Progressivism – Keep Moving Forward


Progress is defined as the forward or onward movement toward a destination. Near the turn of the 20th century a reform movement occurred that reflected this and brought a hunger for change. This movement was referred to as Progressivism. The people who aspired toward the societal changes this movement could bring were called the Progressives.

The Progressives were a group of people that were a bit difficult to pin down. It was a very broad group of people, who couldn’t be defined by a certain few characteristics. The Progressives were a diverse group of people composed of muckrakers, middle class, and they were mostly women. This group had a plethora of issues that they were interested in tackling including, but not limited to: women suffrage, child labor, political corruption, prison reform, education, old age security, asylum reform, etc.

One of the reforms that was rather successful was women’s suffrage. The ideas and views on women’s suffrage have changed drastically since this time in history up to our current day and age.  The typical view from that era was that a woman’s place was in the home, doing her duties for her husband and family. Taking care of and raising the children, and running the household, while the men took care of all political decisions. A speech from Lyman Wilcox sums up this view perfectly, “Now I ask in all earnestness, will women throw away all their present advantages and remand society back to dissoluteness and anarchy, and themselves to brute force in a mad race after Pandora’s box? Childishly grasping after political power and notoriety in competition with men, which necessitates their absence from the hearthstone, divides their attention and energies from home to politics and to all the coarser realities of life, and engages them in a debasing struggle with men in the arena of the outdoor world?” (Thick, 135). He also went on to say that intelligent women were the ones who didn’t want to vote or leave the house, and that, “An aged spinster becomes disgusted with her life and longs for change. She asks for a ballot when she really wants a husband” (Thick, 136). Wilcox talked in his speech about how the sexes were equal and that sex did not determine intelligence. He states that women are intelligent, yet he then goes on to imply that that is only the case if they are doing exactly what they should be by staying at home and letting the men handle everything.

Today’s views on women’s suffrage and equality in politics may not be perfect. But it is a far cry from Lyman Wilcox’s speech and what it once was. Not only do women (and not just those who own land) have the right to vote, they also run for office, are in the courts, and have even run for president. Women’s role in the world of politics has grown immensely thanks to the help from the Progressives. Women now have the rights that men do, and have the ability to bring change to the world through their increased power in the political world.


Thick, M. R. (2018). The great water a documentary history of Michigan. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.


8 thoughts on “Progressivism – Keep Moving Forward

  1. Since women had to pay taxes and abide by the same laws and rules as men did, it was only fair that they have the right to vote. Taxation without representation is against the very foundation of who we are as a country. Many people didn’t agree with the movement and so it was a long fought battle to gain the right to vote for women. Through suffrage reforms, women gained the beginnings of the equal rights they deserved as citizens of this country.

  2. It is nice that you started right off with the definition on progress. Also, it is safe to say that the women’s suffrage was successful as they have accomplished women’s rights. It is truly mind boggling that women did not have the right to vote.

  3. I believe that as women began to search for equality, those who did not support suffrage based their claims on the importance of the “traditional family” and that has been all but disproved with the vast variety of mixed families today. The anti-suffragists also tried to debase the women by denouncing the character and morals of the progressives, in a sense saying they would be doing society a misdeed and corrupting the institutions of family and marriage, which has also been disproved by many successful women, but is still an issue in American society and all over the world.

  4. Now in my own home, my wife stays home and does the housework instead of working, that is her choice! She has every right to do whatever she wants and I support her in all of her choices and actions. I can not imagine trying to force her to stay home and not allow her to have the freedom to work or vote or even leave the house. I am glad to see that social change like women’s rights have evolved in the ways that it has.

  5. It is crazy to think that not very long ago in our nations history, women did not have the same rights as men. Even though they had to pay taxes and were citizens of the nation, they couldn’t vote and have other rights. I thought this was a very well written post, good job.

  6. I love the title of your blog and your introduction, really draws you in and explains what you are going to talk about. I love your use of this quote “An aged spinster becomes disgusted with her life and longs for change. She asks for a ballot when she really wants a husband” because it really shows the mindset of some men in power at the time. You made some excellent points about how far we have come as a country on fighting for women’s rights but I argue that we are from it being over. Great blog, fun read!

  7. Wilcox claiming that women wanted a ballot when in actuality they wanted a husband is a pretty typical anti-woman statement that is still used today. The idea that all of feminists’ problems would be saved if they only had a man or that all feminists are ugly and only care about their rights because they can’t get a man is a mindset that has remained through the years. Look at anti-suffrage comics then and anti-#metoo comics now. It’s the same thing.

  8. I like that you mentioned that then a “woman’s place was in the home, doing her duties for her husband and family” This was true, but I believe it played a large role in becoming the successful civilization we did become. Women’s role in politics have become something so much bigger than simply the right to vote, but also the right to run for office, which is made very clear on the upcoming ballot

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