Term Paper: Issues on Social Welfare

Pages: 4 (1061 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: American History  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Era -- Shift in Philosophy

The Progressive Era was a campaign for economic, political, and social reform in the United States that began in the late 1800s and ended when the United States entered World War I in 1917 (Campbell and Dore, 2002). The Progressive Era caused a major change in philosophy that was partly a response to the disparity between rich and poor. Americans during this era sought economic, political and social reform on a variety of issues.

In 1800, the United States was a young nation in the midst of a major shift in government. Explorers and settlers were establishing new territories and manufactories were implementing new machines and methods for textile production (Campbell and Dore, 2002). Most Americans lived and worked on farms and the total population of the nation was less than six million. One hundred years later, seventy-six million people resided in the United States, which was easily traveled by means of railroads. Many Americans lived and worked in major cities. Rapid advances in technology and industrialization changed the way in which Americans lived and worked.

These developments did not come without consequences, though. Many men, women and children of this era worked long hours in unsafe factories to meet the constant demand for inexpensive, mass-produced goods (Campbell and Dore, 2002). In addition, farmers found it increasingly difficult to maintain their farms in the face of increased competition, expensive machinery, and rapidly dropping prices. The failure of post-Civil War Reconstruction to secure the rights and liberties of African-Americans caused major social and economic stresses. Men and women struggled with newly defined gender roles and responsibilities as more and more women entered the workforce.

The Progressive Era was a period of major reform activity, as millions of Americans joined forces to resolve the problems created by industrialization, urbanization, and immigration (Muncy, 2003). While there was a Progressive party organized as a reform movement, the Progressive Era actually included a collection of coalitions seeking changes. These groups often contradicted each other.

For example, many progressive reforms wanted to increase democracy in America, fighting for women's suffrage, direct elections, and greater self-government (Muncy, 2003). However, many progressives aimed to increase efficiency in government and thought that they could do so by reducing the power of elected officials and installing "experts" in their place. Government by un-elected "experts" countered democracy and pitted one set of progressive reforms against another.

The Progressive Era was greatly impacted by American women. Although they could not legally vote through most of the period, women still exercised what they believed were their rights as citizens to shape public policy and build public institutions (Muncy, 2003). Women reformers were the leaders of the movement against child labor, as well as the women's suffrage campaign. They demanded minimum wage and maximum hours laws for female workers, public health programs for women and children, improved the educational system for both children and adults, and implemented numerous social welfare measures at the local, state, and federal levels.

According to Muncy (2003): "One institution that epitomized women's activism was the settlement house." A group of educated American women, in the late 1800s, opened settlements houses, which were… [END OF PREVIEW]

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