What role did women play in the Progressive Era and what reforms did they help implement?

Expert Answers

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

Women played a central role in promoting and advocating reform during the Progressive Era. Many of the most important activists among the Progressives were women. Perhaps the highest-profile Progressive was Jane Addams, whose Hull House in Chicago provided a model for the settlement house movement in urban areas across the country. Hull House became a sort of mecca for Progressives everywhere, ranging from Florence Kelley, who became a leading opponent of child labor, to education philosopher John Dewey.

Women like Carrie Nation were highly visible in the temperance movement, which resulted in the prohibition of alcohol in many states long before the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified. Much of the ground work for temperance was done through civic clubs, which were seen at the time as legitimate political outlets for women. Women promoted almost every cause associated with Progressivism. Ida Tarbell was a leading spokesperson against the power of the trusts. Ida B. Wells wrote forcefully about the lynching epidemic in the South and was a tireless advocate for a national anti-lynching law. Of course, among the most significance of all of the political reforms of the Progressive Era was women's suffrage, won entirely because of the actions of suffrage fighters like Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul, both leaders of suffrage organizations dominated by women. In short, the Progressive Era marked the most important, and most public, period of women's political and social activism to that point in American history.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial