How did the Progressives deal with the problems of urbanization?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Progressives dealt with the problems of urbanization (or what they perceived as the problems of urbanization) in a number of different ways.  These included political reforms, private actions, and government actions to reform society.

One problem that the Progressives perceived with urbanization was the power of the urban political machines.  The Progressives tried to remedy this problem through political reform.  They introduced things like the city manager system, non-partisan and at-large city elections, and secret ballots.  By doing these things, they tried to break the power of the machines and give more power to the middle classes in the cities.

The Progressives also believed that the behaviors of the poor were problems that came with urbanization.  They tried to solve these through private and governmental action.  The most notable of the private actions was the creation of settlement houses, the most famous of which was Jane Addams’s Hull House in Chicago.  The settlement houses attempted to teach the poor (particularly poor immigrants) how to live in what was seen as the proper, middle class way.  The most notable governmental action to solve social problems was Prohibition.  Progressives believed that Prohibition would solve many of the social problems of urbanization because they believed those problems were caused by men who behaved badly while drunk. 

The Progressives also encouraged government regulations that would combat social ills caused by what they saw as the greed of the rich who owned the places that city dwellers lived and worked.  They passed regulations to try to improve conditions in tenements.   They passed laws regulating the workplace and trying to make working conditions better.

In all of these ways, the Progressives tried to deal with what they saw as the problems caused by urbanization.

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