Changing Times, the Progressive Era.

The turn of the century was the scene for major social and economical change for America. Workers were forced to work in dangerous conditions for long hours with little pay. Industrialists were protected by the government more times than not and workers paid the price. Women were treated as second class citizens who couldn’t vote and African Americans were legally discriminated against. Children had to work to support their families. America was no longer proving to be the enchanting land of dreams immigrants were expecting, America was turning out to be a bitter and depressing place to call home.

Beginning in the late 1890’s the middle class began to focus on the unfair treatment and injustice that was rampant in industry and began to form groups, unions, and even a political party to fight for office. These “progressives” were attempting to fight for the people’s interest in an era of American history that was dominated by laissez-faire economics and big business. The progressives agenda focused on, among other things, work conditions, economic security, social rights, and health. Additionally the progressives dreamed of a government that would fight to protect the interests of the workers and not the greedy business owners. Much of the progressives goals came to fruit through political action on the part of progressives and their associated politicians.

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Of all the progressive politicians, none are as well known as Theodore Roosevelt. Becoming President following the assassination of President McKinley, President Roosevelt would soon begin reining in large businesses and begin to implement changes aimed at aiding the struggling working class and the middle class. Roosevelt would soon file suits against large trusts, mediate the 1902 coal strike, and designate national parks and monuments in order to protect the nations natural resources for future generations. Through more unions, different politicians, and combined efforts, things were changing. Laws were being passed to limit the number of hours in a day, work conditions and safety were improving, children were being kept out of the dangerous factories and put in school longer, and health was becoming a topic of concern.

Work laws have been vital to our country. We have become a better educated society because we have kept kids in school, we are a happier society because of better work conditions, and we are healthier because of better sanitation regulations. Our country is as successful overall as it is because of our increase in rules and regulations during the progressive era. If our country wouldn’t have changed from the laissez-faire economic approach, there is no telling how different our world could be. Rampant pollution? No women’s suffrage? Child labor? All we can truly say is we benefited as a whole from the progressive era.


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

13 thoughts on “Changing Times, the Progressive Era.

  1. I agree with you that America was turning out to be a bitter and depressing place to call home during the progressive era. Life was very hard for the hard working men and women and even children. America has come a far way since the progressive movement.

    1. Yes, America has come very far. And thank goodness! Because, like you said work life was very hard and I could not imagine having to go/send my family to work everyday in those conditions.

  2. I agree that America has come a long way. I am so glad that child labor is no longer, it was horrible how those poor children were treated and how they couldn’t even be children because they had to work all the time. Thank goodness we have stronger laws now.

    1. I am also glad! Instead of school you have to work all day and make barely any money at all. These were depressing times! Can’t imagine living in this time period. These laws gave workers access to healthier, happier, and safer lives.

  3. I agree that the Progressive Movement led to essential changes in the quality of life for many Americans. In the modern day world we would have not had the development and evolution of technology, if it was not for the possibility for children to not work and get an education. This education allowed for some of the greatest minds to expand their view of the world and develop things that go beyond a normal person’s understanding.

  4. It’s great to see the things that people can accomplish as a whole. They came together and worked for a change, because it affected so many people: the bad working conditions, child labor, and women’s rights issues. Americans finally began to see that education was important for children, and that better working conditions would mean happier, healthier, and more loyal workers.

  5. I agree with you completely. As I mentioned in a previous comment, there are so many things that people now take for granted that the Progressives fought hard for. Imagine if children were still working instead of attending school or if the minimum wage law never came about. Even image if that 19th amendment never came around. Then you mentioned pollution. If the pollution problem never got addressed in this time period, would many of us even be around to see this world. This country as we know if would be flipped upside down. If I could go back in time, the first thing I would do is thank a Progressive.

  6. I liked the point you made about Roosevelt and how you added in his contributions to the progressive movement in America. I think he played a key role in getting progressive ideas looked at on the big political stage for the middle class progressive people. Without many of the progressive changes made in America, our country would be very different today.

  7. It will always terrify me to my very core that for so many years we as a nation allowed children to be working in conditions we considered even then to be inhumane, and worse yet employers actively sought to hire these children and felt no moral obligation to provide proper safety conditions for them. It took government intervention for us to stop sending out children into factories and to actually make these factories in any way acceptable by our standards today. In many ways this is why I believe the Progressive Movement was probably one of the most important turning points for us as a society.

  8. The fact that we have kept kids in school longer gives America the chance to create better and new jobs that we can excel in. I also believe that when children went to school longer they learned the acceptable environment they need to be in rather than working without knowing right from wrong. I also believe that the Progressive Movement was one of the important moving points for the society

  9. I love your blog this week. It was very difficult for the hard working men and women of this era. I agree that having kids in school longer will help them in the future. I believe that the progressive movement was very important to our society. Very nice job this week.

  10. I also agree with you that leaving kids in school for longer amounts of time benefits them in the future. It gives them more time for their minds to develop and grow and that will later help out American society as people will be better equipped when they get jobs. The progressive movement was important to society and we still see it’s impact to this day.

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