After the Gilded Age, came the Progressive Era. The Progressive Era was the time between 1895 and 1915. It is most famously known for people wanting to make a difference in how the United States functioned as a country. These people were called Progressives. Progressives were mainly made up of the middle class. They manufactured multiple reforms that “envisioned using local, state, and federal government to protect Americans from the greed and indifference of big business” (Keene, Cornell, O’Donnell Pg. 534). Progressives also confronted political and social issues and reconstructed the government’s role in the coming decades.
Progressives held many differing views in regards to the workforce. However, they all agreed that the workplace must be transformed into an environment where workers worked for decent wages and a humane number of hours. An example of what the Progressives fought for, was Henry Ford’s way of doing business. Henry Ford paid two times the standard income. He also only had his workers work for nine hours a day instead of ten. Progressives believed that government regulation made workers lives better and made it so that the economy operated fluently.
Progressives viewed workplace accidents differently from what employers viewed. Traditionally employers claimed that all job incidents were the workers faults and that it was not the company’s liability. Progressives strongly disagreed with this claim and “undertook detailed sociological studies to refute these self-serving generalizations” (Keene, Cornell, O’Donnell Pg. 534). An example of one of these sociological studies was led by Lewis Hines. Hines led a photographic investigation into the lives of hurt workers. The result of the studies was the increased attention employers gave to workplace safety.
Another one of the Progressives’ main goals was to protect children. They believed that children should not go to work, but become educated and have a chance to play. Progressives viewed child labor as the greed of employers. During the Progressive era, “school enrollments, the number of days in a row in a school year, and money spent per pupil all rose” (Keene, Cornell, O’Donnell Pg. 553). Progressives improved the lives of children by creating a juvenile criminal system, playgrounds, and local boys and girls clubs.
Keene, Jennifer D, et al. Visions of America A History of the United States. 3rd ed., vol. 2, Boston, MA, Pearson, 2017.