The Progressive Era (1900–1920) was a period of significant change in the United States. One of the changes was in the nature of the presidency. It was during this period that the presidency became the modern and robust office that it is today. The presidents during this time were Theodore...
The Progressive Era (1900–1920) was a period of significant change in the United States. One of the changes was in the nature of the presidency. It was during this period that the presidency became the modern and robust office that it is today. The presidents during this time were Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson.
The Progressive Era followed the Gilded Age. The Gilded Age (1878–1899) was a period of extreme economic inequality. Labor unions began to form, and there was discontent in rural areas. Another problem of this time was the growth of cities as well as slums. The three presidents of the Progressive Era tried to ameliorate some of these problems and address the challenges posed by rapid change.
Theodore Roosevelt's program for the nation was known as the Square Deal. This included railroad regulation and breaking up monopolies. He also cleaned up the corrupt meat and drug industries. Roosevelt sought to alleviate labor unrest by mediating a coal strike. He was a strong and capable leader, and he chose Taft as his successor.
Taft's character was unlike that of Roosevelt. He lacked his predecessor's charisma and zeal for reform. Sworn in in 1909, it soon became obvious that there were important differences between the colorless Taft and the illustrious Roosevelt. For example, Taft was far more cautious and legalistic in his approach to conservation. Roosevelt, unhappy with Taft, challenged him for the Republican presidential nomination in 1912.
The Taft-Roosevelt feud split the Republican vote and gave the election to the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. Wilson called his program "New Freedom" during the presidential election. He continued his predecessors's policies of cracking down on monopolies. He presided over the introduction of an eight-hour day for railroad employees and loans to farmers. Child labor was abolished. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified.
These three presidents—especially Roosevelt and Wilson—irrevocably changed the presidency and made it the powerful branch of government it is today.