Blog The Progressive Movement The Progressive Movement was an effort to cure many of the ills of American society that had developed during the great spurt of industrial growth in the last quarter of the 19th century. The frontier had been tamed, great cities and businesses developed, and an overseas empire established, but not all citizens shared in the new wealth, prestige, and optimism. Efforts to improve society were not new to the United States in the late s. A major push for change, the First Reform Era, occurred in the years before the Civil War and included efforts of social activists to reform working conditions and humanize the treatment of mentally ill people and prisoners.
Progressive Era Historians debate the exact contours, but generally date the " Progressive Era " from the s to either World War I or the onset of the Great Depressionin response to the perceived excesses of the Gilded Age.
Purification to eliminate waste and corruption was a powerful element,  as well as the Progressives' support of worker compensation, improved child labor laws, minimum wage legislation, a support for a maximum hours that workers could work for, graduated income tax and allowed women the right to vote.
The Progressives believed in the Hamiltonian concept of positive government, of a national government directing the destinies of the nation at home and abroad. They had little but contempt for the strict construction of the Constitution by conservative judges, who would restrict the power of the national government to act against social evils and to extend the blessings of democracy to less favored lands.
The real enemy was particularism, state rights, limited government. They especially identified big-city bosses, working with saloon keepers and precinct workers, as the culprits who stuffed the ballot boxes. The solution to purifying the vote included prohibition designed to close down the saloonsvoter registration requirements designed to end multiple votingand literacy tests designed to minimize the number of ignorant voters.
Forbes, president of Rochester's Board of Education, hoped to make government in the U. But in our enthusiasm we do not seem to be aware that these tools will be worthless unless they are used by those who are aflame with the sense of brotherhood The idea [of the social centers movement is] to establish in each community an institution having a direct and vital relation to the welfare of the neighborhood, ward, or district, and also to the city as a whole  Philip J.
Ethington seconds this high view of direct democracy saying: Historian Michael Perman says that in both Texas and Georgia, "disfranchisement was the weapon as well as the rallying cry in the fight for reform"; and in Virginia, "the drive for disfranchisement had been initiated by men who saw themselves as reformers, even progressives.
What were the central themes that emerged from the cacophony [of progressivism]? Social justice or social control? Small entrepreneurship or concentrated capitalism? And what was the impact of American foreign policy?
Were the progressives isolationists or interventionists? Imperialists or advocates of national self-determination? And whatever they were, what was their motivation? Not surprisingly many battered scholars began to shout 'no mas!
These changes led to a more structured system, power that had been centralized within the legislature would now be more locally focused. The changes were made to the system to effectively make legal processes, market transactions, bureaucratic administration, and democracy easier to manage, thus putting them under the classification of "Municipal Administration".
There was also a change in authority for this system; it was believed that the authority that was not properly organized had now given authority to professionals, experts, and bureaucrats for these services.
These changes led to a more solid type of municipal administration compared to the old system that was underdeveloped and poorly constructed.
Many Protestants focused on the saloon as the power base for corruption, as well as violence and family disruption, so they tried to get rid of the entire saloon system through prohibition. Pingree mayor of Detroit in the s  and Tom L. Johnson in Cleveland, Ohio. InJohnson won election as mayor of Cleveland on a platform of just taxation, home rule for Ohio cities, and a 3-cent streetcar fare.
Rather than making legal arguments against ten-hour workdays for women, he used "scientific principles" and data produced by social scientists documenting the high costs of long working hours for both individuals and society.
Taking power out of the hands of elected officials and placing that power in the hands of professional administrators reduced the voice of the politicians and in turn reduced the voice of the people.
Centralized decision-making by trained experts and reduced power for local wards made government less corrupt but more distant and isolated from the people it served. Progressives who emphasized the need for efficiency typically argued that trained independent experts could make better decisions than the local politicians.
Thus Walter Lippmann in his influential Drift and Masterystressing the "scientific spirit" and "discipline of democracy," called for a strong central government guided by experts rather than public opinion. Many cities created municipal "reference bureaus" which did expert surveys of government departments looking for waste and inefficiency.
After in-depth surveys, local and even state governments were reorganized to reduce the number of officials and to eliminate overlapping areas of authority between departments. City governments were reorganized to reduce the power of local ward bosses and to increase the powers of the city council.
Governments at every level began developing budgets to help them plan their expenditures rather than spending money haphazardly as needs arose and revenue became available.
Governor Frank Lowden of Illinois showed a "passion for efficiency" as he streamlined state government.The Federal Reserve System (), and the Federal Trade Commission () were major examples of the remarkable expansion of the role of the federal government in the economy during the Progressive Era.
Many Southerners, whether white or black, rich or poor, barely recognized the world in which they now lived.
Wealthy whites, long-accustomed to plush plantation life and the perks of political power, now found themselves barred from voting and holding office. The Open Door in the Far East.
Although Americans were reluctant imperialists, the United States was an important Pacific power after , and American businessmen had inflated ambitions to tap what they thought was the huge Chinese market. Progressive Era Web Sites; Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides, Activities, and more; Progressive Era Web Sites.
America America by PBS American Experience paints a picture of life in the United States at the outset of the Progressive Era and does so through images, text, maps, and documents and also through varied perspectives.
19th Century America. Updated July 30, JUMP TO..
Primary Documents - Timelines - Maps, - From Jefferson to the coming of the Civil War, Manifest Destiny & the Wild West, Industrial Revolution, Women's Rights, Inventions & Railroad History, The Gilded Age, Spanish-American War & Imperialism, The Progressive Era .
The Progressive Era began at the turn of the 20th Century and lasted through World War I. This period represented a time of economic and social reform. The landscape of America was rapidly changing from an agrarian society to an urban one.