The Progressive Era was a period that showed the goals and contradictions found in American society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Theodore Roosevelt summed up the Progressive/Reform feeling in his "Square Deal" speech - that it was all about morals, not economics. His goal was the "moral regeneration of the business world." He preached that it was wrong for some people to get ahead in business and politics by tricks and schemes, while others were cheated out of the opportunity. This was the kind of talk that millions of Americans from all areas of society could understand and respond to.
Roosevelt simply acted in the interests of the common working man, fixing things that they found unjust. For years, the poor and immigrants were unhappy with treatment from their big-business employers. Their long working hours and exploitation of children were, among other things, exposed by the Muckrakers. The Muckrakers were journalists who exposed corruption in business and politics and made many of their readers angry. These new reformers took over the old Populist idea that the government should work for the public's economic well being.
Reform groups near the turn of the century were interested in the moral changes of the way the government and businesses were run. They wanted the government to be more open and listen to the people. Also, they wanted the government to put more effort into protecting the well being of all citizens. This would require government action to regulate business, improve public health and safety and make sure that every citizen had the chance to succeed and to be happy.
Today there are also many reform groups. Just like the progressives of the early twentieth century, modern reformers are trying to change things for the better. One modern reformer is Ralph Nader. Nader is a leader in the consumer-protection movement. He organized investigative teams of young lawyers, consumer specialists, and students, popularly called Nader's Raiders, to conduct surveys of numerous companies, federal agencies, and the U.S. Congress. Nader is a controversial man; his investigations have at times been criticized as biased against big business and government.
Cesar Chavez was another modern reformer. The issues that he dealt with included: Women Farmworkers, Farmworker Health Issues, and Migrant Labor. Many issues that progressives of the early 1900s dealt with are the core of many of today's issues, however there are still some reforms that are different than those of a hundred years ago.
American reform movements have generally been started as a rebellion against the control of big businesses and corrupt government. The poor conditions of schools and the entire education system at the turn of the twentieth century were a major cause for reform. That reform movement has influenced the entire education system and has made it better and more suitable for students.
Civil rights for African-Americans and women was just beginning to become an issue in the late 19th century. Many progressivists spoke out for suffrage for women and equal rights for black people. Today, civil rights for minorities is still a big cause for reform. There are many different oraganizations whose goal is to reform the way society, the government and businesses treat any type of minority, including Hispanics, homosexuals and Native Americans. However civil rights is just one of the many causes of modern reform groups. Others include reform of huge companies and monoplolies, welfare programs, education systems and many, many other issues.
A reform movement is a shout against people, businesses, governments or ideas that are morally corrupt. Not all reform movements are successful in making an actual change, however even if a significant change isn't made their message is still shared with the public. Reform group leaders are usually involved in the government and have a strong...
Bibliography: Barbuto, Domencia. American Settlement Houses and Progressive Social Reform. New York: Orynx Press, 1999.
Buenker, John. Progressivism. Chicago: Schenkman Books, 1977.
Michaels, John. Reform in American History. 25 April 2000.
Miller, Randall A, ed. American Reform and Reformers: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.
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