The Progressive movement started as a social movement to correct the problems that rapid industrialization had created for America and would later evolve into a political movement. In the beginning Progressives, often called “muckrakers ” felt that the problems that Americans faced in the Gilded Age could be solved by a good education, a safe environment, and a safe workplace.

Professor Walter Nugent in his Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction noted, “Progressivism reflected a growing, if temporary, consensus among Americans that major changes in the late 19th century had produced unwelcome, un-American imbalances in their society. Evidences of this were a new class of ostentatious millionaires, monopolistic and out-of-control corporations, conflict (often violent) between workers and capitalists.   Reformers began to believe that some form and degree of government involvement was necessary to correct these problems as they pushed for reforms in many aspects of American life.  The issue now became how much government involvement.


Jane Addams is best known as the founder of a settlement house, called Hull House, where she provided help for poor immigrants who had come to Chicago. The idea for Hull House came after she saw a similar institution in London. Hull House provided kindergarten and day care for the children of working mothers and after school activities for older children. Later an art gallery, employment bureau, library, public kitchen, music and art classes, as well as facilities for swimming and sports activities, were added. She was also involved in numerous organizations that promoted social reform involving the rights of children, African Americans and women. Jane Addams became active in the peace movement during World War I and was the first president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Because of her outstanding work, she was the first American woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
Susan B. Anthony was born in Massachusetts, the daughter of Quaker abolitionists. At her first women’s rights convention in 1852, she declared that voting was “the right which woman needed above every other.” In 1869 Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Lucy Stone founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). This organization condemned the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as injustices to women because they failed to clearly protect women’s rights. She and Stanton also published a weekly newspaper, The Revolution.

In 1872, Anthony decided to test the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment by casting a vote. She argued that because the amendment protected the “privileges and immunities” of all citizens, that it should protect her right to vote. She was arrested, imprisoned, tried, and found guilty of voting. Anthony’s trial gave her a chance to bring her message to a larger audience.

In the 1880s, NWSA merged with another suffrage organization to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Stanton became its first president. In 1892, Anthony became its second president – a post she held for eight years. Anthony died in 1906, fourteen years before the Nineteenth Amendment would secure women’s right to vote. The fight for women’s suffrage was continued by others including Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt.

Carrie Chapman Catt, was born in Iowa, studied education and law, and became a high school principal.

Later a superintendent and then a newspaper reporter, Catt soon became a lecturer for the woman’s suffrage movement. Working closely with Susan B. Anthony, Catt succeeded Anthony as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1900. She urged President Woodrow Wilson to support an amendment to the Constitution securing the right to vote for women.

Catt found the group’s efforts disorganized, and introduced a strategy to work for a suffrage amendment. The strategy was known as the “winning plan,” and advocated working for reforms on both the state and federal levels. She opposed the efforts of Alice Paul to boycott Democratic candidates who refused to support women’s suffrage, as well as Paul’s more militant strategies. Catt’s perseverance in working to ensure state reforms giving women the vote were critical to securing adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment. This amendment illustrates the constitutional principle of equality. After its passage, Catt founded the League of Women Voters and advocated child labor laws.

W.E.B. DuBois was a leader in the struggle for civil rights for African Americans in the first years of the 20th century. In 1895, he became the first African American to receive a PH.D from Harvard. DuBois broke from Booker T. Washington’s philosophy which preached that African Americans should work hard for economic gain and the respect of whites, even though it might mean they had to endure discrimination for the time being. DuBois believed Washington’s philosophy would perpetuate the oppression of African Americans. In 1903, DuBois published perhaps his most famous book, The Souls of Black Folks. In 1909, he helped create the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). His later Pan-Africanism ideas were based on the belief that people of African descent from all over the world should unite to fight oppression. When he left the NAACP in 1934, he favored complete black separatism. After moving to Ghana, he became a citizen of Ghana and a member of the Communist Party. He died in Ghana on August 27, 1963, the eve of the March on Washington.
Alice Paul was born in New Jersey to a Quaker family. She became interested in women’s suffrage while a graduate student in England.

She came back to the United States in 1910 and turned her attention to winning the vote for women in America. She earned her PhD in economics, concentrating on the status of women in Pennsylvania. She wished to build on the efforts of earlier suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Paul organized a large parade to coincide with the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. She published leaflets and held daily pickets in front of the White House. She burned copies of Wilson’s speeches, calling them “meaningless words” about democracy. In 1917 she and many others were arrested for peacefully marching. While in jail, she began a hunger strike and was force-fed by prison authorities.

