The Impact of Progressives


There have been many actions taken throughout history that have changed the world for the better. Progressives were the beginning of some of these important changes, and their impact on society can still be seen throughout the world today. The Progressives were a group of reformers that were considered middle class. They wanted to promote capitalism and a free market place because they believed it would be beneficial. Progressives shared a “[…] philosophical approach rather than a formal organized movement […]” (Keene pg 537). Progressives were attempting to eliminate some of the issues that were arising from industrialism along with political corruption, and there were many ways, in which, they took action.

One of the steps taken by Progressives to further their progress was forming a political party. This became beneficial when they wanted to pass laws that would provide more regulations throughout urban life. A political party gave them a way to try and get more involved with the government and political decisions. They also had the support of three presidents which included Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. This helped them further their progress politically. The laws they wanted to add helped put in place some regulations that had to be followed which benefited those working. Some of the things Progressives wanted to fix were the sanitation, working conditions, women’s suffrage, democratic influence among citizens, and food and medicine safety. “In a general sense the Progressives wanted to turn America into a middle-class paradise where economic security, education, health, and civility flourished” (Keene pg 538).

The overall health of the public was a major issue that the Progressives wanted to fix. Some issues that were negatively impacting the public’s health was a lack of sanitation and food and medicine safety. There was a lack of sanitization throughout the Progressive Era which was an issue when it came to the health of the overall population. A major aspect of sanitization that had to be improved was garbage collection because of the filthy streets. Food and medicine safety were two other major issues that the Progressives addressed. The Jungle, written by Upton Sinclair, addressed the horrific working conditions that people endured. Upton Sinclair’s experience in the meatpacking industry led him to write The Jungle. When people began to realize just how bad the food industry was, they began to demand change. One of the main laws that was passed was the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 which “levied fines for mislabeling food or medicine” (Keene pg 556). This has greatly benefited society, and life wouldn’t be the same without food and medicine safety. Citizens couldn’t make informed decisions about their diets, and they wouldn’t be able to know what their medicine consisted of. Life would be completely different, and the citizens would be less informed.

There were terrible working conditions the Progressives tried to fix. Working was dangerous, and there were many ways a worker could be injured. If a worker was injured, this left them without a job. Overall, the job security was low because of the greed that was involved with businesses. Child labor was another issue the Progressives tried to stop, and this topic was heavily debated throughout the Progressive Era. Some believed that they were preparing children to be productive adults while others believed that children should be in school longer. The changes that have occurred ended up benefiting us nowadays because of the rules and regulations that businesses have to follow. If the Progressives didn’t try and change the way life was back then, who knows where we would be now. The conditions could have stayed the same or could have even gotten worse. The government should continue to set hours laws, regulate safety, prohibit child labor, and set a minimum wage. The hours law prevents workers from being overworked which can also aid in preventing workplace injuries. Safety should always be one of the most important issues when it comes to the workforce. Children should continue to get an education in order to help them lead more successful lives and create a more knowledgeable country. A minimum wage should also continued to be set in order to prevent businesses from lowering their wage to amounts that are too low. Overall, many conditions began to improve during the Progressive Era which led to more changes in the future.

There were many issues that surrounded the government, and two of these include a lack of women’s suffrage and democratic influence by citizens. The Progressives were mainly comprised of middle class women which then led to them being passionate about women’s suffrage. They were also concerned with the citizens of the United States having a democratic influence. This meant that they wanted to get citizens more involved in the political aspect of society. There were people in power who got there because of the connections that they had or made throughout their lives. The Progressives wanted to make sure that the people in power were qualified to do their jobs. One action that was taken by Progressives to regulate this was adding the Seventeenth Amendment. This amendment “enabled voters, rather than state legislatures, to elect federal senators” (Keene pg 559). We would not be where were are today if it weren’t for the political changes that society went through during the Progressive Age.

Overall, there were many issues that rose up throughout the workforce and social life, and Progressives took the action needed in order to increase regulation and help society. Progressives took action in order to make life for society better. This can even be seen throughout our lives nowadays. Progress could have been a lot slower without the Progressives which would have made the important changes that took place taken even longer. The regulations that Progressives wanted to put in place ended up inspiring change to occur that happened throughout the future.

Keene, Jennifer D., et al. Visions of America: a History of the United States. Pearson, 2015.

6 thoughts on “The Impact of Progressives

  1. The featured image in the blog does an excellent job in summing up what the Progressives stood for. They wanted to diminish higher class privileges, monopolies, trusts and various forms of bribery. The Progressives believed that if they didn’t take action they would face failure. Some people may argue that the Progressive movement did not change the world for the better. It is important to remember that each person has his or her ideas and opinions. Remember, the social classes are not what they once were, they have gone through a series of changes. If the Progressives had not decided to take a risk and form their own political party who knows what would have happened. Although I have never gotten a chance to read the Jungle, it is easy to tell that the book really shook up the food industry. Imagine opening a package of hotdogs only to find a dead mouse staring up at you. Gross! It is interesting to read that “the overall health of the public was a major issue that the Progressives wanted to fix.” One thing for sure is that no matter what opinions an individual has, everyone can agree that without the Progressives the world would be dramatically different from what it is today.

  2. There are so many right things that the Progressives had fought for. What really sticks out for me is their focus on the safety of food and medicine. It makes me ecstatic that the people of America rose from such terrible situations not only with the quality of food and medicine, but also with the issues involving class privilege (some of which is still present), the rights of women and children, and the labor laws. All of these issues were deeply ingrained into not only the American culture, but also in the world culture. To see changes that deeply affected the lives of many individuals and families in such a positive way is awe-inspiring on so many levels.

    1. Agreed it is awe inspiring, with the regulations put on food and medicine it allowed even the poor to live a semi-comfortable life. Although the regulations are not perfect we still have issues with our food quality time to time.

  3. Your article is amazing, and I believe it was able to briefly cover all of the major points of the progressive era. Your statement, “The government should continue to set hours laws, regulate safety, prohibit child labor, and set minimum wage.” supports my belief that the government needs to stay involved with the actions they are currently taking. The safety and child labor laws from the past have continued to benefit America, as most work environments are very safe, and child labor is almost nonexistent.

  4. Your blog post really covered a lot about the progressive era! It was full of facts. It is so mind blowing how much of an impact they made! I cannot imagine all the challenges they had to face but they didn’t give up. They fought for what they believed in! Looking back in time, life is so much different. I can’t imagine what life would have been like without this era, without these changes! It is scary just thinking about it. It makes you wonder why some people didn’t agree with the progressive era because they had everyone’s best interest in mind.

  5. Great job on your post. I remember reading The Jungle when I was in high school. Sinclair is very evocative with his language and it’s not hard to see why the public was appalled enough to take action. It’s quite incredible what just giving people the correct information can do for societal change.

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