Acoworker once described Florence Kelley as a "guerrilla warrior" in the "wilderness of indus­trial wrongs." A woman of sharp wit and com­manding presence




НазваниеAcoworker once described Florence Kelley as a "guerrilla warrior" in the "wilderness of indus­trial wrongs." A woman of sharp wit and com­manding presence
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Acoworker once described Florence Kelley as a "guerrilla warrior" in the "wilderness of indus­trial wrongs." A woman of sharp wit and com­manding presence, Kelley accomplished as much as anyone in guiding the United States out of the tangled swamp of unregulated industrial capitalism into the uncharted seas of the twentieth-century welfare state.

Kelley's career traced a remarkable odyssey. Raised in middle-class comfort in Philadelphia, the daughter of a Republican congressman, Kelley graduated from Cornell in 1883. She prepared to study law, but the University of Pennsylvania denied her admission to its graduate school because of her gender. Instead, she traveled to Europe. In Zurich, Kelley joined a group of socialists who alerted her to the plight of the under­privileged. She married a socialist Russian medical stu­dent and returned to New York City in 1886. When the marriage collapsed from debts and physical abuse, Kelley took her three children to Chicago in 1891 to obtain a divorce. Later that year she moved into Hull House, a residence in the slums where middle-class re­formers went to live in order to help and learn from working-class immigrants. There her transforming work truly began.

Until the 1890s, Kelley's life had been male-oriented, influenced first by her father, then by her husband. She had tried to enter public life by attend­ing law school and participating in poHtical organiza­tions, but men had blocked her path at every turn. At Hull House, however, Kelley entered a female-domi­nated environment, where women sought to apply helping skills to the betterment of society. This envi­ronment encouraged Kelley to assert her powerful abilities.

Over the next decade, Kelley became the nation's most ardent advocate of improved conditions for working-class women and children. She investigated and publicized the exploitative sweatshop system in Chicago's garment industry, lobbied for laws to pro­hibit child labor and regulate women's working hours, and served as Illinois's first factory inspector. Her work

During the Progressive era, reformers advocated new ways of thinking and new techniques to achieve progress in a variety of fields. Progressive educators, for example, cast aside rigid methods of memorization and discipline in favor of encouraging children to use their minds and hands in ways that were relevant to their lives. (Library of Congress)

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Chapter 21 The Progressive Era, 1895-1920

helped create new professions for women in social ser­vice, and her strategy of investigating, publicizing, and crusading for action became a model for reform. Per­haps most significant, she and fellow reformers like Jane Addams and Lillian Wald enlisted government to aid in the solution of social problems.

During the 1890s economic depression, labor vio­lence, political upheaval, and foreign entanglements shook the nation. Technology had fulfilled many pro­mises, but great numbers of Americans continued to suffer from poverty and disease. Some critics regarded industrialists as monsters who controlled markets, wages, and prices for the sole purpose of maximizing profits. Others believed government was corroded by bosses who enriched themselves through politics. Ten­sions created by urbanization and industrialization seemed to be fragmenting society into conflicting in­terest groups.

By 1900, however, the political tumult of the previous decade had died down, and the economic de­pression seemed to be over. The nation emerged vic­torious from a war (see Chapter 22), and a new era of dynamic political leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson was dawning. A sense of re­newal served both to intensify anxiety over continuing social and political problems and to raise hopes that somehow such problems could be fixed and democracy could be reconciled with capitalism.

From these circumstances there emerged a com­plex, and many-sided, reform campaign. By the 1910s many reformers were calling themselves "Progressives"; in 1912 they formed a political party by that name to embody their principles. Historians have uniformly used the term Progressivism to refer to the era's re­formist spirit while disagreeing over its meaning and over which groups and individuals actually were Pro­gressive. Nonetheless, the era between 1895 and 1920 included a series of movements, each aiming in one way or another to renovate or restore American soci­ety, values, and institutions.

This painting (1904) by Everett Shinn depicts the disastrous consequences of poverty and the unkept promise of American life. Unable to pay the rent, thousands of families, along with their meager belongings, were forced into the streets. A painter of the so-called Ash-can School, Shinn captured the distress of poverty-stricken families forced to experience this humiliation. (National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C./Art Resource, N.Y.)

The Progressive Era, 1895-1920

IMPORTANT EVENTS

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The reform impulse had many sources. Industrial capitalism had created awesome technology, unprece­dented productivity, and a cornucopia of consumer goods. But it also brought harmful overproduction, domineering monopolies, labor strife, and the spoiling of natural resources. Burgeoning cities facilitated the amassing and distribution of goods, services, and cul­tural amenities; they also bred poverty, disease, and crime. Inflows of immigrants and the rise of a new class of managers and professionals reconfigured the social order. And the depression of the 1890s forced many leading citizens to realize what working people had known for some time: the central promise of

American life was not being kept; equality of opportu­nity was a myth.

In addressing these problems, Progressives orga­nized their ideas and actions around three goals. First, they sought to end abuses of power. Attacks on unfair privilege, monopoly, and corruption were not new; Jacksonian reformers of the 1830s and 1840s and Populists of the 1890s belonged to the same tradition. Progressives, however, intensified the attacks. Trust-busting, consumers' rights, and good government be­came compelling political issues.

Second, Progressives aimed to supplant corrupt power with humane institutions such as schools,

Chapter 21 The Progressive Era, 1895-1920

charities, and medical clinics. Though eager to protect individual rights, they abandoned individualistic no­tions that hard work and good character automatically ensured success and that the poor had only themselves to blame for their plight. Instead, Progressives ac­knowledged that society had responsibility and power to improve individual lives, and they believed that gov­ernment, acting for society at large, must intervene in social and economic affairs to protect the common good and elevate public interest above self-interest. Their revolt against fixed categories of thought chal­lenged entrenched views on women's roles, race rela­tions, education, legal and scientific thought, and morality.

