American History A
The Muckrakers and other Social Reformers
Please do not write on this classroom reading.
Excerpted from: Alice Paul: Relentless Champion for
Women's Rights (Women's Suffrage / Vote)
By Hannah Borowsky
Alice Paul was born in 1885 into a Quaker family. In accordance with Quaker values, her parents instilled in her a belief that women and men were equal, and that it was her duty to work towards a better society. Alice's childhood in New Jersey was spent working on the family farm. She attended a Quaker school, so her education, too, was untainted by gender inequalities. In school, Alice excelled. She graduated first in her class and participated in several school sports including basketball, baseball and field hockey. Her education continued when she enrolled in Swarthmore College, founded by her grandfather and inspired by Quaker ideals. At Swarthmore, Alice participated in many school activities, including sports and student government. She graduated with a degree in Biology. About Alice at this time, her father remarked
, "Well, when there is a job to be done, I bank on Alice."
Alice's exposure to the women's rights movement began practically the moment she was born. Her mother, Tacie Paul, was a member of the National American Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She attended meetings regularly and often brought Alice along. Decades later, a Newsweek interviewer asked Alice why she dedicated her entire life to promoting equality for women. Alice thought back to her years on the farm and replied, "When you put your hand to the plow, you can't put it down until you get to the end of the row."
In 1907, two years after graduating college, Alice moved to England to study social work. It was here that she was transformed into a bold activist. In
England, Alice observed the radical measures women took to further their cause. She came to understand that it would take much more than wishing
and waiting to bring about equality. Alice threw herself into the radical movement in England. She participated in hunger strikes, protests, and rallies, which landed her in prison multiple times. She worked along with English suffragists to raise public awareness about giving women the vote. Instead of dreaming of a time when one day her daughter or granddaughter would be able to vote, Alice began picturing herself dropping her own ballot into the box.
Alice returned home a new person, filled with determination to change the role of women. While studying sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, Alice joined the NAWSA and was quickly promoted to a leadership position. Her job was to push for a constitutional amendment granting women suffrage. In 1913, Alice organized the largest parade of women to ever march at the White House. During the demonstration, male spectators attacked Alice and her followers with insults and even physical violence. Police witnessed the violence, but stood by idly. In the next days
, the story of Alice and her group of suffragists filled the papers. The idea of women's suffrage was becoming a hot topic.
At this time, Carrie Chapman Catt was the president of the NAWSA. Although, Alice and Carrie shared many goals, the two had differing ideas about how to go about achieving them. Alice envisioned big changes for women in the immediate future. Carrie, who envisioned gradual changes for women over time, did not support the radical measures that Alice was willing to take to empower women. Thus, in 1916, Alice and her followers formed their own group called the National Women's Party (NWP). Members of the NWP picketed day and night outside the White House. In a speech to protesters in 1917, Alice cried out, "We women of America tell you that America is not a democracy. Twenty million women are denied the right to vote." The NWP was the first group in the United States to push their cause with nonviolent civil defiance. Although their methods were not violent, Alice and her followers were often in danger of physical harm and imprisonment. Upon hearing the awful treatment experienced by women suffragists, the press, some politicians, and much of the general public began to demand change.
That change came on August 18, 1920, when the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote was ratified. After witnessing the public's dismay over the plight of women suffragists, President Wilson decided to endorse the amendment. It passed in the House and Senate, and was ratified by three-fourths of the states. Alice Paul and countless women around the country had won their battle.
Many suffragists ceased their work after the passage of the 19th amendment, arguing that additional measures to ensure equality between genders would only hamper the gains already made. Alice, however, had just begun her fight. In 1923, she authored the Equal Rights Amendment, which called for equality of rights under law in the United States for both genders. To her dismay, Alice found little support even amongst the most fervent suffragists. Nevertheless, she worked tirelessly to promote the amendment. Expressing her frustration, she stated
, "Most problems are complicated. But to me, there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality." The Equal Rights Amendment was presented to Congress 49 times, every year from 1923 to 1972. When it finally passed, Alice was 87 years old. [The ERA was never fully ratified and therefore never went into effect.]
Instead of giving up as her amendment was shot down year after year, Alice just worked harder. In 1938, she established the World Women's Party, which worked towards the inclusion of women in the United Nations. In 1941, she added a sexual discrimination clause to the Civil Rights Act. During the 1940s and 1950s, she traveled to Europe and South Africa, spreading her ideas of equality for women.
