The Progressive Movement Of The Early 20th Century

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Throughout its existence America has been called a country of Equality, Liberty, Rights for All, Democracy and of course Opportunity. In our infancy people of all origins flocked to America in hopes of obtaining these ideals stated in our declaration. Even today, many still hope to relocate in order to have their chance at a slice of the American dream. However, those siding with the Progressive movement of the early 20th century disagreed and thought that America still had plenty of room for improvement before these ideals could be fully lived up to. I have to agree with many of the progressives’ views when considering this point in history. If you look to the racial divide, political corruption, and wealth inequality present in America from …show more content…
Many who were involved in crafting and signing the declaration had great hopes for a democracy truly and equally run by the people. However, instead of being a fair representation of the people, politics turned into a business. During the start of the 20th century bribery of public officials was a commonplace occurrence. If you wanted to be a teacher in Philadelphia you would end up paying the political machine $120 of the first $141 you earned just to secure the position (“The Progressives Respond” 224). As muckraker David Graham Phillips said during the early 1900s “the senators are not elected by the people, they are elected by the “interests””. Big businesses would fund political candidate’s election and in return the candidate would vote in the businesses favor instead of the people 's. For most of America’s earliest political history each party would print ballots in their own color which made the voters’ choice apparent to all. It wasn’t until progressives pushed for reform that the secret ballot was introduced providing more privacy and safety to voters. Looking at the way politics were run it’s hard to say America was truly living up to its’ ideal of …show more content…
The theory of social Darwinism was deeply flawed and more of an excuse for treating workers poorly as they were seen as the “weaker” ones left behind by evolution. But, This was more to do with a lack of opportunity than a lack of ability or drive. In 1890 only 4% of American teenagers went to school (“The Progressives Respond” 222). Most worked in factories or sweatshops to help ensure their family 's survival while those born into a privileged family were provided with the skills they needed to keep that privilege. The living conditions in cities were also grossly unequal, especially in the early 1900s. Social reformer Jacob A. Riis described walking through a tenement as “The hall is dark and you might stumble over the children pitching pennies back there. Not that it would hurt them; kicks and cuffs are their daily diet. They have little else. All the fresh air that ever enters these stairs comes from the hall-door that is forever slamming, and from the windows of dark bedrooms…”. Working class Americans barely survived in these tenements with very unsanitary conditions and tight spaces while the owners of the factories where they worked for little pay resided in lavish mansions with more rooms they knew what to do with. This outrageously inequality in the way of life for many Americans could have easily been made lesser if those on top had less greed and paid their workers, something that could be considered a

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