The Progressive Era of American History Illustrated in the Novel, Ragtime

The Progressive Era of American History Illustrated in the Novel, Ragtime

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The turn of the century in America introduced new inventions, new lifestyles, and new cultures. This time was called the “progressive era”. The cities were bustling and new amazements came every day. The storyline and the characters in the novel, Ragtime, represent the changes of this time period. From Emma Goldman, to mother, to Evelyn Nesbit, all people and their lives evolved in this period. Emma Goldman, an anarchist, fought for freedom in all aspects of life. Mother became the head of the family and grew into a strong woman who could support herself. Evelyn, a beautiful model scrutinized by the public, was an example of beauty and wealth for all people. She exemplified the new trend of open sexuality and was a prominent example of the trouble fame can cause. These characters and their different stories reflected the changing ideals of America in the early 1900’s.
Evelyn Nesbit was the new role model of the country at the turn of the century. “Evelyn Nesbit was the most beautiful, most photographed and possibly the most admired woman in America” (Uruburu, 1). Evelyn’s father died when she was young, leaving her and her mother to support themselves. Evelyn was a beautiful child and artists were constantly asking to use her as a model. Evelyn’s mother used these opportunities and moved to New York to further her daughter’s career at a very young age. The young girl became the breadwinner for the family; her beauty and emerging sexuality paid the bills and put food on the table. Stanford White was a famous architect who took a special interest in Evelyn. He showered Evelyn with money and jewelry, and they had a relationship until she left him for Harry Thaw. Thaw was abusive to Evelyn, but he helped further her career and gav...

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...y in everyday life. She was the first true “sex goddess”. Mother showed that women could survive without their husbands and could make their own livings. Goldman led women as well as men to be free and make their own opinions. The urbanization of the country gave women new roles in society and these characters demonstrated the new ideals and roles.

Works Cited

Doctorow, E.L. Ragtime. Random House, Inc. , 1975. Print.
Jewish Women's Archive, . "JWA- Emma Goldman- Overview." Web. 23 Feb 2010. .
Taylor, Troy. "The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing ." 2004. Web. 23 Feb 2010. .
Uruburu, Paula. "Immaterial Girl: Paula Uruburu on Evelyn Nesbit, a Real Pre- Madonna." 2010. Stop Smiling Media, Web. 23 Feb 2010. .

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