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Analyze the origins of Progressivism and Important Progressive Leaders and summarize the major accomplishments of Progressivism

Focus Question: Who were the important Progressive leaders and what were their accomplishments?

Map_of_USA_MA.svg.pngFor more, see AP United States History 17

Other Leaders and Legislation on this page include:

Progressive Era Overview....

Lewis Hine

Jacob Riis

Progressive Leaders..

Jane Addams

William Jennings Bryan

John Dewey

Robert LaFollette

William Howard Taft

Ida Tarbell

Woodrow Wilson

Carrie Chapman Catt

Eleanor Roosevelt

African Americans, Women, Native Americans....

W.E.B. DuBois

Booker T. Washington

Billie Holiday

Ida B. Wells

William Monroe Trotter

Key Policies and Legislation

Child Labor laws

Initiative, Referendum, Recall

Sherman Anti-Trust Act

Pure Food and Drug Act

Meat Packing Act

Federal Reserve Act

Clayton Anti-Trust Act

19th Amendment
Lewis Hine cartoon from the records of the National Child Labor Committee, 1912
Lewis Hine cartoon from the records of the National Child Labor Committee, 1912

timeline2_rus.svg.pngFor an interactive Timeline of the Progressive Era with links to explanations of various acts can be found here.

Overview of the Progressive Era (1890-1920)

Progressive Era Overview

Child Worker, Globe Cotton Mill. Augusta, Ga. Photo by Lewis W. Hine, 1909
Child Worker, Globe Cotton Mill. Augusta, Ga. Photo by Lewis W. Hine, 1909

From the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site:
"Progressivism is the term applied to a variety of responses to the economic and social problems rapid industrialization introduced to America. Progressivism began as a social movement and grew into a political movement. The early progressives rejected Social Darwinism. In other words, they were people who believed that the problems society faced (poverty, violence, greed, racism, class warfare) could best be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace."

Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated, and believed that government could be a tool for change.
  • Social reformers, like Jane Addams, and journalists, like Jacob Riis and Ida Tarbel, were powerful voices for progressivism.
    • They concentrated on exposing the evils of corporate greed, combating fear of immigrants, and urging Americans to think hard about what democracy meant.
      • Other local leaders encouraged Americans to register to vote, fight political corruption, and let the voting public decide how issues should best be addressed (the initiative, the referendum, and the recall).

Multimedia.pngCrash Course on the Progressive Era
  • For more context on the Progressive era, click here.

Teaching and Learning Resources


primary_sources.PNGBy Popular Demand: Votes for Women's Suffrage Pictures, 1850-1920 from the Library of Congress.

May 1909 labor parade, New York City.
May 1909 labor parade, New York City.

On a national level, progressivism gained a strong voice in the White House when Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901. TR believed that strong corporations were good for America, but he also believed that corporate behavior must be watched to ensure that corporate greed did not get out of hand (trust-busting and federal regulation of business).

The early age of Progressivism ended with World War I when the horrors of war exposed people's cruelty and many Americans associated President Woodrow Wilson's use of progressive language ("the war to make the world safe for democracy") with the war.

Multimedia.pngFor an timeline and other Progressive Era multimedia, please click here.

Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis

Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis were photographers who worked to document lives of immigrants in the United States.
  • Hine began taking photos in 1904 of immigrants arriving on Ellis Island.
    • He also took photographs of immigrant tenements and sweatshops. He was eventually hired by the National Child Labor Committee, where he photographed child labor.
    • The pictures of child labor showed many people the appalling conditions that children were forced to work in. Later in his life, Hine was a photographer for the Red Cross and the construction of the Empire State Building.
  • Riis is considered the "godfather of investigative journalism" photographed New York City conditions for immigrants and the poor and published them in a book, How the Other Half Lives.
    • Teddy Roosevelt, the NYC police commissioner at the time, was disgusted and had the police lodging photographed in the book shut down. Riis recorded the conditions he encountered and spent the next 25 years traveling and lecturing about poverty and the issues millions of people faced.
Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 11.47.54 AM.pngFor a slideshow of the photos of reformers Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis, see USII.2.
Child coal miners - drivers and mules, Gary, West Virginia mine, 1908
Child coal miners - drivers and mules, Gary, West Virginia mine, 1908

See also Mornings on Maple Street: Lewis Hine Project for 100 years of child labor history.

