IntroductionAs a result of the Gilded Age, disparities grew between the rich and the poor and questions arose about the future of the United States in the world. The Progressive Era developed as a response to the problems and disputes of the Gilded Age.
In this era, different groups of people, from women to African-Americans, involved themselves in the public sphere and attempted to change American society.Mobilizing for ReformIncidents, such as when 146 people died at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory due to a fire, led the public to demand reform for better and safer working conditions. In an attempt to get this reform, journalists and authors, such as Upton Sinclair and Jacob Riis, wrote articles and books about the suffering of the poor and laboring people. Sinclair’s The Jungle was a story about a Lithuanian immigrant family that worked in Chicago. His book revealed the unsafe and unsanitary conditions of the meat packing industry, which led to the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act being passed. The idea of the social Gospel, which explained that Christians should work for the benefit of others in society, not just themselves, also emerged during the Progressive Era.Women’s MovementsWomen advocated for increased rights through women’s clubs, organizations, and churches.
Women made up a large part of the temperance movement because they viewed alcohol as the source of many social evils, such as domestic abuse and crime. Jane Addams formed the Hull House in 1889 where workers offered education for children and adults and hosted social events. Addams was anti-militarism and imperialism and did not support the US in WWI. Women’s suffrage grew in popularity during the early 20th century; furthermore, the National Women’s Party began to picket outside the White House, and in 1920, women gained the right to vote across the country through the 19th Amendment. Targeting the TrustIn the Gilded Age, Big businesses, such as Andrew Carnegie’s Carnegie Steel and J.
D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, utilized different methods of integration to create a monopoly on a certain market. The federal government began to regulate the market through the Interstate Commerce Act to end unfair pricing of railroad companies and the Sherman Antitrust Act to end business practices that suppressed the free market.
President Roosevelt was the first president to attempt to bust trusts; however, he did not believe that all trusts needed to be dissolved, only some that interfered with the free market.Progressive EnvironmentalismEnvironmentalist movements began across the United States in response to expansion and industrialization of the Gilded Age. Preservationists, who wanted to designate areas that would remain in their original states, competed against Conservationists, who wanted to utilize land and resources in the most efficient way possible. The public and the federal government often sided with the conservationists, which can be seen in the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley. Environmentalists also worked to build parks and playgrounds in urban centers and help farmers in rural areas.
Jim Crow and African American LifeIn the South, states enacted a variety of voter laws and tests, such as paying to vote and literacy tests, to prevent African Americans from voting in elections and gaining any political power. Southern states also began a system of segregation to keep white society separate from African American society, and segregation was upheld by the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson as long as the public facilities were equal. Booker T.
Washington grew up in slavery in his early life, but he eventually went to college and established Tuskegee Institute to teach African Americans. Washington delivered a speech titled the “Atlanta Compromise” that focused on African Americans accepting segregation to receive some rights, such as education. W.E.B. Du Bois worked as a professor and established the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; furthermore, he was opposed to Booker T. Washington’s idea of a compromise with whites. ConclusionThe Gilded Age led to advancements in the economy and technology, but many Americans became concerned about the direction the United States was headed.
This time period became known as the Progressive Era because of the actions of Americans to change their society. From safer working conditions to women’s movements to environmentalism, the American people mobilized to change the US. However, in the South, African Americans were prevented from gaining their full rights through voting laws and segregation.