How progressive was the Progressive Era during 1890 to 1920?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

During the years of the Progressive era in America, the country had nine presidents: Harrison, Cleveland, McKinley, T. Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover. Of these nine, three stand out as strong Progressives with administrations that worked to move the country forward in social and economic reforms. Those three are Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, and Woodrow Wilson.

Roosevelt established the National Park System, creating vast conservation areas to protect natural resources and open spaces. The construction of the Panama Canal began under his presidency. His "Square Deal" initiatives introduced regulation of food, drugs, and the railroads.

Taft succeeded Roosevelt, and his "New Nationalism" created more oversight of corporations through the use of anti-trust suits. The initiation of personal income tax increased federal revenue. Passage of the Seventeenth Amendment allowed for direct election of senators, which gives the public more power over their representation.

Wilson's administration focused on fairness for the labor movement. During his presidency, farmers's and labor unions allowed to merge and protections were put in place for strikes and boycotts. The Federal Reserve Act strengthened the economy and made more money available for loans.

Also during the Progressive era, women gained the right to vote. The Eighteenth Amendment that instituted Prohibition was well-intentioned as a social reform to improve lives and reduce poverty. However, it was not well-received and only endured for about thirteen years.

Outside the government, Progressives in industries such as journalism became popular catalysts for reform with their "muckraking." Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and The Brass Check led to changes in laws regarding food and drugs. His work also led to the creation of a code of ethics for American journalists.

Jane Addams's work as co-founder of the Hull House settlement house in Chicago and the American Civil Liberties Union helped shape our modern view of nonprofits. Her focus on women's suffrage, social work, and pacifism were highly influential in the Progressive era.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team