Multimedia.pngClick here for a gallery of child labor photos from Hine

external image Red_apple.jpgWomen Reformers in the Progressive Era from the National Council for Social Studies.

primary_sources.PNGExcerpt from The Bitter Cry of Children, John Spargo, 1906 on the experiences of children in coal mines.
Jane Addams

Progressive Era Leaders

Female_Rose.pngA. Jane Addams (for more, see Influential Women in American History)

  • September 6, 1860- Mary 21, 1935
  • founder of the Settlement House Movement
  • first American woman to win the Noble Peace Prize (1931)
  • Hull House in Chicago in 1889 to aid immigrants
  • Fought to create child labor laws

Biography icon for wiki.pngClick here for Jane Addams' Biography from the Noble Prize.org. Click here for her obituary: Jane Addams A Foe of War and Need, The New York Times, May 22, 1935.

timeline2_rus.svg.pngClick here for a timeline of Addams' life
Hull House Women's Club building on Polk Street, 1905
Hull House Women's Club building on Polk Street, 1905

  • Excerpts from Twenty Years at Hull House (1910) as well as short sources by Jacob Riis, John Spargo and Lincoln Steffens, among others.
  • Click here for Hull House Maps and Papers. Works contributed by various authors, including Jane Addams
Multimedia.pngThe Life and Work of Jane Addams from YouTube. See also two authors discuss Jane Addams life and work in June 2006 at the C-Span Video Library.

external image Big_red_apple.jpgJane Addams Hull-House Museum. See also Urban Experience in Chicago: Hull-House and its Neighborhoods, 1889-1963from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

B. William Jennings Bryan

Postcard shows photographs of William Jennings Bryan, Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States in 1896, 1900 and 1908, and his 1908 running mate, John W. Kern, and the U.S. Capitol.
external image William_Jennings_Bryan_1908_campaign_postcard.png
  • March 19, 1860 – July 26, 1925
  • Ran for Democratic president three times
  • Supported Prohibition, anti-imperialism, Free Silver, and trust-busting
  • Fought against Social Darwinism, leading to Scope Trials, which he died before the verdict.

primary_sources.PNGThe "Cross of Gold" speech lays out the dangers and unfairness of a gold standard to the American People. It is also what put Bryan on the political map.

Multimedia.pngClick here to listen to the 'Cross of Gold' speech.

external image Red_apple.jpg
  • Click here for a lesson plan "Rise of Populists and William Jennings Bryan

C. John Dewey

  • October 20, 1859-June 1, 1952
  • very progressive ideas about education
  • focused on expanding ideas and intellect, not just memorization
  • students should incorporate past experiences into their learning

Click here for an eHow article on a Dewey classroom

external image lafolette-robert.jpg

primary_sources.PNGClick here for an essay from Dewey on education

D. Robert La Follette

  • June 14, 1855-June 18, 1925
  • Congressman and Senator; ran for president
  • Supported railroads, bossism, World War I and the League of Nations
  • Helped draft Tariff Act of 1890
  • Refused a bribe, becoming outspoken about “machine politics
  • Lead the Progressive wing of Republicans
  • Supported child labor laws, Suffrage, and spoke out against World War I

lessonplan.jpgClick here for lesson plans on political cartoons on La Follette
primary_sources.PNGClick here for excerpts from La Follette's speech "The Danger Threatening Representative Government"

Multimedia.pngClick here to watch the Fighting Bob La Follette

E. President Theodore Roosevelt

Historical Biography Page Theodore Roosevelt

F. Upton Sinclair.

Influential Literature Page: Upton Sinclair and The Jungle
Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair

G. President William H. Taft
President Taft, 1908
President Taft, 1908

  • September 15, 1857- March 8, 1930
  • Progressives were pleased with Taft's election.
    • "Roosevelt has cut enough hay," they said; "Taft is the man to put it into the barn." (1)
  • Defended the Payne-Aldrich Act, continuing high taxes
  • Lost Progressive support because they did not support higher taxes
  • During his Presidency, Taft and his administration started 80 antitrust suits
  • Submitted amendments for Federal income tax
  • Supported direct election of Senators
  • Established postal savings system
  • Interstate Commerce Commission to set railroad rates

