Politics at the Turn of the Century

The turn of the century was a big time in terms of progress made in politics, but it was just the very beginning of this change and there were still a lot of unfair/unjust policies in place in terms of politics.  Women and African Americans couldn’t vote or were greatly discriminated against, so most political influence came down to rich, white men who obviously had different political agendas than women, minorities and lower-class Americans.  With the rapid industrialization of America taking place, the vote of the working man should have been becoming more and more important, but they still had little say and had to continue to suffer through poor working conditions as just a few select corporations had almost all the power.  Industries like railroads, oil and gas were prime examples of this in this time period and were able to do whatever they wanted to the workers due to the government’s laissez-faire approach to corporations. Eventually, these working men began to be heard by politicians as journalists and labor activists and union members began to push hard enough to get the government to enact laws to improve work conditions.

1896 marked one of the last elections of a President who wasn’t progressive, and subsequent progressive president’s such as Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were getting elected and enacting changes in things like, women’s suffrage, minimum wages, work standards and many other political and labor related laws.

Throughout the late 1800’s, women’s suffrage movements were already taking place as women were fighting for their right to be heard in the political world.  In this time, a few states had already tried and failed to get a women’s suffrage ballot voted on, and as years passed, more states were putting it on ballots.  Progress was obviously being made and the movement was picking up rapidly and by 1919 the women’s suffrage amendment was passed.

The “progress” being made for African-American voters at this time was basically a front to make it look like there was progression.  Technically, African-American men could vote based on the 15th amendment passed in 1869.  However, things like grandfather clauses made it so descendants of former slaves couldn’t vote.  Other obstacles put into the way of African Americans voting were literacy tests and poll taxes, so only a very small percentage of the African American population was able to actually vote until 1965 during the height of the civil rights movement when the Voting Rights Act was signed into law.  

Overall, I would say this period of time in American history could be summed up into “the beginning of the end.”  Progress had begun on voting/civil/labor rights for women, African Americans and working class men, but America was still a long ways off from total equality for all of these people.  Movements had just begun to persuade politicians and it was later in the century that the laws would actually be implemented into society.


“A History of the Voting Rights Act.” American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union, http://www.aclu.org/issues/voting-rights/voting-rights-act/history-voting-rights-act.

“America at the Turn of the Century: A Look at the Historical Context  | Articles and Essays  | The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906  | Digital Collections  | Library of Congress.” Planning D-Day (April 2003) – Library of Congress Information Bulletin, http://www.loc.gov/collections/early-films-of-new-york-1898-to-1906/articles-and-essays/america-at-the-turn-of-the-century-a-look-at-the-historical-context/.

5 thoughts on “Politics at the Turn of the Century

  1. As Americans we should not settle for where we are as a country at any point when it comes to equality and progress. The actions of this time period absolutely were the first steps of a long road. Looking at our society today with movements such as the “Me Too” movement, women are just now finally gaining enough say in our country to affect major changes on how male superiority is looked at. Blacks are still often a product of poverty and violence, the vicious cycle of gang life in Chicago is a perfect example. Chicagoan Black children often see such violence, and criminal activity leaving them with what they feel is one of two choices. The easy way of joining gang life and getting money or busting their hump against all odds to make it out of the gang life. This leads me to think, what did children of Blacks and immigrants have to look forward to in the Gilded age? I can not assume their outlook was much brighter. The hatred and racism of that time period was so rampant and prevalent that the people affected by the hatred must have been hopeless for a long time.

  2. The push for African Americans to have the ability to vote in this time was a first step to true equal rights among the races. Although many African Americans couldn’t vote because of things such as the grandfather clause or not being able to pass a literacy test, it still allowed some African Americans to vote which is a start to the final goal of all African Americans having the right to vote.

  3. I believe giving other racial groups and women the right to vote was a major step in healing our country from the prejudice that was instilled before. Also, It was alarming the low wages that men were receiving from working all day and in harsh conditions. We should be thanking the people that fought for the rights we have today. I really enjoyed reading your blog, it was very educational.

  4. I agree with Lance’s view about how we should never be satisfied as people. My football coach has a saying that you always loose when you are satisfied. I like to think that this applies here as well. The American people recognized that they could be better and they tried their hardest to better themselves. A very well written blog as well.

  5. I think if African Americans had to take literacy test before they voted I think the other Americans should have too. Most of the Americans probably wouldn’t be able to pass it either. Its crazy how working conditions were so harsh, if you’re having a bad day at work just remember it was once worse.

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