Progressives Seek Reform

The Progressives were middle-class working people who desired a change in the American Government system. Their group consisted of women, African Americans, middle class workers, and union leaders. The women fought for their right to vote arguing that they needed to vote to keep their children and families safe (Keene, Cornell, O’Donnell 18.1.2). One of their main arguments was that many of the social problems of the nation were because of the poor living and working conditions they faced daily. The Progressives sought to reach a balance in the Government, they wanted to move away from the laissez-faire way of Government, avoid class conflicts, and prevent the government from having complete control of the economy. They thoroughly believed that the country had to reform or face the end of the democracy.

Through regulations, the Progressives hoped to abolish big business trusts, limit or prohibit child labor so children could be educated, and they wanted the Government to establish regulations for safety and conditions, minimum wage laws, and laws setting maximum hours for workers. Though it was for misogynistic reasons, women were allowed to work less. States mandated school attendance so child labor declined, the Progressives also set up clubs and playgrounds to keep kids away from theft and crime. Many exposés were written to divulge the unsafe, grueling conditions inside factories. As the public grew aware of these harsh working conditions, factories began to change their ways to be safer and more sanitary. For the business trusts, the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890) and the Clayton Antitrust Act (1914) regulated big businesses in hope to prevent them from becoming too powerful.

The Government should not prohibit child labor, but rather regulate it because the needs of each family vary. Safety should be regulated because it is in the best interest of the public and the Government to protect the population from unsanitary, unsafe business practices under greedy businessmen. The Government should regulate hours, set a minimum wage, and other laws because it would help protect those who unionized from receiving lower wages or losing their jobs.

Personally, I agree with the Progressives. I think the Government should have a more active role than in laissez-faire (hands-off) practices. As we’ve seen from studying this era, if the Government doesn’t regulate business practices, then greed will take over and lead to harsh conditions with low wages and unsafe and unsanitary workplaces. Child labor laws must be effect because every child should have a right to an education and should not be doing the undesirable, dangerous jobs or working unjust hours. Not to mention, our Government needs to offer some protection for workers who decide to unionize. It is their right to make that decision and the Government needs to protect them and their rights from businesses punishing them.


Keene, Jennifer D., Saul T. Cornell and Edward T. O’Donnell. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Combined Volume, 3/e. Boston: Pearson, n.d.

9 thoughts on “Progressives Seek Reform

  1. I also agree about having a progressives view back then. Comparing to today it is just crazy to hear the conditions and the harsh work day for a children and women. I also agree that the government should regulate these industrial powers. With regulation we can really create a better society for everyone, though big business may not like it, it is definitely needed. I am glad we have learned from the past and have come far, creating a the country that we know today.

  2. “The Progressives sought to reach a balance in the Government,”

    I really respect that they sought a balance instead of an extreme. In today’s society a lot of people unfortunately stand for one extreme or the other. In my opinion, a lot of times the best solutions to our country’s problems are in the middle.

  3. Progressives tried to better the economy and help the working class. They knew the working class was not being treated right and business owners were full of greed. Businesses had so much greed that the government was usually involved in decisions when these decisions could of been made by the business owners. Governments should not be involved in businesses but there should be laws set to protect workers.

    1. They did so well with trying to make it better because they would not give up at all. Businesses really did have a lot of greed and it seemed like all they cared about was the money in all honesty. There should be so many laws to protect workers from business owners treating them badly. NO one should be put through poor treatment.

  4. “Personally, I agree with the Progressives. I think the Government should have a more active role than in laissez-faire (hands-off) practices.”

    I also would have to say that I agree with the Progressives. They took what every other political group or union was saying and they blended it all together to produce their idea of what was best for America. Without them doing that, we would definitely not live in the world we do today. We also would not have half of the freedoms we have today. The conditions of work and even living would be unbearable, so we have the Progressives to thank for their idea of bettering America.

    1. I agree that without the progressive movement the country would be it pretty rough shape. If it wern’t for the various laws and regulations passed during this period, we would still have people working in dangerous conditions for long hours , child labor, and the environment would likely be in terrible condition.

  5. I definitely would have agreed with many of the Progressive views. Times were changing for the better and people were starting to have a voice. Women and children were getting rights. I am so happy children were made to go to school by law. The children in our world are our future. If children were made to work all their lives we would not be where we are today.

  6. The government did need to take an active role in large businesses to protect the workers. For example, look what happened with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire where men and women died in the fire because they were locked in so that they would work. Government created regulations so that working conditions improved, they regulated child labor laws and unfair wages.

  7. Yes Progressives played a great role in getting business regulations pointed in the right direction. As far as safety, child labor, and hours worked I believe that those are good regulations that government can part take in. I don’t believe that government belongs in the business ends of things though. I don’t think they should have any say in what you produce, how much you sell and things like that.

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