Who Were the Progressives?

Topics: Progressivism, Progressive Era, Woodrow Wilson Pages: 3 (891 words) Published: August 1, 2002
Who Were the Progressives? (ca. 1890s-1910s)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Even more energetic a sphere of historical controversy than that over the Populists is the historians' argument over the Progressive movement. The Progressives were a heterogeneous collection of reformers. Active chiefly in the nation's cities and the urban mass media (and in the legislatures of such states as Wisconsin and New York), the Progressives carried out efforts to reform American society and governance on all fronts. They numbered among their ranks social Progressives (such as Jane Addams, the founder of the Hull House settlement movement), economic Progressives (such as Richard Ely, the noted Wisconsin economist who emphasized the need to prevent great concentrations of economic power), legal Progressives (such as Louis D. Brandeis, the noted Massachusetts attorney and U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and his protege, Harvard Law School professor Felix Frankfurter), cultural Progressives (including novelists such as Frank Norris and Upton Sinclair and such muckraking journalists as Ida M. Tarbel l), and of course the great Progressive politicians, themselves making up a remarkable spectrum of Progressive variations. Occupying the poles of the Progressive political spectrum were Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, each of whom developed his own brand of political Progressive theory and policy.

Roosevelt's New Nationalism emphasized giving a vigorous national government the power to regulate and mediate among large, clashing economic and social actors. "Mere bigness" was no sin if these powerful institutions and organizations could be brought into a stable, cooperatige relationship with one another through the medium of government.

Wilson's New Freedom emphasized using government power to knock the large economic and social forces down to size and keeping government, business, labor, and society at a human scale. Rather than...
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