The Progressive Era and Democratic Paradise


The Progressives’ ideal image of the United States would be a middle-class Utopia where education, heath, safety and security, and economic well being thrived.

The progressives were trying to create a more efficient and safe working environment. This included limiting the amount of hours allowed to work and regulation of quality and safety within factories, coal mines, etc. and increasing wages, and improving the overall well being for the working class.

Progressives were essentially seeking the middle ground between the competitive views of Unions and Industrialists. Progressives felt that government regulation was absolutely necessary in order to protect workers. However, this would negetively effect the big businesses being regulated by the government, and so Unions and Industrialists alike were not supportive of government regulations.

Progressives also felt that women could not effectively protect their children without assistance from the government and female trade unionists agreed. The difference being that the female trade unionists wanted to empower female workers by organizing unions in order to raise wages and improve working conditions.

Not only were Progressives trying to reform the work environment, but also the communities in which the workers lived. They focused on how the environment shaped the lives of the poverty stricken members of the community. Disease, overcrowding and crime were a common issue within Chicago’s neighborhoods. The progressives felt that by “improving sanitation and garbage collection, creating playgrounds for children, eliminating saloons, limiting the hours spent at work, reducing workplace accidents” would help to improve the environment in which the working-class citizens lived.

The government should ultimately create rules, regulations and laws, so that employees always have protections and cannot be as easily taken advantage of by their employers.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire showed the truly tragic reprecussions of “big business” exploitation and the government’s general disinterest in the well being of the working class. A specific example of this is during the fire, the employers had locked the female workers inside the factory as an attempt to curb the female workers from leaving early or stealing fabric and materials. Because these women were literally unable to escape, they began jumping out of the windows to try and save themselves from the flames surrounding and consuming them.

Although Unions made serious progress within the industrial workforce to protect the working class, there was still firm inequality in the type of workers they would protect by allowing them to join their bargaining units. Most all union members were only allowed to be white, male, skilled tradesmen. Women, blacks, and unskilled laborers were not allowed in some of the unions.

If the government made regulations over big businesses and industry, the rights would be unilateral across the board for all employees, across the nation; taking the big decisions out of the hands of the union leaders and corporate heads, keeping the workers health, safety, and well-being at the forefront, instead of profit.

4 thoughts on “The Progressive Era and Democratic Paradise

  1. Forming unions was a great idea on behalf of the workers, however, those who needed them the most were unable to join them. White men with labor skills were treated the best out of any employee group. Women, those of a minority, and unskilled white men were treated the worst in the workplace and had no voice to improve their conditions. As skilled, white men’s conditions improved, others began to realize that unions worked. Therefore, they began to create their own unions inclusive to their specific group. Without the use of unions, I think the workplace would be much different, and many people would not be able to handle working. Great post Steph!

    1. Thank you! I think unions are incredibly important still to this day. I, myself, am a union member and have been for about 10 years now. The union advocates for our interests to make effective change in the workplace. I recently had to contact a representative in my union to get a policy created to include the use of “chosen” names versus birth names. We will see how this goes!

  2. Thank you! I think unions are incredibly important still to this day. I, myself, am a union member and have been for about 10 years now. The union advocates for our interests to make effective change in the workplace. I recently had to contact a representative in my union to get a policy created to include the use of “chosen” names versus birth names. We will see how this goes!

  3. I just keep thinking of how successful the Unions would have been if EVERYONE were allowed to supported by it. I support what the Union does for people because a lot of safety regulations were enforced and that saved a lot of lives. Ultimately if everyone were to be a part of it then I feel that the work force would have definitely been made stronger and more reliable. I think the views of the Progressives with the way the workers lived were really important. I think that people who aren’t happy with their living situations tend to bring that to work with them, so with them being concerned for that, I think is really smart.
    Ultimately, its great to know the good, bad, and the ugly with our history!
    Great post!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s