Paul’s actions alienated some, including National American Woman Suffrage Association President Carrie Chapman Catt, who believed the women’s suffragists were becoming too militant. On the other hand, those who were arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights to speak, publish, peaceably assemble, and petition won the public’s sympathy. Wilson ordered them released from prison. He also soon lent his support to women’s suffrage. Congress approved the Nineteenth Amendment within a year and it was ratified by the states in 1920. Paul continued her campaign for women’s rights, leading a successful campaign to add gender as a protected category to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The work of Paul and other women’s suffragists illustrate the civic values of perseverance, courage, initiative, industry, and civic skills including volunteering.

Theodore Roosevelt, born in New York in 1858, was serving as Vice President when President William McKinley was assassinated. With this event, Roosevelt became the youngest person ever to become President. His views on foreign affairs were summed up with the proverb he often called his motto, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Roosevelt was willing to interfere in the affairs of other nations when it benefited the United States.

At home, Roosevelt expanded the federal government’s power of eminent domain. He signed laws establishing five national parks. Explaining his fight for a “square deal” for Americans, he used authority under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to take on consolidated companies that took away consumers’ choices. He worked to protect companies from extreme demands from labor unions. He urged federal lawmakers to enact legislation protecting workers, including child labor laws and a bill providing workmen’s compensation for all federal employees. He proposed laws regulating the nation’s food supply. In response, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, paving the way for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Roosevelt became famous for using the “bully pulpit” to advance his ideas.

Roosevelt had his critics. While the Founders believed that powers not granted to the federal government were forbidden, Roosevelt claimed that powers not forbidden were granted. Many charged that the many regulatory agencies he proposed threatened liberty. President William Howard Taft, who succeeded Theodore Roosevelt as President in 1908, said that Roosevelt’s view of “ascribing an undefined … power to the President” was “an unsafe doctrine” that could do “injustice to private right.” Some later historians have called Roosevelt an activist president, because of the way his actions increased the power of the federal government over states and individuals’ lives.

Upton Sinclair was born in Maryland in 1878. He believed unregulated capitalism was responsible for much of the poverty he saw, and so he joined the Socialist Party. He decided to write a series of articles on the Chicago meat-packing industry. The series told the fictional story of an immigrant family who found work in the stock yards. The stories first appeared in a socialist newspaper. In 1906, Sinclair combined them into a fictional novel, The Jungle. It was a world-wide best-seller. Americans were shocked and horrified at the working conditions Sinclair described.

President Theodore Roosevelt read The Jungle and ordered inspections of the meatpacking industry. Soon after, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drugs Act (1906) and the Meat Inspection Act (1906). Sinclair exercised his right to freedom of the press in order to bring about what he saw as a needed change.

Ida B. Wells exercised her rights to freedom of speech and press to bring national attention to the crime of lynching. Wells was born in Mississippi in 1862, the oldest of eight children. She put herself through college and became a teacher in Memphis, Tennessee.

In 1892, Wells lost three close friends to a lynch mob. These gruesome killings made headlines, but no one was arrested or charged. As a journalist and a newspaper owner and editor, Wells courageously wrote about the racism that motivated such murders. The press attacked her as a “black scoundrel” for saying that lynching had nothing to do with justice or honor. A mob ransacked her office and threatened her life, but she continued her crusade.

Wells later moved to Chicago where she published The Red Record, the first documented statistical report on lynching. She became a respected public speaker, and traveled widely, lecturing on anti-lynching activities, speaking out against segregation, and advocating for women’s voting rights. She co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

