The Gilded Age: Marginalized Groups and Politics


America 1877-1900, also known as the Gilded Age, was a time period where achievements of the time were used as a veil that hid the real and unresolved social issues underneath. One of the main social issues that occurred in this time period was the discrimination against many marginalized groups such as African Americans, women, and immigrants. In this age, there was a great increase in urban population growth, much of which came from these discriminated groups. Although all three groups contributed to the urban growth, immigrants were the most significant. Many of these people came to America to escape lives of persecution, warfare, and poverty. With the rise of immigration, came anti-immigrant legislation. Many proposals were made in hope of keeping immigrants from acquiring public jobs. Nativists thought immigrants were the cause of problems such as poverty, crime, and disease and wanted to eliminate these issues by restricting immigration. With many blaming immigrants for these urban issues, there were also Americans who believed these problems could be minimized with various policies and institutions.
This time was also important for many women as they found themselves with more free time between lower birth rates and the increase of the employment of servants. According to gender-roles women were to remain in the home and business and politics were damaging to their “virtuous womanhood” (Keene, section 17.2.3). With this free time, women began joining clubs for charity and social reform. These clubs allowed women to become activists and exercise their political influence. This activism brought about the women’s suffrage movement, which was an attempt to obtain voting rights for women. Many struggles were faced by these activists, but in the end they achieved their goals with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. While these women achieved their goal of obtaining voting rights, racism caused the segregation of African American women from any clubs and suffrage movements held by the white women. Black women did not let this segregation stop them. They soon established clubs and suffrage movements that pertained more to the issues that black women faced.

During these hard times, politics were mostly controlled by wealthy white men making the political movements of these marginalized groups difficult. Many corporations would use donations as a form of bribery to different political parties in order to stop political legislation that would be harmful to their interests. An example of this bribery at work would be the Sherman Act of 1890. This act was originally intended to “crack down on business practices that diminished competition” (Keene, section 17.4.1). This law was then weakened by the opposition of legislators that favored corporations and was ultimately used to weaken labor unions by big business.
Keene, Jennifer D., Visions of America: A History of the United States, Vol 2, 3e, Pearson, 2017.

5 thoughts on “The Gilded Age: Marginalized Groups and Politics

  1. It is truly outrageous that women, African Americans, and immigrants were discriminated against so bad during this time in history. What were some struggles that women activist came along as they were working for voting rights? What were the corporations called that used bribery and donations in their favor?

  2. The sad thing is, even in our society today, we still discriminate against these same groups of people, but in a different way. Information I gathered from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2017, women of all races and ethnicities earned, on average, 18.2% less than men of all races and ethnicities. Not only does discrimination happen on the basis of gender, but race plays a huge role as well. Hispanic women make 24.2% less than white women according to the same statistics. Learning how to destroy these gaps in pay and expectations between all races and genders will improve our society and help to destroy the forms of discrimination that these groups still have to fight against.

  3. America was built on immigration. The great melting pot was once the New World. A life for fresh starts, and freedom. Then immigrants were hated and blamed for so many things. But my question is, were the things they were blamed for wrong? Now I am not condoning hatred on any level, and hatred towards immigrants is wrong. However, from the beginning of this nation immigrants brought diseases. We were the immigrants bringing them!! How many Native Americans were killed because they did not have the immune system to battle the diseases we brought with us. The diseases that were brought over by other immigrants after us may have hurt in the beginning, but eventually made us into the great nation we are. Our immune systems are so strong, and our medicine is much more advanced. This happens because we had the struggle, but also victory of immigration. We were able to fight through tough times as America should always be able to do.

  4. Very interesting blog, it’s sad to see how badly African Americans and immigrants were discriminated against. It’s even sadder to see that today people are still discriminating against these same groups.

  5. This a very good blog. You made some very good points. I could not have imagined being a women back then, I am a women that like her freedom and independents. I enjoy working hard for I have it makes me appreciate things more. I also now a day it’s more common to have a women in charge unlike a wealthy rich man and yes there is still men in charge today.

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