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Content Reading Guide: Progressivism Part 2
The 2nd goal of many Progressives was to Advance Moral Improvement. Many Progressives taught that improved morality was vital to reforming society. In this time period, many viewed alcohol as radically harmful to the moral life of the USA. Therefore, many Progressives wanted prohibition to be enacted by the government, which is the banning of alcohol. Many women played a major role in pursuing this goal. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union formed in 1874 to achieve the objective of prohibition. Frances Willard led the effort for women’s rights and taught alcohol abuse greatly hurt women. Many times, these movements clashed with European culture. Numerous immigrants stood against the Prohibition Movement, since alcohol was used widely within their various cultures.
Also during the Progressive Era of the late 1800s and early 1900s, women fought for suffrage, the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony was a prominent leader in this movement. Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Women Suffrage Association to achieve this goal. Women gained the right to vote with the 19th Amendment that went into effect in 1920.
A 3rd goal that many Progressives desired was to Create Economic Reform. The American Socialist Party was formed in 1901 and began to oppose strict capitalism, the system in which private businesses control a great deal of the economy. The Panic of 1893 was a massive economic downturn. Many blamed capitalism as the causes for economic decline in the USA. Eugene V. Debs and others pushed for socialism, a system in which the government would control a large portion of the economy, instead of private businesses having that role. Debs and others felt that the government had given privilege to big business leaders, like Andrew Carnegie and others. Socialists wanted to counter that favoritism through urging workers to unionize and demand better working conditions and pay. Progressives sought to reform the economy by giving more power to the common worker through unions and other likeminded efforts to utilize collective bargaining as a tactic of workers.
A 4th Goal of the Progressive Movement was to Increase Efficiency. In this goal, Progressives taught that experts and scientific improvement should impact the way businesses and the government operated. Sociological and scientific data asserted long work days were NOT profitable to factories. Henry Ford reduced the work day to eight hours to compensate for the exhaustion caused by assembly line work and used the assembly line to be more efficient in making automobiles. This created more cars and lowered their price as well.
In this era, Political bosses used kickbacks and “robbed” the tax payers. People were angry because many political leaders were corrupt. Progressives wanted to reform cities and hire experts to government positions. Progressives also sought to ban child labor to protect children and reduce job competition for adults. In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee was formed to address this issue. Progressives also proposed that people should get to create initiatives, bills made by people, not legislators. Referendums were votes on the initiatives by the people. To hold leaders accountable, many wanted to have the option of a recall, which could force leaders to run for office before their term was up. Followers of the movement also supported the 17th Amendment, which stated people could vote for Senators. This gave more power to the people instead of a Governor appointing Senators.