How did the Progressives respond the the myriad of issues they saw in early 20th century America?

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shaddox5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Progressive Era ushered in many changes to American society. Progressives rejected Social Darwinism and believed government should be used as a way to counteract the problems faced by society.

In urban locations, political machines had become a source of corruption and deceit. These organizations offered jobs to immigrants in exchange for votes. They were propped up by local businesses who supported them in exchange for kickbacks. Political Progressives fought these machines and advocated for change in local government in an effort to improve efficiency. Initiatives, referendums and recall were all political reforms supported by Progressives. 

Social evils of the day were attacked as well. Journalists known as "muckrakers" exposed the public to the plight of life in the slums. These investigative journalists published stories of poverty, unsafe labor conditions and corruption in government.  Upton Sinclair exposed the vile meatpacking industry in his book, "The Jungle." 

Progressives sought to enforce prostitution laws and improve sanitation. The tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 sparked a movement toward better safety laws in the workplace. 

Alcohol was blamed as the influence behind many of the domestic problems of the day and found itself in the cross-hair of the Progressives. The Temperance movement led to the passage of the 18th amendment which banned alcohol.  

Other Progressive Era amendments include the 16th amendment which gave Congress the power to tax income, the 17th amendment which provided for the direct election of Senators, and the 19th amendment which finally gave women the right to vote across the entire nation.

Progressives attacked the problems they saw in society. They aggressively sought to improve life for the poor by using the power of the government to force social change. Improvements in education, regulation in the marketplace and food and water sanitation were gained by the Progressives. There is no doubt the lives of many Americans were improved by this era in American History.