The Good Work of Jane Addams (Social Reform / Poverty)
Jane Addams (September 6, 1860-May 21, 1935) won worldwide recognition in the first third of the twentieth century as a pioneer social worker in America, as a feminist, and as an internationalist.
She was born in Cedarville, Illinois, the eighth of nine children. Her father was a prosperous miller and local political leader who served for sixteen years as a state senator and fought as an officer in the Civil War; he was a friend of Abraham Lincoln whose letters to him began “My Dear Double D-'ed Addams”. Because of a congenital spinal defect, Jane was not physically vigorous when young nor truly robust even later in life, but her spinal
difficulty was remedied by surgery.
In 1881 Jane Addams was graduated from the Rockford Female Seminary, the valedictorian of a class of seventeen, but was granted the bachelor's degree only after the school became accredited the next year as Rockford College for Women. In the course of the next six years she began the study of medicine but left it because of poor health, was hospitalized intermittently, traveled and studied in Europe for twenty-one months
, and then spent almost two years in reading and writing and in considering what her future objectives should be.
In the 1880s Jane Addams traveled to Europe. While she was in London, she visited a settlement house called Toynbee Hall. Settlement houses were created to provide community services to ease urban problems such as poverty. Inspired by Toynbee Hall, Addams and her friend, Ellen Gates Starr, opened Hull House in a neighborhood of extreme poverty in Chicago in 1889. Many who lived there were immigrants from countries such as Italy, Russia, Poland, Germany, Ireland, and Greece. For these working poor, Hull House provided a day care center for children of working mothers, a community kitchen, and visiting nurses. Addams and her staff gave classes in English literacy, art, and other subjects. Hull House also became a meeting place for clubs and labor unions. Most of the people who worked with Addams in Hull House were well educated, middle-class women. Hull House gave them an opportunity to use their education and it provided a training ground for careers in social work.
Jane Addams, who had become a popular national figure, sought to help others outside Hull House as well. She and other Hull House residents often "lobbied" city and state governments. When they lobbied, they contacted public officials and legislators and urged them to pass certain laws and take other actions to benefit a community. For example, Addams and her friends lobbied for the construction of playgrounds, the creation of kindergartens throughout Chicago, pushed for legislation to make factory work safer, and attempted to end child labor laws.
Addams believed in an individual's obligation to help his or her community
, but she also thought the government could help make Americans' lives safer and healthier. In this way, Addams and many other Americans in the 1890s and 1900s were part of the Progressive movement. For a while, they even had a political party. When Theodore Roosevelt ran for president for the Progressive Party (sometimes none as the Bull Moose Party) in 1912, Jane Addams publicly supported him at the party convention.
Jane Addams was a strong champion of several other causes. Until 1920, American women could not vote. Addams joined in the movement for women's suffrage (women's right to vote). She was vice president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Addams was also a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Excerpt from How the Other Half Lives, by Jacob Riis
Be a little careful, please! The hall is dark and you might stumble over the children pitching pennies back there. Not that it would hurt them; kicks and cuffs are their daily diet. They have little else. Here where the hall turns and dives into utter darkness is a step, and another, another. A flight of stairs. You can feel your way, if you cannot see it. Close? Yes! What would you have? All the fresh air that ever enters these stairs comes from the hall-door that is forever slamming, and from the windows of dark bedrooms that in turn receive from the stairs their sole supply of the elements God meant to be free, but man deals out with such an unfair hand. That was a woman filling her pail by the hydrant you just bumped against. The sinks are in the hallway, that all the tenants may have access -- and all be poisoned alike by their summer stenches. Hear the pump squeak! It is the lullaby of tenement-house babes. In summer, when a thousand thirsty throats pant for a cooling drink in this block, it is worked in vain. But the saloon, whose open door you passed in the hall, is always there. The smell of it has followed you up. Here is a door. Listen! That short hacking cough
, that tiny, helpless wail -- what do they mean? They mean that the soiled bow of white you saw on the door downstairs will have another story to tell -- Oh! a sadly familiar story --before the day is at an end. The child is dying with measles. With half a chance it might have lived; but it had none. That dark bedroom killed it.
