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The Progressive Era

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The Progressive Era was a period that exposed the 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.(Mintz, 2015)

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 th...


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...nion. He held the vice-presidency for less than a year, succeeding to the presidency after the assassination of President McKinley on November 14, 1901. In 1904 Roosevelt was elected to a full term as president.

The ideals of the twentieth century were built on the work of reform groups. Reform groups still play a large part in changing the way large corporations and the government are run. Because of the constant need for change and reform, the turn of the twentieth century to the twenty-first could be called a progressive era just like the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century was.     

Works Consulted

Barbuto, Domencia. American Settlement Houses and Progressive Social Reform. New York: Orynx Press, 2009.

Buenker, John. Progressivism. Chicago: Schenkman Books, 2007.

Cohen, Miriam. "Women and the Progressive Movement" Gilderlehrman.org Web. 25 April 2015.
http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/politics-reform/essays/women-and-progressive-movement

Mintz, Steven. "Reform Movements of the Progressive Era" Gilderlehrman.org Web. 25 April 2015.
http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/politics-reform/resources/reform-movements-progressive-era


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