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The Progressive Era Through the Great Depression

By chevyrida Jun 16, 2013 1473 Words
The Progressive Era was a time of responses to the economic, social problems, and rapid industrialization introduced to America. Progressivism began as a social movement and grew into a political movement. The early progressives were people who believed that the problems society faced (poverty, violence, and greed, racism, and class warfare) could best be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace. Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated, and believed that government could be a tool for change. The progress came from a long tradition of middle-class elites possessing a strong sense of social duty to the poor. The social hierarchy wherein blue-blooded, native stock was at the top and the poor along with “dark-skinned were at the bottom, were accepted by the elite. But inherent in their role as privileged members of society was a certain degree of responsibility for the less fortunate. As members of the middle class, many Progressives had money, time, and resources to devote to the cause of reform. There were a number of social reformers that worked to reform what they viewed as the “ills” negatively impacting United States society. Social Reformers were Jane Addams a “Pioneer in the field of social work who founded the settlement house movement through the establishment of Hull House in Chicago, Illinois. Margaret Sanger, educated urban poor about the benefits of family planning through birth control. She founded the organization that became Planned Parenthood. Booker T. Washington was a former slave who founded the Tuskegee Institute that focused on teaching African Americans trade skills to earn a living and gain the trust of white society. W.E.B. DuBois was the founder of the NAACP, and a Harvard educated professor who focused on the need for a traditional liberal arts education for African-Americans who could then insist upon equal treatment and rights from white society.” (http://www.regentsprep.org/regents/ushisgov/themes/reform/progressive.htm)The fight for progressive reform did not just stop with those few that I mention but it continued by reforming cities, state political reform, women progressivism, progressivism in business, and progressive in education. All of these efforts has shaped America today and made us prosperous. The Great Depression (1929-1939) was the worst economic downturn in the history of the United States. The Great Depression began soon after the stock market crash on October 1929, which sent Wall Street into a panic and wiped out millions of investors. Consumer spending and investment dropped, causing declined industrial output and increasing unemployment as failing companies lay off workers. By 1933, approximately 13 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half the country’s banks had failed. The relief and reform measures put into place by President Roosevelt helped lessen the worst effects of the Great Depression in the 1930’s. The economy would not fully turn until after 1939. Under President Roosevelt’s guidance, a “New Deal” was to take place as a government intervention to repair the economic crisis. The nation needed immediate relief, to recover from economic collapse, and reform to avoid future depressions. Roosevelt had the Democratic Congress support and they were ready to put into action what Roosevelt had in place. President Roosevelt’s commitment was to help “the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid”. President Roosevelt’s New Deal was fashioned during Roosevelt’s Democratic presidential nomination acceptance speech. Roosevelt’s statement was “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.” In his speech he wanted to make it clear the “use of the authority of governments as an organized form of self-help for all classes and groups and sections of our country.” Roosevelt wanted to gain the trust of the American people and to reassure them that his New Deal would change the fate of America. In the first hundred days, Roosevelt’s New Deal plan began with submitting reform and recovery measures for congressional approval. All the important bills he proposed were enacted by Congress. Thus the 99-day from March 9-June16 became known as the “Hundred Days.” During President Roosevelt’s first year, congress passed laws to protect stock and bond investors and on March 12, 1933 he broadcast on radio to Americans on the Bank Crisis and to encourage them to support his domestic. Among the measures enacted during the first Hundred Days were the following: • Emergency Banking Act (March 9), provided the president with the means to reopen viable banks and regulate banking; • Economy Act (March 20), cut federal costs through reorganization of and cuts in salaries and veterans` pensions; • Beer-Wine Revenue Act (March 22), legalized and taxed wine and beer; • Civilian Conservation Corps Act (March 31). Three million young men, between the ages of 18 to 25, found work in road building, forestry labor and flood control through the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC); • Federal Emergency Relief Act (May 12), established the Federal Emergency Relief Administration to distribute $500 million to states and localities for relief. Administered by Harry Hopkins for relief or for wages on public works, that federal agency would eventually pay out about $3 billion; • Agricultural Adjustment Act (May 12), established the Agricultural Adjustment Administration to decrease crop surpluses by subsidizing farmers who voluntarily cut back on production; • Thomas Amendment to the Agricultural Adjustment Act permitted the president to inflate the currency in various ways; • Tennessee Valley Authority Act (May 18), allowed the federal government to build dams and power plants in the Tennessee Valley, coupled with agricultural and industrial planning, to generate and sell the power, and to engage in area development. The TVA was given an assignment to improve the economic and social circumstances of the people living in the river basin; and the • Federal Securities Act (May 27), to stiffen regulation of the securities business. (www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1851.html)

There were several turning points during the Progressive Era and Great Depression, one being the women and suffrage. At the end of the 19th century women were the ones staying home raising the children and doing the household chores, while the men worked. Men in the eastern states believed that women’s suffrage would be the downfall of ethics and morals in society. Western states were willing to allow women to participate in the election. Men living in the eastern states felt strongly that women’s suffrage would give women too much control, they would then have the right to sleep with any man they want and the divorce rate would increase. These men obviously wanted to keep women house bound. In 1912, western states were the first to allow women to participate in the election. Thus the passing of the 19th Amendment would end women’s suffrage movement. A turning point during the Great Depression would be the Birth of the New Deal. The New Deal would help bring forth many new concepts that are relevant today like Social Security, the TVA, and civil service jobs. The Spanish American War was not just a war, but it ended the 19th century and it also started the American century. The United States were the aggressor during the Spanish American War. The U.S. was successful in spreading their influence throughout the world. They gained control of many of island nations such as Hawaii, Guam, and

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