. . . . What if the words ring in your ears as we grope our way up the stairs and down from floor to floor, listening to the sounds behind the closed doors -- some of quarrelling, some of coarse songs, more of profanity. They are true. When the summer heats come with their suffering they have meaning more terrible than words can tell. Come over here. Step carefully over this baby -- it is a baby, spite of its rags and dirt -- under these iron bridges called fire-escapes, but loaded down, despite the incessant watchfulness of the firemen, with broken household goods, with wash-tubs and barrels, over which no man could climb from a fire. This gap between dingy brick-walls is the yard. That strip of smoke-colored sky up there is the heaven of these people. Do you wonder the name does not attract them to the churches? That baby's parents live in the rear tenement here. She is at least as clean as the steps we are now climbing. There are plenty of houses with half a hundred such in. The tenement is much like the one in front we just left, only fouler, closer, darker -- we will not say more cheerless. The word is a mockery. A hundred thousand people lived in rear tenements in New York last year. Here is a room neater than the rest. The woman, a stout matron with hard lines of care in her face, is at the washtub. "I try to keep the childer clean," she says, apologetically, but with a hopeless glance around. The spice of hot soapsuds is added to the air already tainted with the smell of boiling cabbage
, of rags and uncleanliness all about. It makes an overpowering compound. It is Thursday, but patched linen is hung upon the pulley-line from the window. There is no Monday cleaning in the tenements. It is washday all the week round, for a change of clothing is scarce among the poor. They are poverty's honest badge, these perennial lines of rags hung out to dry, those that are not the washerwoman's professional shingle. The true line to be drawn between pauperism and honest poverty is the clothesline. With it begins the effort to be clean that is the first and the best evidence of a desire to be honest.
. . . . The twenty-five cent lodging-house keeps up the pretense of a bedroom, though the head-high partition enclosing a space just large enough to hold a cot and a chair and allow the man room to pull off his clothes is the shallowest of all pretenses. The fifteen-cent bed stands boldly forth without screen in a room full of bunks with sheets as yellow and blankets as foul. At the ten-cent level the locker for the sleeper's clothes disappears. There is no longer need of it. The tramp limit is reached, and there is nothing to lock up save, on general principles, the lodger. Usually the ten - and seven-cent lodgings are different grades of the same abomination. Some sort of an apology for a bed, with mattress and blanket, represents the aristocratic purchase of the tramp who, by a lucky stroke of beggary, has exchanged the chance of an empty box or ash-barrel for shelter on the quality floor of one of these "hotels." A strip of canvas, strung between rough timbers, without covering of any kind, does for the couch of the seven-cent lodger who prefers the questionable comfort of a red-hot stove close to his elbow to the revelry of the stale-beer dive. It is not the most secure perch in the world. Uneasy sleepers roll off at intervals, but they have not far to fall to the next tier of bunks
; and the commotion that ensues is speedily quieted by the boss and his club. On cold winter nights, when every bunk had its tenant, I have stood in such a lodging-room more than once, and listening to the snoring of the sleepers like the regular strokes of an engine, and the slow creaking of the beams under their restless weight, imagined myself on shipboard and experienced the very real nausea of sea-sickness. The one thing that did not favor the deception was the air; its character could not be mistaken.
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1905), Chapter Nine
(The Meat Packing Industry)
“Jurgis heard of these things little by little, in the gossip of those who were obliged to perpetrate them. It seemed as if every time you met a person from a new department, you heard of new swindles and new crimes. There was, for instance, a Lithuanian who was a cattle-butcher for the plant where Marija had worked, which killed meat for canning only; and to hear this man describe the animals, which came to his place, would have been worth while for a Dante or a Zola. It seemed that they must have agencies all over the country
, to hunt out old and crippled and diseased cattle to be canned. There were cattle, which had been fed on “whiskey-malt,” the refuse of the breweries, and had become what the men called “steerly” -- which means covered with boils. It was a nasty job killing these, for when you plunged your knife into them they would burst and splash foul-smelling stuff into your face; and when a man’s sleeves were smeared with blood, and his hands steeped in it, how was he ever to wipe his face, or to clear his eyes so that he could see? It was stuff such as this that made the “embalmed beef” that had killed several times as many United States soldiers as all the bullets of the Spaniards (Spanish American War); only the army beef, besides, was not fresh canned, it was old stuff that had been lying for years in the cellars.
