Washington argued that blacks' needs for educations and economic progress were of foremost importance, and that they should concentrate on learning industrial skills for better wages. Then, they could realize their other goal of political and social equality.
Du Bois demanded equal rights for African Americans and argued that political and social rights were a prerequisite for economic independence.
Women and Suffrage
The Progressive era was a time of increased activism and optimism for a new generation of feminists.
Carrie Chapman Catt, an energetic reformer from Iowa, became the new president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1900 and continued the drive to win votes for women at the state level before changing strategies and seeking a suffrage amendment to the US Constitution. .
Alice Paul of New Jersey formed the National Women's party and focused on winning the support of Congress and the president for an amendment to the Constitution.
The 19th amendment in 1920 guaranteed women's right to vote in all elections at the local, state, and national levels.