Click here to read about Taft's legislation
primary_sources.PNGClick here for Taft's inaugural address

Female_Rose.pngH. Ida Tarbell

  • November 5, 1857- January 6, 1944
  • The only woman in her 1880 graduating class from Allegheny College
    Ida Tarbell
    Ida Tarbell
  • primary_sources.PNGWrote The History of the Standard Oil Company
  • Muckracker” (investigative journalist)
  • First investigative report was on the belief that women would fix the politics men corrupted
  • Also wrote biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Napoleon
  • Exposed the Rockefeller’s monopoly of the oil industry and possible anti-trust violations
  • Spent two years studying public records, court testimony, newspaper articles, and other reports
  • Became a 19-part series exposing unethical practices
  • Series ended with a 2-part series on Rockefeller
  • Her writing on the Standard Oil Company helped lead to the eventual breaking up of the company through the Sherman Antitrust act.
    • Did not disapprove of him as a person, but disapproved of his practices
  • Her series on Standard Oil is ranked in the top five of 100 pieces of American journalism
Biography icon for wiki.pngClick here for an essay about Tarbell's work.

external image President_Woodrow_Wilson_portrait_December_2_1912.jpg

WhiteHouseSouthFacade.JPGI. President Woodrow Wilson

  • December 28, 1856-February 3, 1924
  • As president, he created the Federal Trade Commission, the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, the Underwood Tariff, the Federal Farm Loan Act and the Federal Reserve System
  • Promoted labor union development, controlled the railroads, and did not allow anti-war protests. See also Photographs of Woodrow Wilson
He was also a racist and under his presidency he permitted segregation in federal offices.Woodrow Wilson and African Americans
Presidential Election of 1912: A Resource Guide from the Library of Congress.

Click here to learn about Wilson receiving the 1919 Noble Peace Prize.

Go here for the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library located in Staunton, Virginia.

For a number of perspectives on Wilson, click here.


J. Carrie Chapman Catt
  • Helped reorganize the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA)
  • Was one of the first women superintendents
  • Made speeches, planned campaigns, and worked to win political support for women's suffrage
  • Traveled to Europe to promote suffrage
  • Created the "Winning Plan" to win suffrage on a state and national level
  • lessonplan.jpg
Click here for a lesson plan on Chapman Catt

 Helen Keller reading braille, 1907
Helen Keller reading braille, 1907

Female_Rose.pngHelen Keller was a forceful voice for political change during the early 20th century.

Historical Biography Page: Helen Keller, Author and Political Activist

Historical Biography Page for Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady and Citizen Activist

Rotating_globe-small.gifAfrican American, Women and Native Americans in the Progressive Era

rotating gif.gifFor more on African American and Women, see United States History II.9

Female_Rose.pngAfrican American Women in the Progressive Movement

"African American women were also involved in reform efforts during the Progressive Era, largely independently from white women. During the Progressive Era, many important changes occurred in the lives of black women. Hundreds of thousands migrated from the South to the North and from rural to urban areas. In addition, many black women moved from employment in agriculture to employment in factories and as domestic servants. In addition to facing sexism, black women also faced institutional racism and overtly violent acts of racism, such as lynching." [9]

When the suffrage movement often ignored women of color, Mary Church Terrell became active in organizing women to fight for equal rights via her organization the National Association of Colored Women: http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/civil/jb_civil_terrell_1.html

African Americans & The Progressive Movement
W.E.B. DuBois, 1918
W.E.B. DuBois, 1918

1. W.E.B. Du Bois:

first African American to earn a PhD at Harvard, critical of Booker T Washington for telling African Americans to assimilate into White America w/o resisting, founder of the NAACP, was active not only in racial civil rights but also women's rights and labor rights.

2. Booker T Washington:

founded the Tuskegee institute for black students, was an educator & advisor to Presidents: http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/progress/jb_progress_btwash_1.html

3. Billie Holiday:

Jazz singer, sang famous song "Strange Fruit" about lynching: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/apr07.html

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 9.36.32 AM.pngTo listen to "Strange Fruit," click here.