Documents/Supreme Court Cases
The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was the first consumer protection law adopted by the U. S. Congress in the early 20th century in the so-called “Progressive Era” of American history. Its purpose was to protect the public against contamination of food and food products as well as from fraudulent claims without scientific support by those manufacturing drugs for public health purposes. Important scientific support for the law came from Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, Chief Chemist of the Department of Agriculture. Because of his leadership in the adoption of the law, he is often referred to as “Mr. Pure Food and Drug Act.” The Pure Food and Drug Act included the following provisions: (1) Creation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) charged with testing all foods and drugs destined for human consumption; (2) Requiring prescriptions from licensed physicians before a patient can purchase certain drugs; and (3) Requiring contents of canned food products to be clearly labeled. The law was later amended, and its scope expanded in 1933.
Within months of the publication of Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle, which described in gruesome detail very unhealthy practices in the Chicago meat-packing industry, public demand for reform grew. President Theodore Roosevelt sent Labor Commissioner Charles Neill to explore the industry. He learned that practices there were worse than Sinclair described. A short while later, Congress passed the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. The Act empowers the U. S. Department of Agriculture to inspect all types of cattle, sheep, goats, and horses before and after they are slaughtered and then processed into products for human consumption. The law applies not only to products processed in the U. S. but also to imported products. The Act establishes standards for inspecting all meat processing plants that carry on business across state lines. Sanitary standards are set for slaughterhouses and meat processing plants. The law has been amended and strengthened by later acts including 1967’s Wholesome Meat and Wholesome Poultry Products Acts.
The issue of the national government’s involvement in banking has been around almost since the beginning of the nation and the new Constitution. At the urging of Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Congress in 1791 chartered the First Bank of the U. S. which was modeled after Great Britain’s central bank. This bank served as the government’s fiscal agent, receiving its revenues, holding its deposits, and making its payments. When the bank’s charter came up for renewal in 1811, Congress declined to renew it. After the War of 1812, the nation found itself burdened with war debts and an ailing economy, and several influential individuals thought that a new national bank might help resolve these problems. In 1816, Congress chartered he Second Bank of the U. S. for twenty years. Its functions were the same as those of the First Bank of the U. S. When Maryland challenged Congress’ constitutional power to create the Second Bank of the U. S., the Supreme Court in McCulloch v Maryland unanimously upheld Congress’ constitutional power to do so. In 1832, four years before its charter was set to expire, Congress passed a bill to renew the Second Bank’s charter, but President Andrew Jackson vetoed the bill. The following year, President Jackson ordered that all U. S. government deposits be removed from the Second Bank of the U. S. and deposited instead in state chartered banks. In 1836, when the Second Bank’s charter expired, it ceased to exist, and the nation had no central bank. Following the demise of the Second Bank of the U. S., the financial system of the U. S. entered a period which economic historians call “the free banking era.” The only banks in the U. S. were those chartered by the states. For the rest of the century, the nation experienced several financial panics in 1857, 1873, and 1893. In 1907 the U. S. experienced a crisis called “the Wall Street Panic” which, at that time in history, was the worst economic depression in U. S. history. Many banks collapsed; the nation’s unemployment rate reached 20 percent; and millions lost their deposits. The final result of the Panic of 1907 was the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. The Federal Reserve System, created by this 1913 law is like its predecessors in several respects. It issued notes or currency, served as the government’s fiscal agent, received revenue, issued notes, and made payments for the government. The Federal Reserve System has twelve Reserve Banks scattered throughout the country. The Federal Reserve System today is not quite the same as it was when created in 1913 as it has undergone some overhaul. Among other responsibilities, “the Fed,” as it is often called, has been charged with controlling the money supply for the purpose of promoting economic stability. Supervising the Federal Reserve System today is a seven member Board of Governors who are appointed by the President with Senate approval. Among the Federal Reserve’s duties today are: (1) conducting the nation’s monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates; and (2) supervising and regulating banking institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation’s banking and financial system and to protect the credit rights of consumers.
Theodore Roosevelt is regarded among historians as the nation’s “conservation President.” The conservation and preservation of the nation’s natural resources had increasingly become of major concern to Roosevelt. During his presidency (1901-1908), Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the U. S. Forest Service and establishing bird reservations, game preserves, national forests, and national parks. In 1906, he persuaded Congress to pass the American Antiquities Act which Roosevelt used to create several National Monuments. There was a growing recognition, however, in the early years of the 20th century that parks, battlefields, archeological sites, Indian ruins and artifacts, and other natural wonders needed to be protected as the population grew and the nation’s treasures became accessible to more people. In the beginning, the parks, etc. were under the management of the state where they were located or the U. S. Army. The nation’s natural treasures were poorly or ineffectively managed. For this reason, individuals and groups began to lobby for the U. S. to create a single national agency with the responsibility for managing and conserving them. Congress eventually passed the National Park Service Act of 1916. President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, signed the bill into law. The caption of the Act explains its purpose: “An Act to establish a National Park Service, and for other purposes.” The law goes on to provide that the National Park Service is created “to regulate national parks, preserves, and monuments in order to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Today, the National Park Service has under its care 21 different types of units, 401 units in all, including national parks such as Yellowstone, historical parks, military parks, memorials, scenic trails, recreation areas, and sites such as the White House and the National Mall in Washington, D. C.


