Before we set into what the term “progressivism” is, let us quick take a look at a history of what become known as the Progressive Era.  In this period of time, large corporate business’s ran the country with middle class folk working hours to no avail.  Corporate greed stood large while the government sat back and let business’s run their own standards.  The people of this era wanted better living for their families, better work hours, more pay and better working conditions.  Women wanted equal rights to vote and become more independent.  These people became known as the Progressives.

The Progressive Era brought what is known as “progressivism,” which is a term that is best described as the movement that brought changes to a political, economic and social level.  Americans at this time had a feeling of fear that political and economic power were causing havoc and destroying the people’s opportunity for growth.


This era brought a lot of different aspects to the public view.  Women were trying to get equal rights to vote, workers were trying to make better wages for less hours, child labor ran rampant and forms of prohibition had started.  In the first instance, the “Anti-Saloon League” was formed together with in accordance to “The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in response to hinder the working class’s freedom to have alcohol.  According to the book “Visions in America,” the Anti-Saloon League and WCTU were urging supporters to make “their state or country “dry” by banning the sale of alcohol.”  Most women during this time were garnering their right to vote, and now with their right available, they were gathering in numbers to stop the sale of booze.  Alcohol, even in today’s standard, is a very important role when it comes to social gathering.  The discontinuing sale of booze seemed as a result of people able to finally voice an opinion, whether the opinion really mattered to them to begin with.  In 1885 to 1990, the alcohol consumption more than doubled from 590 million to 1.2 billion, which prompted these leagues to creation.


If women’s voting rights and the banning of alcohol wasn’t enough turmoil in this time, child labor also ran rampant.  Children could work for only a fraction of what their adult counterparts made and most business’s preferred children due to their bi-lingual matters.  It didn’t help for the time that most of the children of labor were from immigrant families and having their child work did not matter to them because the same situation had happened to them in their youth.  One of the biggest hurdles to child labor wasn’t the fact of their youth but of the hazardous conditions.  Factories did not care to update their machinery as long as demand was met.  Around 1900, around 30,000 injuries and around 1 million injuries occurred every year from work related injuries(not just children.)  Many believed children should not have been working these factories and should have only been enjoying their adolescent youth.  Congress had finally passed a bill that would help regulate child labor in the later 1920’s but a total ban of child labor did not pass until at least the 1930’s.

In the end, the Progressive Era brought many ideas and problems to the growth of industrialization.  With the likes of Henry Ford and his invention of the assembly car line, factory positions may never have improved.  Henry Ford used a system that helped the workers keep a 9 hour work day and five dollars a day for pay (unlike the normal 10 hour day for most of the industry.)  The system had worked but many people didn’t like it based on the fact that Ford had set rules for each worker.  The workers were set to be like a “puppet” and forced to work without any interruptions or interaction with each other.  A term called “taylorism” was used for the workers because of its idea of the workers having no independence.  People sort of act like a machine in which they must obey their master in order to receive their “goods” for the day.

You could say if taylorism wasn’t around, would people still get the benefits and creativity they so deemed?  History has a strange way to repeat itself at times and one could wonder if the world really has changed in the last 120 years.

D.Keene, J., Cornell, S., & O’Donnell, E. (2017). “Visions of America: A History of the United States”. Creating a Democratic Paradise, p. 545-559.