Our Changing American Cities
Urban reform movements find their origins in the aforementioned period of industrialization directly following the Civil War – they were mainly confined to the northern half of the United States, seeing as it had more auspicious conditions and precedents for industrialization. With the rapid influx of urban denizens, problems of urban life intensified as well. Trash clogged the streets and transmitted disease more effectively than any vector could ever hope to do, slums and “flophouses” were common, and unemployment was high. A combination of these led to the birth of a multitude of labor unions opposed by factories, the middle class, and the government (although unofficially in the case of the last). Various unions gained large memberships – most notably, the National Labor Union and Samuel Gompers’s skilled conglomeration, the American Federation of Labor. Other urban reform movements, oriented at the social aspect of city life, included principally among them efforts by American Churches of all denominations to revitalize the religious component of urbanites’ lives. Institutions such as the Salvation Army, soup kitchens, and the Young Men’s and Women’s Christian Associations served to reinvigorate city dweller’s and introduce a higher level of significance to combat the conflict, disillusionment, and isolation often found in the big city.
Previously alluded to, the spectacular growth of the cities led to haphazard and unplanned extensions of municipal boundaries (mainly through the newly invented electric trolley), contamination, corruption, pollution, hazardous environments, and overall undesirable conditions of life for the inhabitants of the cities. The sociocultural aspect of this dissent was addressed by Chicagoan Jane Addams – her Hull House, the most famous of her altruistic settlement houses, provided the means by which the poor unemployed could received skills necessary to obtain a job and the such. Another...
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