The Progressive Era
What were the motives behind the groups and individuals known as Progressives?
The Progressive movement is a broad label for the various economic, social, and political reform movements that took place in the United States between 1900 and 1914. Throughout the Progressive Era, a common concern sets the tone for nearly every discussion of economic, social, and political policy: an uneasiness in the population brought about by the dramatic development of modern industry and economic and social changes. Progressivism was an expression of discontent against industrialization, individualism, immigration, and urbanization.
By 1900 cities were crowded with millions of poor laborers, and working conditions were
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A motive behind a group of progressive journalists, called the Muckrakers was to enlighten the public about the details of the underside of American life. Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle, uncovered unhealthy conditions in the Chicago meat packing industry and led to passage of the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives revealed the depths to which urban life had sunk and spurred people to action. Ida Tarbell’s target was John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. She wrote a series of articles, eventually published as a book in 1904, The History of the Standard Oil Company. It was a devastating account of the ruthless practices of Rockefeller and his minions that helped lead to the breakup of the company in an antitrust suit in 1911. Writers like Riis, Sinclair and Ida Tarbell exposed fraud, waste, corruption and other evils in government and business, and they shined a light on poor social conditions, such as the slums of the cities. They took on bossism, profiteering, child labor, public health and safety, prostitution, alcohol, political corruption and almost every aspect of public and even private life. They achieved some spectacular successes at virtually every level, from supporting child labor laws across the country to