With respect to the Gilded Age, how would one define the following and analyze the political, economic, and social impact of each: Workers issues, explain/issues of working conditions/early...

With respect to the Gilded Age, how would one define the following and analyze the political, economic, and social impact of each:

  1. Workers issues, explain/issues of working conditions/early labor unions/strikes/strike breakers
  2. Explain reform movements/Populists/issues William Jennings Bryan spoke to improve/issues Jane Addams worked to improve/issues muckrakers popularized (ex.THE JUNGLE)
  3. Explain Progressive reforms such as/national income tax/direct election of senators/women’s suffrage/prohibition
Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mark Twain dubbed the late 19th century the "Gilded Age" because he saw it as a period of both substantial economic growth and of substantial corruption (Digital History, "Overview of the Gilded Age"). Corruption particularly existed among business owners and managers. In fact, historian Page Smith has called events that took place in the Gilded Age as "The War between Capital and Labor" (The American Worker, "The War between Capital and Labor"). We certainly can see "warlike conditions" ensuing from literal warlike battles between laborers, many of who were Civil War veterans, and their superiors, who "saw workers as commodities to be dealt with like any raw material" (The American Worker).

Since federal laws to protect workers and enforce safety regulations did not exist in the Gilded Age, labor conditions were particularly terrible. Labor conditions were directly related to industrialization. Prior to the the Industrial Revolution, labor forces were small, and employers knew their laborers by name. As countries began to industrialize, work forces grew larger and larger. While earlier small sized labor forces did not necessarily equate to better conditions, larger sized work forces certainly did equate to increasingly more dangerous working conditions (The American Worker).

Factories were particularly dangerous working environments, leading to "25-35,000 deaths and 1 million injuries per year" in the 1900s (The American Worker). The Industrial Revolution also led to an increase in railway production, and railway jobs were also very dangerous, leading to deaths and injuries due to "fires, machinery accidents, train wrecks," and other problems (The American Worker). Since neither federal nor state safety regulations existed, it was nearly impossible to hold employers liable for deaths and injuries. Courts were more sympathetic towards employers, and "the burden of proof was on the injured party to prove he or she had not been negligent" (The American Worker).