Was the Progressive movement a success?

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The Progressive Movement was very diverse, sometimes pulling in opposite directions. I would argue, however, that it was largely successful. Progressives did not completely remake the social order, but that was never their goal. Many reforms promoted by Progressives were established, and indeed are still around today. Public education in the South, for example, was a reform promoted by many Progressives. Progressives successfully pushed for child labor and workplace safety laws that are still with us in expanded form today. The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments, which established direct election of senators and a federal income tax respectively, are also still with us. And of course, the Nineteenth Amendment, a progressive reform, doubled the size of the electorate by granting the right to vote to women. The settlement house movement, a cornerstone of Progressivism in the urban north, helped give rise to the modern field of social work, and Progressives secured legislation that forced food and drug manufacturers to disclose their ingredients.

There were many failures to Progressivism. Prohibition, established by the Eighteenth Amendment, was a catastrophic failure, and the consolidation of big businesses continued in the twentieth century. Many southern Progressives supported segregation, and many Northerners supported discriminatory measures against immigrants as well as the emerging eugenics movement. Many Progressives were also remorseless imperialists. But overall, the Progressive movement led to great, and I would argue, positive, change in American life. It was therefore a success.  

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