Progressivism from the Grass Roots to the White House (1890-1916) Political movements in history coincide with momentous revolutions. Here in the United States, the industrial boom brought about the growth of large railroads, development of corporations, rapid expansion in urban areas and new socio-economic defined groups. In 1886 progressivism began in the United States in response to the rapid modernization and the accompanying social ills. Progressivism was defined as the “political movement that addresses ideas, impulses and issues stemming from modernization of American society. Emerging at the end of the nineteenth century, it established much of the tone of American politics throughout the first half of the century” (Harriby, 1999). The United States was experiencing a period of urban growth, economic distress, labor unrest, unemployment, low wages, unfair labor practices, and deplorable living conditions. Large numbers of international immigrants arrived daily to work in this newly established industrialized society, while escaping the harsh realities of their native countries. As the shift from agriculture to industry/manufacturing droves of people relocated from rural to urban northern communities. As in most societies, the focus had moved to commerce versus the needs of the people. In the midst of a religious awakening after visiting the settlement house in London, England, Jane Addams noted how this new movement was impacting London and challenged social Darwinism’s theory of survival of the fitness. Families were bettered because of the social work being done. She and a fellow seminary student, Lillian Wald started the Hull House in the Chicago ghetto. This mansion became the center of life for thousands of immigrants, launching the settlement house movement in the United States. The houses confronted the social problems by reforming individuals and society. Efficiency and expertise became the watchwords of the progressive...
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