The United States of America is one of the most developed countries today. This success is deeply rooted in the victories of the Progressive Era (Wilson 66). Although Progressives failed to address all the major social issues they had to face, they still defined the way the country developed years later. It is possible to consider at least five issues and the way they were handled to understand the impact of the decisions made over a century ago. This paper includes a brief analysis of such societal wrongs of the Progressive era as political corruption, workplace safety, child labor, contraception, and prostitution.
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One of the major vices of that time was political corruption as it paved the way for various illegal activities mainly associated with the business or rather exploitation of workers. Muckraking was one of the instruments to address this societal wrong (“The Progressive Era: Crash Course US History #27”). Journalists tried to expose illegal deeds of monopolies, trusts, and the rich. One of the prominent figures who contributed to solving this issue was James Garfield, 20th President of the USA, who tried to eliminate corruption in his office.
Workplace safety was another urgent issue to solve as thousands of workers were injured or even died due to inhumane conditions they had to work in. One of the solutions to the problem was commissions and inspections aimed at ensuring compliance with certain standards (Leonard 10). Florence Kelley contributed significantly to the enactment of the act that set certain restrictions and standards that improved the working conditions of workers.
Child labor is another issue that became vivid during the Progressive Era. The accident at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 when many child workers died drew the public attention to the matter (Hobbs and McKechnie 320). Upper- and middle-class Progressives pushed policymakers to address the issue. Albert J. Beveridge was the first US senator to introduce federal laws against child labor. His attempts were not successful, but soon various agencies, such as Labor’s Children’s Bureau, were established to solve the problem.
Health issues were also urgent especially when it came to women’s health. One of the areas of most concern was associated with contraception. Abortions were prohibited, and contraception was illegal. Thousands of women died due to sexually transmitted diseases, abortions conducted in inappropriate conditions, and when delivering children. Margaret Sanger was one of the activists who advocated females’ rights to make decisions related to their bodies (“Progressivism”). Progressives managed to change the situation by distributing information about contraception among poor people and maintaining the debate on the matter.
Finally, prostitution was the problem that was related to all the issues mentioned above. This illegal activity was quasi-legal in the Progressive Era (Weiner 47). There were red-light areas, and prostitutes paid certain monthly fines. Bryan Mullanphy can be regarded as one of the prominent figures in the movement aimed at helping young women escape from immoral behavior. In 1851, this man established a fund for travelers who came to the West. This fund was later targeted at young female travelers.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that Progressives had a considerable impact on the development of the USA. First, they developed the standards of advocacy and philanthropy. These people created organizations and agencies that focused on specific social issues. Many of these entities still exist while others became prototypes for effective institutions and charities. Although Progressives did not solve all issues, they started moving in the direction that helped the country evolve into one of the most industrialized economies.
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Hobbs, Sandy, and James McKechnie. “Child Labor.” Social Issues in America: An Encyclopedia, edited by James Ciment, Routledge, 2015, pp. 319-331.
Leonard, Thomas C. Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era. Princeton University Press, 2016.
“Progressivism.” YouTube, uploaded by Meredith May. 2017, Web.
“The Progressive Era: Crash Course US History #27.” YouTube, uploaded by CrashCourse. 2013, Web.
Weiner, Lynn. From Working Girl to Working Mother: The Female Labor Force in the United States, 1820-1980. UNC Press Books, 2016.
Wilson, Carter A. Public Policy: Continuity and Change. 2nd ed., Waveland Press, 2016.