The time period from 1895-1915 is known as the Progressive Era in America. A diverse group of reformers known as “Progressives” were attempting to protect the American people from the greed and ruthlessness of big businesses. They believed that regulation from the government on every level was the best way to achieve this objective. An example of big business’s ruthlessness was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on March 25, 1911. On that sad day 146 women and men died in a fire in the factory. People were forced to jump out the window because the doors were locked from the outside by the employers. The employers locked the doors to stop people from leaving early or stealing. Locking the doors from the outside was ruthless in my opinion. They treated and trapped their employees like animals. They would’ve been better offer just having security guards posted outside the doors. But having security guards cost money, so their greed got the best of them and they just locked the doors.
The Progressives desire for more government regulation was born out of suffering. Many middle-class people believed in the idea of self-reliance until Big Business started dominating the economy at the turn of the century. The rise of Big Business put a lot of middle-class ran businesses out of business. People like John D. Rockefeller will tell you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. But when you go to do so, they knock you upside the head with their greater resources. And that’s pretty much what happen to a lot of middle-class proprietors.
The working class suffered greatly under Big Business. And tales of that suffering invoked both sympathy and fear in many middle-class people. So Progressives knew that things needed to change. Lacking the wealth of the upper class and the numbers of the working class, Progressives had to get creative. They manifested their creativity by building cross-class political coalitions. And by the end of the Progressive Era, the government had a greater role in regulating the economy, protecting workers, and many other things. The Progressives didn’t achieve all their goals but they laid a powerful foundation for future reformers.
In my personal opinion, I believe the government should only get involve in business if it’s necessary. And unfortunately greedy/ruthless businesses make it necessary. If people run a business that is unsafe for their workers, that’s evil. Is making money more important to them than human life? But when the government gets involved they get mad. Not realizing they’re the reason the government got involved. When it comes to minimum wage, I do believe there should be a minimum wage. And I wish all businesses would pay their employees a living wage if it’s feasible. However, I also believe people have to take responsibility for their lives and make power moves. Constantly doing something that elevates them and becoming more strategic in life decisions. Human beings have tremendous power within; the Progressive Era is proof of that power.
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.