The Progressive Era lasted from 1895 to 1915. Throughout this time period, a group known as Progressives became a reckoning force in how big businesses were regulated. Progressives felt that their vision of what American life should offer was threatened by problems in both the working-class and in the upper class. Middle-class Progressives wanted to protect their lives from industrial exploitation and strikes. In general, “the Progressives wanted to turn America into a middle-class paradise where economic security, education, health, and civility flourished.” (Keeene, Cornell, O’Donnell, 534)
Progressives saw regulation as the best way to achieve the socially just, capitalist America they envisioned. However, the middle-class was outnumbered by the working-class and did not have the resources of the rich to give them power. As a result, Progressives needed the support of the other classes for successful reforms. Progressives wanted regulations on working conditions, pay, child labor, food safety, and social problems like improving the neighborhoods of the working-class. They found common ground with the working-class, labor unions, and even socialists.
The Progressives, while having views that matched seemingly every group in society, often disagreed with each other. They were divided on how to deal with trusts, rather to preserve the environment or conserve it, and on how to improve working-class life. When united on a cause, though, the Progressives were often successful at implementing their reforms. They lobbied for legislation and regulation for food and medicine. One of the legislations Progressives pressed for was safety of milk, arguing that mothers could not protect their children adequately without help from the government. As a result, local laws were passed to prevent milk to be made to look clean by adding chalk. Another focus for Progressives was the woman’s right to vote, which eventually succeeded in a constitutional amendment.
Progressives believed that the government should set hours laws, regulate safety at work, prohibit child labor, and enforce other work-related regulations. I agree with them. Without government intervention, workers were forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions for low pay. The government has a responsibility to protect its workers and its citizens. Regulations on workplace safety, minimum wages, child labor, and other work-related problems are the best way to ensure big businesses don’t abuse their power and exploit the government’s citizens.
Cornell, Saul, Keene, Jennifer D., O’Donnell, Edward T., Visions of America: A History of the United States Books. Prentice Hall, 2016