The Progressive Era

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How did the Progressive reformers of the late 19th-early 20th century respond to the abuses and extravagances of the so-called Gilded Age?

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Progressive reformers used writing and photography to expose the abuses and excesses of the Gilded Age. For example, journalist Ida Tarbell wrote a book called The History of the Standard Oil Company. This book led to laws that broke up monopolies, including Standard Oil Company's monopoly.

Likewise, photographer Jacob Riis was able to use advances in technology in photography to take pictures inside dark tenement dwellings, revealing the horrible conditions in which many lived. He too advocated for legal reforms, such as required regular inspections of tenements. Other progressives, such as Jane Addams, used their considerable wealth to try to implement small-scale solutions, such as Settlement Houses, to the many problems created by unbridled capitalism.

Progressives came up with a dizzying number of answers to the abuses they saw, most revolving around creating laws to curb the suffering of exploited people. Much of what they proposed did not become implemented until the New Deal in the 1930s. The Progressives proposed changes in society that we take for granted today, such as a forty-hour work week, minimum wage, the end to child labor, social security, unemployment compensation, and workplaces with safety measures in place so that workers were not subjected to unnecessary dangers.

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