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Focus Question: Who were the important Progressive leaders and what were their accomplishments?
For more, see
AP United States History 17
Influential Literature Page:
Upton Sinclair and The Jungle
Historical Biography Page:
Elizabeth Cochrane (Nellie Bly)
Other Leaders and Legislation on this page include
rogressive Era Overview
Jacob Riis (see
William Jennings Bryan
William Howard Taft
Carrie Chapman Catt
African Americans, Women,
Booker T. Washington
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
Lewis Hine cartoon from the records of the National Child Labor Committee, 1912
For an interactive Timeline of the Progressive Era with links to explanations of various acts can be found
Overview of the Progressive Era (1890-1920)
Progressive Era Overview
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
. 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).
Crash Course on the Progressive Era
Teaching and Learning Resources
Reforming Their World: Women in the Progressive Era
from the National Women's History Project.
Women in the Progressive Era
from the National Parks Service.
By Popular Demand: Votes for Women's Suffrage Pictures, 1850-1920
from the Library of Congress.
for a lesson plan on Progressivism
Digital timeline and lesson plan
May 1909 labor parade, New York City.
On a national level, progressivism gained a strong voice in the White House when
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).
Progressivism ended with
World War I
when the horrors of war exposed people's cruelty and many Americans associated President
's use of progressive language ("the war to make the world safe for democracy") with the war.
For an timeline and other Progressive Era multimedia, please visit:
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.
For a slideshow of the photos of reformers
and Jacob Riis, see
Child coal miners - drivers and mules, Gary, West Virginia mine, 1908
Mornings on Maple Street: Lewis Hine Project
for 100 years of child labor history.
Lewis Hine biography
from the Virginia Historical Society.
for a gallery of child labor photos from Hine
From Abolition to Progressivism: Women in Public Life
from the City University of New York.
Excerpt from The Bitter Cry of Children
, John Spargo, 1906 on the experiences of children in coal mines.
Progressive Era Leaders
(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)
in Chicago in 1889 to aid immigrants
Fought to create child labor laws
Click 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.
for a timeline of Addams' life
Hull House Women's Club building on Polk Street, 1905
Twenty Years at Hull House (1910)
as well as short sources by Jacob Riis, John Spargo and Lincoln Steffens, among others.
Click here for the full text of
Twenty Years at Hull House.
for Hull House Maps and Papers. Works contributed by various authors, including Jane Addams
The 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.
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
. See also
Urban Experience in Chicago: Hull-House and its Neighborhoods, 1889-1963
from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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.
March 19, 1860 – July 26, 1925
Ran for Democratic president three times
Supported Prohibition, anti-imperialism, Free Silver, and trust-busting
Fought against Darwinism, leading to
, which he died before the verdict.
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.
to listen to the 'Cross of Gold' speech.
for Bryan's cross examination from the Scopes Trial
William Jennings Bryan as the Cowardly Lion? The
between L. Frank Baum's
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
and the Free Silver movement.
for a lesson plan "Rise of Populists and William Jennings Bryan
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
for an eHow article on a Dewey classroom
for an essay from Dewey on education
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 “
Lead the Progressive wing of Republicans
Supported child labor laws, Suffrage, and spoke out against World War I
for lesson plans on political cartoons on La Follette
for excerpts from La Follette's speech "The Danger Threatening Representative Government"
to watch the Fighting Bob La Follette
President Theodore Roosevelt
Go here for a
Theodore Roosevelt Historical Biography Page
Upton Sinclair and the Jungle
President William H. Taft
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
to read about Taft's legislation
for Taft's inaugural address
H. Ida Tarbell
November 5, 1857- January 6, 1944
The only woman in her 1880 graduating class from Allegheny College
The History of the Standard Oil Company
” (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
for Tarbell's bio
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.
Carrie Chapman Catt
Helped reorganize the
National American Women Suffrage Association
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
for a lesson plan on Chapman Catt
Helen Keller reading braille, 1907
was a forceful voice for political change during the early 20th century.
Go here for a
Helen Keller biography page
-Roosevelt represented several ideologies of the Progressive Era. She believed that the environment in which an individual lived in played a large role on shaping this person's socioeconomic 'fate.' This perspective rejected Social Darwinism and embraced 'Social Gospel.' Roosevelt believed that the government had a social responsibility to maintain equality, justice, and various living/working standards.
In the early 1920s, Roosevelt became a member of several unions/clubs preaching similar attitudes.
-Women's Trade Union League
-League of Women's Voters
-National Consumers League
-City Club of New York
These groups fought to establish a minimum wage, maximum hours, child labor laws, and worker safety standards.
For more information on the Progressive Era and Eleanor Roosevelt's contributions, please visit:
for a lesson plan on Eleanor Roosevelt and letters written to her
African American, Women and Native Americans in the Progressive Era
For more on African American and Women, see
United States History II.9
African 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." [
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:
African Americans & The Progressive Movement
W.E.B. DuBois, 1918
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.
Some primary sources on the work and contributions of W.E.B. Du Bois:
2. Booker T Washington: founded the
for black students, was an educator & advisor to Presidents:
3. Billie Holiday: Jazz singer, sang famous song "Strange Fruit" about lynching:
To listen to "Strange Fruit," click
4. James Baldwin: novelist, strong civil rights activist and outspoken anti-racist organizer:
William Monroe Trotter, 1915
5. William Monroe Trotter was an 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.
Willaim Monroe Trotter Biograpgy
Ida B Wells
Ida B Wells
: civil rights activist and pioneering journalist writing about racism and racial politics:
Passion for Justice Documentary about Ida B Wells:
to read about African American women in the Progressive Era.
to read about African American Reform Ethics
Native Americans and the Progressive Era:
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 Muckraking VoiceThreads
features oral reports by students about reform polices and muckraking journalists.
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
for a lesson plan on child labor
B. Initiative, Referendum, and Recall
For more, see
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)
for a lesson plan on initiative, referendum, and recall from iCivics
Initiative Petition Process, 2015-2016
from the Massachusetts Attorney General Office
Initiative, Referendum and Recall
from the National Conference of State Legislatures
C. Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)
banned the formation of trusts and monopolies
designed to keep trusts from limiting free trade
trusts used the courts to block enforcement
was first used to stick labor unions
to read the Sherman Anti-Trust Act
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
to read the act
E. Meat Packing Act (1906)
designed to protect American’s diet; sought out to find food unfit for consumption and to keep it from the public’s plates
meat process plants must be examined as well for sanitary purposes
inspected animals before and after slaughtering
Message from President Theodore Roosevelt to the House of Representatives
, June 4, 1906
Report on Conditions in the Chicago Stock Yards
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
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
Clayton Antitrust Act explained
by the Federal Trade Commission
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.
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