Muckrakers in the Progressive Era

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The term “muckraker” was originally coined in a speech in 1906 accredited to President Theodore Roosevelt.  It was alluding to the man with the Muck-Rake in Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Process.  The Man with the Muck rake seeks material advances by raking filth.  Roosevelt defined this term as "one who inquires into and publishes scandal and allegations of corruption among political and business leaders".   Muckrakers in the Progressive Era, a time from 1820 until 1920 when America quickly industrialized, pushed for reform and have altered the way we live today.  These reformers brought about the awareness and tackled women’s rights, economic concentration, corporate power, poverty, food safety, and political corruption.  Extraordinary muckrakers are Jane Addams, Carrie Chapman Catt, Upton Sinclair, Alice Paul, and Edwin Markham. Jane Addams was an advocate for the rights of improving social conditions in the urban areas for the poor immigrants and workers living in slums.  People living in the slums had to live in terrible conditions.  Large households were living in a small, cramped living space in tenements that were overcrowded with people.  Young children were sent to work along with their parents in order to provide daily meals to feed their families and there was no sanitation.  In 1889, Addams along with her college classmate and friend Ellen Gates Starr founded the Hull House.  This was a famous settlement house in Chicago which relieved the effects of poverty by providing social services for people in the neighborhood such as teaching English to immigrants, pioneering early-childhood education, teaching industrial arts, and establishing neighborhood theaters and music schools. By its second year of existence, Hull House proved for about two thousand people each week.  Addams sparked the settlement house movement in America; there were soon more than four hundred settlement houses throughout America’s largest cities.  Settlement workers were volunteers who set the stones of the future profession of the social worker.  In 1910, Addams published a book Twenty Years At Hull House, delineating her Hull House experience and thoughts about the Progressive Era by bringing her Christian moral beliefs into economic and social aspects. Addams and her associates at Hull-House had wide influence not only on key reform movements of their time, but also on major philosophical, sociological, and political thought. She was a leading supporter of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential campaign in 1912 for the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party.  Jane Addams along with the prominent women in the International Suffrage Alliance fought for their struggle for peace and equality for women.  They founded the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom to work towards social justice, disarmament to help end the war, development, and women’s rights. Jane gained worldwide recognition in the twentieth century as a pioneer social worker, feminist, and internationalist.  In 1931, Jane Addams was the first woman in history to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Another reformer during the Progressive Era was Carrie Lane Chapman Catt.  Catt was born and raised in the west by her mother and father, who originally came from New York.  Two significant events in her early life set the framework for Catt’s future life work.  A huge turning point in Carrie’s life occurred at the age of thirteen.  She wondered why her mother wasn’t voting for Election Day.  Her mother laughed and told her the reason was because voting was too important of a civic duty to leave to women.  Another event that changed her life was her introduction to Charles Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” theory of evolution. Previously, Catt was a skeptic of religion and this theory made her thoughts more concrete.  She embraced evolutionary sciences since she felt it offered an idea of a constantly improving world.  Catt was one of the best known leaders of the women’s suffrage...
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