During the first half of the 20th century, USA was riddled with political and economic injustices, perpetrated by the political class and big businesses. For instance, malfeasance was rife in municipal governments and big corporations pursued their activities unchecked. Pushed by the desire to expose the ills in the American society, reform-minded investigative journalists swung into action and unearthed some of most serious dirty tricks.
For example, Upton Sinclair published an expose of the horrifying realities of the meatpacking industry. In response to the investigative piece, Theodore Roosevelt came up with the label “muckrakers.” He ridiculed such journalists as preachers of unrest who were misleading the public. However, public opinion favored the “muckrakers “for exposing the evils and injustices in the society. As a result, similar investigative pieces of journalism came up later.
The role played by “muckrakers” proved to be crucial in shaping public opinion and in accelerating the clamor for reforms. Progressive politicians took the cue from the “muckrakers” and came up with a raft of measures aimed at addressing the prevailing social injustices. For example, the Sherman Antitrust act of 1890 increased government’s control over private businesses. In addition, the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 made it illegal for companies to offer the same products for different prices. Other legislations were enacted to set the minimum wage for workers and restrict child labor.
On the politcal front, the citizenry were given more say in determining the people to govern them. For example, citizens could now elect candidates through direct primaries, and the secret ballot was implemented to ensure privacy during voting. Without the “muckrakers” some of these reforms would not have seen the light of the day or would probably have been delayed. Nevertheless, “muckrakers” gave the progressives a voice, and for this reason, they have their place in the history of United States.
Hillstrom, L. C. (2012). The Muckrakers and the Progressive Era. Detroit, MI:
Omnigraphics. P. 165.
Schneider, D., & Schneider, C. J. (1993). American Women in the Progressive Era. New
York, NY : Facts On File. P. 102
Schultz, K. M. (2012). HIST. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning . P. 367.