The progressive era is a historical period of political and economic reforms from 1900 to 1918, which transformed the American society. The various movements during the Progressive era focused on major areas, such as equality, individual rights, economic justice and many others. In the gilded age, there was inequality in many segments of the American society, such as the African Americans, women and immigrants. Advocates of the Democratic Party, Republican Party and members of the third parties focused on specific issues of the country and developed various political, social and economic reforms, which have been influencing the American society until today. As described by President Obama, the original sin of slavery led to the earliest and significant progressive movements that led to human liberation. The abolition movement to eradicate slave trade became the foundation of all the future social movements that focused on equality in the American society. In addition to restoring the rights of the African Americans, the abolition movement also represented the assault on the economic system of America, which exploited the entire race of African Americans for the benefit of a few.
The progressive era saw a permanent end to slavery in the United States and setup reforms for equal protection of the citizens irrespective of their race. The reformers feared the tensions that grew in the US due to the expansion of socialism and Marxism. Another major concern targeted by the reformers was immigration. From the period between 1900 and 1910, more than 9 million immigrants landed on the American continent from different nations, religions and ethnic groups. While immigrants from the western part of the European continent were traditionally dominant, those from southeastern Europe provided cheap labor to aid the rapid economic and industrial growth in the United States. Politicians used the immigrants as a voting base by providing opportunities in various job sectors, educational institutions and housing benefits. Child labor, poor housing and sanitation, and improper health care became the major focus for the reformers, which led to the introduction of immigrant reforms in the country that limit the entry of immigrants into the United States. Today, entering into the United States is not an easy job for third world countries.
Government and political professionals often offended the progressive reforms proposed by the upper class and middle class establishments. While the latter felt that addressing social and economic problems would improve the working conditions of the immigrants, the former gave importance to their personal views and democratic ideals of social justice. The reforms finally led to the legislation setting up minimum housing and safety standards for the immigrants. Theodore Roosevelt, the then president of America was one of the famous personalities who transformed the life of the labor in the US. Monopolistic business practices were the main target of Roosevelt. Roosevelt along with Congress created the Bureau of Corporations to regulate huge business corporations. He sued more than 40 major business corporations for antitrust violations, including J.P. Morgan’s Northern Securities Company. Roosevelt expanded the economy of the country by endorsing new reforms for the organized labor. He used the military army to seize the factories and industries until the owners agreed to the demands of the labor.
The workers had to work with dangerous machines for twelve hours a day and six to seven days a week. Social and economic reforms advocated for the welfare of the laborers led to an increase in the employment opportunities of skilled traders and craftsmen. The reforms increased the wages, reduced the working hours and improved the working conditions of the laborers to replace poverty and class antagonism that arose in the previous decades. Now, working in the United States is a pleasure for a majority of the people world-wide due to the appealing working conditions and attractive wages. Women played a crucial era during the Progressive era not only for their interest but also for the right to vote, racial equality and other social issues prevailing in the country. Women’s movement for the struggle of suffrage began several years before the Civil War. Women have been fighting for their right to equality since the beginning of the nineteenth century, but the revolutionary movement took a drastic change in the early twentieth century during the progressive era. However, the progressive era led to the real success of women.
Various state-level campaigns and efforts took by feminist leaders and politicians supported suffrage in principle. Women also demanded for equal pay for equal work along with men, right to control their bodies and ability to determine their lives. The efforts took by women throughout the progressive era led to several changes in the constitution. One of the noticeable changes is the inclusion of the nineteenth amendment, which granted women the franchise across the country. In addition to fight for their right to vote, women also formed several associations to participate in political reforms on other issues in the United States. Women participated in social welfare services to address the needs of the immigrants and workers. Women lobbied the eighteenth amendment of the constitution by mandating the prohibition of the sale of alcohol. In the present time, women are one of the most respected and valuable citizens of the United States holding positions in various organizational and political levels.
The progressive era also saw several changes on the religious side. Several reforms came into existence to resolve the issues of social injustice between the Christians and Jews. Economic reforms bridged the gap between capitalism and socialism to lay the foundation of a social welfare state that shapes the present day America. The economic reforms considered the poor as not only people in need of uplift but also a threat that requires social control. Several scenarios subordinated individual rights to promote the centralization of government power. The economic reforms supported the society as a whole rather individuals. However, the individuals demanded for self-help rather social control. Economist reformers argued against the involvement of the state in both the agricultural and industrial sectors. The term conservation had a great importance in the progressive era. It not only meant natural resources, but also social and human resources. Reformers believed that the improvement of society, humanity and economy is possible by government excerpts who were both partisans of efficiency and state. The reforms also saw a negative side of the progressive era, such as segregation of the African Americans in the South, immigration restrictions and disfranchisement. However, the benefits done to the society on the whole outweigh the drawbacks. It is due to the success of the reforms that there is an increase in the popular control over government and improvement in the city life and working conditions.
The reforms played a major role in sorting out the issues that arose as a part of industrialization. The reforms of the Progressive era taught a lesson to the government that it should involve actively at every level. The progressive era transformed the outdated constitutional system by incorporating new reforms to make it a dynamic instrument of social change and administrative bureaucracy. Today, people argue that three factors are responsible in transforming the American society to what it is now. The factors are material factors, such as the industrial revolution, closure of the frontier, Great Depression and rise of Modern Corporation, rational choice explanation and American reforms. Though material circumstances and politician’s interest played a major role, modern American society was possible through various reforms and policies generated by intellectuals from conscious renunciation of the principles of the American founding. The progressive era forms the legal foundation on which the present day America resides. While the founders of American constitution considered freedom as self-preservation, the reformers took it as the fulfillment of human capacities, which is the foremost ask of the state.
Today, America is a liberal state that fulfills the wants and desires of its citizens. The roots of liberalism lie in the progressive era. Today’s liberals consider the progressive reformers as their teachers who taught them how to reject the principles of the American founding and pave the path for the future. Though progressive era transformed the American society to a great extent, there are several ordinary Americans who have a strong attachment to their property, heterosexual marriage and self-reliance when compared to political, professional and academic elites. The progressive era gained a major foothold in the politics of the United States by compromising with the American constitutionalism. The American social security system best suits the example. The progressives tried their best to transform the lives of the poor, which is purely visible in the United States today. The women enjoy their liberty and freedom. Workers love to work as they have the best infrastructure at higher wages and decent working hours. Thus, the progressive era does impact the United States even after a century.