Third, Progressives wanted to apply scientific prin­ciples and efficient management to economic, social, and political institutions. Their aim was to establish bureaus of experts that would end wasteful competi­tion and promote social and economic order. Science and the scientific method—planning, control, and pre­dictability—were their central values. Just as corpora­tions applied scientific management techniques to achieve economic efficiency, Progressives advocated expertise and planning to achieve social and political efficiency.

Befitting their name, Progressives had deep faith in the ability of humankind to create a better world. They used phrases such as "humanity's universal growth" and "the upward spiral of human develop­ment." Optimism arising from rising incomes, new ed­ucational opportunities, and increased availability of goods and services created an aura of confidence that social improvement would follow. Judge Ben Lindsey of Denver, who spearheaded reform in the treatment of juvenile delinquents, expressed the Progressive creed when he wrote, "In the end the people are bound to do the right thing, no matter how much they fail at times." ■

The Varied Progressive Impulse

■Progressive reformers addressed vexing issues that had surfaced in the previous half-century, but they did so in a new po­litical climate. As the twentieth century dawned, party loyalty eroded and voter turnout de­clined. In northern states, voter participation in presi­dential elections dropped from Gilded Age levels of over 80 percent of the eligible electorate to less than 60 percent. In southern states, where taxes and literacy

The Varied Progressive Impulse

tests excluded most African Americans and many poor whites from the polls, it fell below 30 percent. Parties and elections, it seemed, were losing influence over government policies. At the same time, the political system was opening to new interest groups, each of which championed its own cause.

Local voluntary associations had existed since the 1790s, but many organizations became nationwide in scope after the 1890s and tried to shape public policy to meet their needs and goals. These organizations in­cluded professional associations such as the American Bar Association; women's organizations such as the National American Woman Suffrage Association; issue-oriented groups such as the National Consumers League; civic clubs such as the National Municipal League; and minority-group associations, such as the National Negro Business League and the Society of American Indians. Because they usually acted inde­pendently of either of the established political parties, such groups made politics more fragmented and issue-focused than in earlier eras.

Also, American politics became receptive to for­eign models and ideas for reorganizing society. A variety of programs and proposals OT traveled across the Atlantic; some were introduced by Americans such as Florence Kelley who had observed reforms in England, France, and Germany, others by foreigners traveling in the United States. (Europeans also learned of American reforms, but the balance of the idea flow tilted toward the United States.) Such reforms as old-age insurance, subsidized workers' housing, city planning, and rural reconstruction originated abroad and were adopted or modified in America.

Although goals of the rural-based Populist move­ment lingered—moral regeneration, political democ­racy, and antimonopolism—the Progressive quest for social justice, educational and legal reform, and gov­ernment streamlining had a largely urban bent. Be­tween 1890 and 1920 the proportion of the nation's population living in cities swelled from 35 percent to 51 percent; the number of cities with fifty thousand or more people rose from 58 to 144. By utilizing ad­vances in mail, telephone, and telegraph communica­tions, urban reformers exchanged information and coordinated efforts to alleviate the consequences of this change.

Organizations and individuals intent on achieving Progressive goals—ending the abuse of power, re­forming social institutions, and promoting bureau­cratic and scientific efficiency—existed in almost all

Urban

Middle-Class Reformers and Muckrakers

Foreign Influences

levels of society. But the new middle class—men and women in profes­sions of law, medicine, engineering, social work, religion, teaching, and business—formed the vanguard of reform. Offended by inefficiency and immorality in business, government, and human rela­tions, these people set out to apply rational techniques they had learned in their professions to problems of the larger society.

Their indignation motivated many middle-class Progressive reformers to seek an end to abuses of power. Their views were voiced by journalists whom Theodore Roosevelt dubbed muckrakers (after a char­acter in the Puritan allegory Pilgrims Progress who, rather than looking heavenward at beauty, looked downward and raked the muck to find what was wrong with life). Muckrakers fed public taste for scandal and sensation by exposing social, economic, and political wrongs. Their investigative articles in McClures, Cos­mopolitan, and other popular magazines attacked adul­terated foods, fraudulent insurance, prostitution, and other offenses. Lincoln Steffens's articles in McClure\ later published as The Shame of the Cities (1904), epito­mized the muckraking style. Steffens hoped his ex­poses of bosses' misrule would inspire mass outrage and, ultimately, reform. Other well-known muckrak­ing efforts included Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1906), a novel that disclosed crimes of the meatpacking in­dustry; Ida M. Tarbell's critical history of Standard Oil (1904); Burton J. Hendrick's Story of Life Insurance (1907); and David Graham Phillips's Treason of the Sen­ate (1906).

To improve politics, Progressives advocated nom­inating candidates through direct primaries instead of party caucuses and holding nonpartisan elections to prevent the fraud and bribery bred by party loyalties. To make officeholders more responsible, Progressives pressed for three reforms: the initiative, which permit­ted voters to propose new laws; the referendum, which enabled voters to accept or reject a law; and the recall, which allowed voters to remove offending officials and judges from office before their terms expired. Their goal, like that of the business-consolidation move­ment, was efficiency: they would reclaim government by replacing the boss system with accountable man­agers chosen by a responsible electorate.

The Progressive spirit also stirred some elite business leaders. Executives like Alexander Cassatt of the Pennsylvania Railroad supported some govern­ment regulation and political reforms to protect their interests from more radical reformers. Others, like

Chapter 21 The Progressive Era, 1895-1920
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