What are some pros and cons of progressive reforms from the 1900s–1920s? Consider some of the following things: the social purity movement, the anti-alcohol movement, business regulations, race reform, and federal employment.

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To determine the pros and cons of Progressive reforms of the 1900 through the 1920s, the most important questions to ask yourself are: who benefits from this reform/movement/law? Who is excluded from this reform/movement/law?

Answering these two questions can help you understand where these reforms benefited society and where they fell short. Let's take a look at a couple of example cases.

Generally, we regard the implementation of business regulations one of the great successes of the progressive movement. You might’ve heard of Upton Sinclair’s bestselling 1906 book, The Jungle, which exposed appalling working conditions and the regular sale of diseased and rotting meat by the meat-packing industry.

The Jungle’s publication and subsequent reception led to the implementation of many federal regulations around food safety and around treatment of workers. Who did this benefit? Primarily ordinary citizens (meat consumers) and middle- and lower-class workers who worked in the meat-packing industry.

However, The Jungle failed to address the challenges black workers encountered trying to find employment, or the segregation and discrimination they faced in the workplace at all. In fact, Sinclair played up stereotypes about black men to further provoke and scandalize white readers and lawmakers.

Similarly, the women’s suffrage movement took place from 1850–1920 or so, culminating in the Nineteenth Amendment, which guaranteed women’s right to vote. Who was excluded from this movement? Many non-white men and women were left out, some of whom didn’t actually get the right to vote until the 1960s.

Furthermore, the 1900s–1920s coincided with the Jim Crow era, which was marked by intense segregation. This meant that black people still faced segregation and discrimination everywhere they went. However, in response, the NAACP was formed in 1909. The NAACP was—and remains—a powerful force that fights for the rights of black people in the US.

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