The Plight of the Lower Classes

During the twentieth century, the Progressive Era began because of industrialization, urbanization, and corrupt government. During this period, big businesses began dominating the workforce and smaller businesses found it hard to rival with them. The Progressives wanted to promote their own scheme. The middle class made up a majority of the Progressive movement. But this class lacked people and money and were looking for help from the other classes. The Progressive Party included many women, which began feminism. The Progressive Era started because the middle-class wanted workplace protection, economic help, and more education.
Throughout the 1900’s, the middle class went through poor conditions and wanted change. Big businesses were in control of the market while the small businesses couldn’t keep up with competition. For example, Rockefeller was in charge of 90% of the oil in the United States with his trust to make him rich. Workers did not have very much protection, if they were sick or injured they were fired. Progressives wanted the government to step in and create regulations to protect workers and stop monopolies. With the help of President Roosevelt the Progressives gained many of the things they were fighting for. Teddy Roosevelt realized he needed change the way America handled things or deal with the end of democracy. A few years after Roosevelt’s presidency, Woodrow Wilson was voted into the position. Wilson created a more diverse and competitive workforce, which allowed for smaller businesses to thrive. The Progressive Era brought about change especially for the middle and lower classes.
Within the Progressive Movement, women started to want a voice and change within their cities. Women were fighting for many different rights. One effective movement of the women during this time dealt with the cleanliness of milk. Women wanted all milk to be clean and disease-free for the safety of their newborn children. They succeeded with their mission to get clean milk after they took it to legislature. Women started creating their own unions, and these unions became more popular after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. People during that time believed that all females should have the right to vote. The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) started gaining notice from 1910-1920. The NWSA was one of the main groups who fought for women’s right to vote. They won in six states: Washington, California, Arizona, Kansas, Oregon, and New York. Women fought for rights and were a part of the Progressive Movement.
Progressives fought for higher wages, sensible hours, and safe working conditions. They fought through many hardships. Women were especially impressive, they fought for basic rights such as voting and equal pay. Helped with the different presidencies of the time, Progressives sought reform by using their party to promote the idea.


Keene, Jennifer D., et al. Visions of America: A History of the United States. Pearson, 2013.

8 thoughts on “The Plight of the Lower Classes

  1. I enjoyed reading your post! Your writing about the women’s suffrage movement reminded me of the link between it and the temperance movement. As women began to gain the right to vote in specific states and municipalities, they often supported banning alcohol. For working class families, the male-dominated saloon culture could be a threat to home life. This was concerning to many of women, who took temperance movements to be the answer to rampant alcohol consumption and to creating a more moral society. It is striking and impressive to see the immediate impact that women were able to make on American politics as they gained the right to vote. Women finally had a meaningful say in their country’s governance.

  2. I knew that this time period was was a tragic time for women in the work place, but it wasn’t until I read the chapter that i realize how catastrophic it was. The fact the women had to fight for clean safe milk breaks my heart. I couldn’t imagine stressing about normal day to day things in life on top of stressing about if the milk i was feeding my child was going to make them extremely ill.

  3. Great blog post, I really enjoyed reading it! I think it is really interesting that women were at the forefront of many issues, started their own unions, etc. They way they rallied after the fire is impressive. It’s also really interesting to compare times from then until now, things that happened during this time period seem so archaic and appalling, it’s hard to believe that this was America at a point in time. Again, great post!

  4. I thought it was super interesting, and mind blowing, to learn about how much Rockefeller was in charge of when it came to the oil fields. That figure shows how these corporations monopolized over other small businesses. Since their rights were very limited, it was easy to run a monopoly because no one was going to stop you if you had the capability of doing so. Wilson’s role during the Progressive Era was very important in smaller businesses thriving.

  5. I enjoyed reading your post. I didn’t realize until this class how much people actually suffered in not only the work force. But for the women trying to get simple things like milk. I also didn’t realize that Rockefeller owned such a huge majority of the oil. The oil industry today is much more divided within multiple owners. This definitely gave him some pull in major decisions.

  6. You can definitely tell women has impacted and made their mark on history. They have came a long way and give more opportunity for the women now a days. Open many peoples eye of a human is capable of.

  7. Rockefeller never should have been allowed to control that much of the oil industry. In order for economies to grow and flourish there needs to be competition and monopolies like this destroy this. They can easily control the market by lowering prices until their competitors run out of business then jacking them up when all of the competition is gone, increasing their wealth and how much of a hold they have on the market.

  8. The way women were treated during this time period was awful. Employers had absolutely no concern for their safety and would try to save money by building less sturdy fire exits, endangering them even more, as was shown when the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory caught on fire. Then, to top it all off, women had practically no say when it came to politics, even when the politics were about women.

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