Antebellum (1820-1860) and Progressive (1901-1921) Era Reformers



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Antebellum (1820-1860) and Progressive (1901-1921) Era Reformers
Two periods of reform known as the Antebellum Era and the Progressive Era took shape in the early 1800’s and late 1800's. During this time, Americans worked to fight corruption in government, reduce the power of big business, and improve society. Government became more democratic as people in many states gained the power to pass laws directly.

After years of effort, American women finally won the right to vote. African Americans and other minorities also took action against discrimination. In spite of many setbacks, they laid the groundwork for future progress in civil rights.

In today’s world, we see remnants of these two reform movements in almost every facet of society. For example, women’s rights groups are still in effect, newspapers attempt to uncover political corruption in almost every level of government, and organizations such as MADD and SADD lobby for the enactment of legislation that will limit drunk driving.

With this in mind, it is obvious that the Progressive Era and the previous Antebellum Reform Movements have had a lasting impact on American society.




Goals of the Project:

  1. To research and analyze a reformer and the cause/issue they championed and to determine to what degree that issue still exists today.

  2. To illustrate the results of your research and analysis in a 5-10 minute visual presentation using Movie Maker.

Below is a list of the reformers and their causes for these two reform periods.


Muckrakers (Journalists) Social Reform Women’s Suffrage

Upton Sinclair Dorothea Dix Susan B. Anthony

Ida Tarbell Jane Addams Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Jacob Riis Ida Wells-Barnett

Carrie Chapman Catt
Conservationists Education Abolition Civil Rights

John Muir Horace Mann Fredrick Douglas Booker T. Washington

Gifford Pinchot Emma Willard David Walker W.E.B. DuBois

Sojourner Truth



Step 1: Discuss and answer the following questions:
Part I: The cause

  1. Who was the reformer? Brief Biography.

  2. What was the person’s role in the issue?

  3. What reforms were the focus of their efforsts?

  4. What steps did they take towards reform?

  5. How does the issue impact the society of the period?

  6. What legislation/reforms were enacted as a result of their efforts?


Part II: Since the “Era” have we done anything to:

  1. Solve the problem?

  2. Deal with the issue better?

  3. Eliminate it completely?


Part III: The 21st century

  1. Is this issue an issue in the 21st century?

  2. Are there further conflicts concerning this issue that have arisen since the time of the reform movement?

  3. Have we alleviated the situation or made it worse? Added new dimensions to it?


Step 2: Thesis/proofs



  1. Develop a thesis statement.

  2. What proofs/evidence will you use to defend your thesis?


Step 3: Gather information and visual images



  1. Find visual images which will illustrate the issue as it is found during the appropriate time period(s) and support your thesis.

  2. Find film clips which illustrate the issue and support your thesis.

  3. Find contemporary illustrations of the issue.

  4. How can you visually connect your reformer’s ideas and those of the 21st century?

  5. Be sure to keep a list of your resources – Title of website, article, book (if available) and URL. ONLY USE WEBSITE WITH .ORG, .EDU. GOV. suffix. Include the list with Step 1 and Step 2.


Step 4: Create a visual presentation using Movie Maker.


  1. Refer to the handouts on using Movie Maker

  2. Be sure you have included:

    1. Title

    2. Movie clips

    3. Still pictures

    4. Transitions

    5. Music/sound




  1. Credits: Title of website, article, book (if available) and URL.


Step 5: Presentation


  1. On the day of your presentation, hand in the following:

    1. Answers to the questions in Step 1.

    2. Your thesis statement/proofs in Step 2

    3. List of resources in Step 3


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