In what ways do you think the labor and women's movements changed the meaning of American freedom during the Progressive Era?  

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pholland14's profile pic

pholland14 | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Both the labor movement and the women's suffrage movement changed the meaning of freedom for Americans in that it brought groups that were marginalized into the forefront.  During the Progressive era, many workers were marginalized in low-paying jobs.  If they got hurt or killed on the job, they could be replaced by another low-paid worker quite easily.  There were no better jobs for these people in that their mandatory sixty-hour work weeks left them little time to rest, say nothing of developing skills that would lead to higher-paying jobs.  Through instituting workplace laws such as limiting the amount of hours workers can work before their pay increases, making the workplace safer, and banning child labor, the federal government put limits on who business could hire and what rights workers had.  

The women's movement during the Progressive era led to women gaining the right to vote in 1920 with the Nineteenth Amendment.  Before this, women were often leaders in the Progressive movement--Nellie Bly served as a reporter who spoke out against the inhumane conditions in American mental hospitals and Jane Addams created Hull House in Chicago.  As more women joined the workforce, they saw a need for better conditions for other marginalized people in America and they became politically active.  This ultimately led to women getting the right to vote.  

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One can argue that both of these movements helped to enlarge the meaning of American freedom.  The labor movement helped to expand the idea of freedom to include the right to bargain collectively with employers.  It also worked to bring into mainstream American thought the idea that workers deserved to be treated decently.  This meant that freedom now also meant the right to be free from abusive work conditions.  The women's movement expanded the meaning of equality to include women's freedom to vote.  This helped to move the country farther towards the idea of true freedom and equality for women.

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