In the late 1800s farmers in much of the country experienced difficult times. Farmers felt that neither the Republicans nor Democrats were concerned about their problems. As a result, they created their own party, the Populist Party. In July of 1892, they issued the Omaha Platform at their founding convention in Omaha, Nebraska. The platform included ideas such as a graduated income tax, the use of the secret ballot, direct election of U.S. Senators, an eight-hour workday, government ownership of the railroads, telegraph, and telephone, free, unlimited coinage of gold and silver, and a proposal that excess land held by the railroads and other corporations be reclaimed by the government. Although the Populist Party won one million popular votes and received twenty-two electoral votes, they were unsuccessful because their main support came from the South, Midwest, and the West. They received very little support from the densely populated Northeast. By 1896, the Democrats adopted some of the ideas in the Omaha Platform and the party largely disappeared. However, some Populist Party proposals such as graduated income tax, the secret ballot, and direct election of U.S. Senators became law during the Progressive and New Deal eras.
While the temperance movement began in the 1850s, the desire to prohibit the drinking of alcoholic beverages intensified in the early years of the 20th century. Leader Carrie Nation dedicated her life to the prohibition of alcohol even if it meant staging a march into a saloon or bar and destroying it with a hatchet, which she called "Hatchetations." Although she was arrested and fined, she continued to conduct these marches. The temperance movement intensified, and by January 1919 Congress ratified the 18th Amendment that prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol in the United States except for certain medical uses. Congress passed the Volstead Act in an attempt to enforce the 18th Amendment. However, during the 1920s, speakeasies—establishments that sold illegal alcoholic beverages—grew and became the place where people went to buy alcohol. The illegal activity that developed around the manufacture and distribution of alcoholic beverages soon persuaded the nation to repeal the 18th Amendment with the 21st Amendment in 1933.
In 1912, the Progressive Party made its first appearance in the nation's presidential elections. The popular name for the party was the Bull Moose Party and its candidate was former Republican president Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt had declined to run in the 1908 election, leaving his successor William Howard Taft to carry on his reforms. However, when Taft did not follow through, Roosevelt and his supporters bolted from the Republican party to form the Bull Moose Party. Roosevelt ran on a platform that pledged to continue the fight for tariff reform, regulation of large industrial corporations and interstate industries, and the political reforms that included direct primaries, popular election of U.S. senators. They also supported women's suffrage and prohibition of child labor. Many of these ideas came from the Populist Party. The Republicans nominated President Taft; the Democrats, Woodrow Wilson; and the Socialists, Eugene V. Debs. Roosevelt won 88 electoral votes and 27% of the popular vote, drawing most of this support away from Taft, the Republican candidate. As a result the Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson won the election. This election continues to be the strongest effort by a third party candidate in U.S. presidential history.
Republican Theodore Roosevelt became President following the assassination of William McKinley. As President, he attempted to make numerous social, economic, environmental, and political reforms to improve American life. When Roosevelt decided not to run for election in 1908, he left his successor, William Howard Taft, in charge of continuing the work while he went on an African safari. Disappointed in Taft's progress in the four years he was President, Roosevelt decided to run as a third-party candidate for the Progressive or Bull Moose Party in 1912. His platform included some of the earlier reform ideas of the Populist Party, including tariff reform, stricter regulation of industrial combinations, women's suffrage, prohibition of child labor, direct primaries, popular election of U. S. Senators, publication of campaign expenditures, regulation of interstate industries, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and old-age pensions. In the election, Roosevelt split the Republican vote, which allowed Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson to win the contest with 435 electoral votes while receiving only 42% of the popular vote. Roosevelt won 27% of the popular vote and 88 electoral votes. President Taft won 23% of the popular vote and only 8 electoral votes. Roosevelt's performance was the best in any presidential election by a third-party candidate. The Progressive Party continued to be involved in U.S. politics until 1952.