The Progressive Era: A Time of Regulation


In the late 1800 and early 1900s, the Progressive Era began which was a time of making or attempting change in the workplace. People of the middle class, primarily, wanted a new way of looking at things that would improve the lives of everyone. This era was sparked by Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire that left women trapped in a factory and forced to jump to their death to escape the fire. This made people fight for what they deserved in the workplace through regulation.  

Unfortunately, regulation of the workplace was an easy task as many big business owners saw their workers sort of like property. They felt that they could pay them what they pleased and work them as hard and long as they wanted. This was not right, but people feared to rebel because rebelling meant getting fired, getting fired meant that businesses would talk to each other and you wouldn’t find anywhere else to work. This was called the blacklisting.  

However, as new presidents came into office, such as Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, they began to put laws into place that broke the trusts of big businesses that were taking over the economy. Big businesses began to kill small businesses and that wasn’t what America was supposed to be about. The main thing introduced to stop this was the Sherman Antitrust Act which was put into place to prevent monopolies. This act was used many times to bring big businesses to court since it was being violated. 

Also, women and children began to play a bigger role during the Progressive Era. Women were fighting for suffrage because they were being overworked in factories, but had no way to change it because they didn’t have a voice. With the ability to vote, women would have some say in their work life which would regulate what business could and couldn’t make them do. Women needed shorter work days to be able to provide for their child and make good offspring. Children at this time were also used in factories as they were small and could be easily taken advantage of. This caused many child labor laws to be put into place during this time because children were getting injured or even killed between the ages of 10-16 working in dangerous factories. 

Without the government being able to set hours laws, regulate safety, prohibit child labor, set a minimum wage, and institute other work laws, businesses would still be mistreating their employees. The people of America would be overworked and not be making the amount of money that they should be. We can see this in how illegal immigrants are treated when they get jobs under the table nowadays. They work from sunrise to sunset and are paid well under what an American citizen would be payed. The government is able to control this for a reason and that is because without them controlling it there would be no control. Without the government stepping in during this era, it is possible that it could still be like it was back then and the economy would most likely be destroyed by now. 

Keene, Jennifer D., Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward T. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume2, 3rded. 2019.

11 thoughts on “The Progressive Era: A Time of Regulation

  1. I also believe that the government stepping up to place regulations on business was a great thing. Without the regulations, our workplaces might have still been similar to those of the past. Employees of the past were treated similarly to indentured servants. They worked like slaves and received very little pay. I am very thankful for the government regulations, and I am glad that my employer cannot treat me how employees in the past were treated. Great post, Katy!

  2. You did a great job explaining the Progressive Era and how Progressives came to achieve their goals. I agree that without government regulation, working conditions would not be ideal and people would not be happy in their jobs. The government regulations ensure the safety, security and happiness of employers while in the workplace. It is important to understand the Progressive Era and the effect it has had on our nation, great job explaining it.

  3. very good blog, you described and summarized the section well. stating children getting taken advantage of was a great point to bring up. they were able to hired far less than the average male worker, well as dangerous conditions, long hours caused the dispute of child labor laws.
    i found it most amazing that during this time, families who supported child labor was for the simple fact that even though far underpaid, the children helped bring money into the family.

    1. Thank you and yes I agree that it is crazy to think that the parents of these children allowed them to work in such dangerous places. The parents needed the income from their children working, but you would think they would put safety before money. Money was just more important to people at this time because they had so little of it and without it surviving wasn’t easy.

  4. Great blog! You did a good job summarizing the section and explaining who the Progressives where and what they did. Without the regulations they helped put in place the workplace would be a very different place today. The regulations make the workplace safe and prevent injury and death.

  5. I think you did a great job explaining the Progessive Era and why it was important. I too believe that without regulation from the governemnt there would be no control. It is scary to think that without the regulation put into place during the Progressive Era, it is a possiblity that the workplace would have never changed. I liked how you related illegal immigrants in today’s world to the topic because it is very true.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. The world would be a scary place without regulation because, as we see increasingly, there are many crazy people in the world. Who knows what would happen if you got a crazy boss that could force you to do whatever they wanted you to do because there were no regulations. Also, I am glad that you liked the way I related it to illegal immigrants because that was the best thing I could think of to relate it to todays world because everything else has been regulated for the most part.

  6. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire brought diverse family factions together, even winning support from the appalled upper-class women. Many female progressive reformers and working – class labor organizers believed without the right to vote women lacked and essential tool they needed to keep themselves and their family safe. Therefore, making the National Women’s Suffrage Association a key influence during the progressive era. Also cross-class alliances sought to end exploitive business practices and class conflict. As you demonstrated throughout your blog without the government stepping in to form regulations in workplaces our workplace environment and country could be in shambles today due to unfair treatment. I also liked your comparison to illegal immigrants because being paid under the table is unfair to them, even though it may still provide better conditions then where they currently live it still sheds light into what life was like during the progressive era compared to now.

  7. The Progressive Era arose due to the realization that American workers were not treated as they should be in the workplace. Progressive ideals attempted to better working conditions through government regulation. I certainly believe that it was good that the Progressive Era arose because government regulation helped in certain aspects, like introducing child labor laws and equality for women in the workplace. It is interesting to think about how different the economy would be, had progressivism not advanced. I don’t know that the economy would be destroyed but it surely would be different than it is now. Good post!

  8. I really enjoyed your blog. I like how you talked about women and children and their involvement during this time period. The way you described how the government saved middle class workers shed new light on the subject for me and I agree with your point of view 100%. And finally, I agree that this may not have happened without the involvement of people as important as presidents and such! Good blog!

    1. Great job explaining the Progressive Era and how these people achieved their goals. without government regulation, working conditions would not be ideal and people would not be happy in their jobs, so outstanding job explaining all of that. The Progressive Era has had an immense effect on our world today.

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