In the late 1800s to early 1900s a group known as the Progressives arose. Progressives were a very diverse group heavily filled with women from the middle-class who sought to reform a better society. Their main focus leaned toward restraining large business corporations and to protect women and children’s rights. They protected other classes as well as their own in order to see success, because they did not have the financial resources of the wealthy upper class they made regulations on set hour laws, regulated safety, prohibited child labor, and set minimum wage along with many other laws relating to not only their class but others as well.
“Childhood should be devoted to education and play, not work.” (Keene, Cornell, O’Donnell, 552) This is something the Americans of the middle-class believed. Unlike the middle-class the working-class shared the belief of employers that children should work. They grew up working and by doing so they learned the importance of working. “ A South Italian peasant who has picked olives and packed oranges from his toddling babyhood, cannot see at once the difference between the outdoor healthy work which he has performed in the varying seasons, and the long hours of monotonous factory life which his child encounters when he goes to work in Chicago.” (Keene, Cornell, O’Donnell, 553) Progressives get the outsider view that the working-class parents can’t see. Every child is entitled to a education and with a proper education working-class children have the opportunity to move up and maybe do something other than factory work like their parents.
Progressives transformed the workplace. They made work into a place where employees worked for a set amount of hours in a safe environment. These set hours would allow workers to have a life outside of work. In addition to the set hours Progressives worked toward setting a minimum wage. Workers would receive a fair wage they could live off of and support their families. This was substantially helpful now that their children were not working who typically contributed one tenth of the families income.
“Progressives wanted to turn America into a middle-class paradise.” (Keene, Cornell, O’Donnell, 538) This paradise Progressives are referring to would be the growth of economic stability and security, along with health and education. A new America, it would give men, women, and children the opportunity to live their lives. One where your child is growing up playing with other children in playgrounds rather than in hazardous factories. A life where no matter the circumstances you receive pay for the work you have done. Women will be treated more equally and have the right to vote. Progressives saw regulation as the best way to create this middle-class paradise, and that’s exactly what they would do at the turn of the century and what lead to the America we know today.
Keene, Jennifer D., et al. Visions of America: a History of the United States. Vol. 2, Pearson, 2017.