4. James Baldwin:

novelist, strong civil rights activist and outspoken anti-racist organizer: http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/jazz/jb_jazz_baldwin_1.html
For a glimpse at Baldwin's progressive politics, watch this debate with William Buckley.

William Monroe Trotter, 1915
William Monroe Trotter, 1915

5. William Monroe Trotter

African American Journalist who Graduated from Harvard and fought for equal rights. While he did not agree with Booker T. Washington's approach to end racism he was good friends with W.E.B Du Bois.

Quill_and_ink.pngWillaim Monroe Trotter Biograpgy

Ida B Wells
Ida B Wells

6. Ida B Wells:

Civil rights activist and pioneering journalist writing about racism and racial politics: http://www.biography.com/people/ida-b-wells-9527635

Passion for Justice Documentary about Ida B Wells: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXZFdGhhMnk

Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Her Passion for Justice

primary_sources.PNGExcerpts from Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ids B. Wells

womens history.jpgClick here to read about women in the Progressive Era.

womens history.jpgClick here to read about African American Reform Ethics

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 1.58.11 PM.pngNative Americans and the Progressive Era:
This book is a great source to learn about Indigenous activism: "As progressive reformers took on America's ills at the start of the 20th century, a new generation of Native American reformers took on America, “talking back” to the civilization that had overrun but not crushed their own. This volume offers a collection of 21 primary sources, including journal articles, testimony, and political cartoons by Native Americans of the Progressive Era, who worked in a variety of fields to defend their communities and culture."

Progressive Era Policies

A. Bans against child labor

  • John Altgeld, governor of Illinois, pushed reform of child labor
  • Limited women and children to a maximum eight-hour day
  • The National Child Labour Committee (1904); persuaded Congress to control child labor
  • 1912: Taft created Children’s Bureau to review child’s well-being
  • Keating-Owen Act: to control child labor laws, put a limit on age of works and amount of time able to work
lessonplan.jpgClick here for a lesson plan on child labor

B. Initiative, Referendum, and Recall

rotating gif.gifFor more, see Government 3.9
  • its goal was to break up monopolies
  • Created “electoral device by which voters may express their wishes with regard to government policy or proposed legislation.” (5)
lessonplan.jpgClick here for a lesson plan on initiative, referendum, and recall from iCivics

Initiative, Referendum and Recall from the National Conference of State Legislatures

C. Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)

primary_sources.PNGClick here to read the Sherman Anti-Trust Act

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 11.31.41 AM.pngNorthern Securities Case (1904)

See Economics 3.5 for more on competition in the American economic system

D. Pure Food and Drug Act (1906)

  • required food and drug makers to list ingredients on packages
  • attempted to end false advertising and use of impure ingredients
  • protection covered medicines soon after
primary_sources.PNGClick here to read the act

E. Meat Packing Act (1906)

primary_sources.PNGClick here to read the act

F. Federal Reserve Act (1913)

  • set up a system of federal banks across the country
  • gave the government the power to increase of decrease interest rates and control the money supply
primary_sources.PNGClick here to read the act

G. Clayton Anti-Trust Act (1914)

  • Signed by President Wilson
  • Banned some businesses from practices that limited free enterprise
  • Prevented antitrust laws from being used against union, which was a major victory for labor
primary_sources.PNGClick here to read the act

H. the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920

  • Gave women the right to vote; by 1920, ¾ of the states had ratified it
  • Doubled the number of eligible voters in the U.S.
primary_sources.PNGNineteenth Amendment

Works Cited:
  1. http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/wt27.htmlhttp:www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/wt27.htmlhttp:www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/wt27.html
  2. http://www.greatwomen.org/women.php?action=viewone&id=156http:www.greatwomen.org/women.php?action=viewone&id=156http:www.greatwomen.org/women.php?action=viewone&id=156
  3. http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/ww28.html
  4. www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1061.html
  5. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9063016/referendum-and-initiative
  6. http://www.fda.gov/oc/history/2006centennial/meatinspection.html
7. http://www.nps.gov/archive/elro/glossary/progressive-era.htm
8. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eleanor/peopleevents/pande08.html
9. http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/progressiveera/africanamericanwomen.html