The Progressive Era

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The rapid industrialization of the United States created a myriad of social, political, and economic crises that affected virtually every aspect of American life. Progressivism was America’s response to the nation’s rapid economic and social changes that were plaguing American’s on every level. The efforts of progressive reformers resulted in a more efficient nation as a whole and many progressive laws are still in practice today which emphasizes the success of the movement.

Americans were faced with social and economic hardships from the rapid industrialization after the Civil War. American cities were overcrowded with poor laborers and living conditions were unsanitary. In the workplace, individual employment had taken a backseat to corporate employment and the working conditions were appalling. Laborers had no means of standing up for themselves in protest of the long hours, low wages, and unsafe work environment. The lack of government involvement in public affairs such as labor reform, public health, and sanitation motivated reformers to encourage the abandonment of this traditional laissez-faire approach in exchange for more active government involvement. Progressive reformers effectively changed the social and political landscape of America by making government part of the solution.

Liberals of the Jeffersonian era saw government as a threat to liberty. Progressives, however, “believed that broadening the role of government would advance the welfare of its citizens by protecting them from business abuse” (Sage 6). Government was no longer thought of as the problem, but was instead a major part of the progressive’s solution. In the beginning political powers were unwilling or unable to address the problems facing the nation at the turn of the century, so the progressive movement grew outside government.

In order to resolve the issues that were plaguing American life, progressives realized that reform had to be instituted at all levels of society....
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