Then one Sunday evening, Jurgis sat puffing his pipe by the kitchen stove, and talking with an old fellow whom Jonas had introduced, and who worked in the canning-rooms at Durham’s; and so Jurgis learned a few things about the great and only Durham canned goods, which had become a national institution. They were regular alchemists at Durham’s; they advertised a mushroom-catsup, and the men who made it did not know what a mushroom looked like. They advertised, “potted chicken,” -- and it was like the boarding-house soup of the comic papers, through which a chicken had walked with rubbers on. Perhaps they had a secret process for making chickens chemically -- who knows? said Jurgis’s friend; the things that went into the mixture were tripe, and the fat of pork, and beef suet, and hearts of beef, and finally the waste ends of veal, when they had any. They put these up in several grades, and sold them at several prices; but the contents of the cans all came out of the same hopper. And then there was “potted game” and “potted grouse,” "potted ham,“ and ”devilled ham“ -- de-vyled, as the men called it. ”De-vyled“ ham was made out of the waste ends of smoked beef that were too small to be sliced by the machines; and also tripe, dyed with chemicals so that it would not show white; and trimmings of hams and corned beef; and potatoes, skins and all; and finally the hard cartilaginous gullets of beef, after the tongues had been cut out. All this ingenious mixture was ground up and flavored with spices to make it taste like something. Anybody who could invent a new imitation had been sure of a fortune from old Durham, said Jurgis’s informant; but it was hard to think of anything new in a place where so many sharp wits had been at work for so long; where men welcomed tuberculosis in the cattle they were feeding, because it made them fatten more quickly; and where they bought up all the old rancid butter left over in the grocery-stores of a continent, and ”oxidized" it by a forced-air process, to take away the odor, rechurned it with skim-milk, and sold it in bricks in the cities! Up to a year or two ago it had been the custom to kill horses in the yards -- ostensibly for fertilizer; but after long agitation the newspapers had been able to make the public realize that the horses were being canned. Now it was against the law to kill horses in Packingtown, and the law was really complied with -- for the present, at any rate. Any day, however, one might see sharp-horned and shaggy-haired creatures running with the sheep -- and yet what a job you would have to get the public to believe that a good part of what it buys for lamb and mutton is really goat’s flesh!
There was another interesting set of statistics that a person might have gathered in Packingtown -- those of the various afflictions of the workers.
There were men who worked in the cooking-rooms, in the midst of steam and sickening odors, by artificial light; in these rooms the germs of tuberculosis might live for two years, but the supply was renewed every hour. There were the beef-luggers, who carried two-hundred-pound quarters into the refrigerator-cars; a fearful kind of work, that began at four o’clock in the morning, and that wore out the most powerful men in a few years. There were those who worked in the chilling-rooms, and whose special disease was rheumatism; the time limit that a man could work in the chilling-rooms was said to be five years. There were the woolpluckers, whose hands went to pieces even sooner than the hands of the pickle-men; for the pelts of the sheep had to be painted with acid to loosen the wool, and then the pluckers had to pull out this wool with their bare hands, till the acid had eaten their fingers off. There were those who made the tins for the canned-meat; and their hands, too, were a maze of cuts, and each cut represented a chance for blood-poisoning. Some worked at the stamping-machines, and it was very seldom that one could work long there at the pace that was set, and not give out and forget himself, and have a part of his hand chopped off. There were the “hoisters,” as they were called, whose task it was to press the lever, which lifted the dead cattle off the floor. They ran along upon a rafter, peering down through the damp and the steam; and as old Durham’s architects had not built the killing-room for the convenience of the hoisters, at every few feet they would have to stoop under a beam, say four feet above the one they ran on; which got them into the habit of stooping, so that in a few years they would be walking like chimpanzees. Worst of any, however, were the fertilizer-men, and those who served in the cooking-rooms. These people could not be shown to the visitor, -- for the odor of a fertilizer-man would scare any ordinary visitor at a hundred yards, and as for the other men, who worked in tank-rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting, -- sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard!”
The History of the Standard Oil Company (Monopolies)
Ida M. Tarbell
To know every detail of the oil trade, to be able to reach at any moment its remotest point
, to control even its weakest factor -- this was John D. Rockefeller’s ideal of doing business. It seemed to be an intellectual necessity for him to be able to direct the course of any particular gallon of oil from the moment it gushed from the earth until it went into the lamp of a housewife. There must be nothing -- nothing in his great machine he did not know to be working right. It was to complete this ideal, to satisfy this necessity, that he undertook, late in the seventies [1870s], to organize the oil markets of the world, as he had already organized oil reﬁning and oil transporting. Mr. Rockefeller was driven to this new task of organization not only by his own curious intellect; he was driven to it by that thing so abhorrent to his mind -- competition. If, as he claimed, the oil business belonged to him, and if, as he had announced, he was prepared to reﬁne all the oil that men would consume, it followed as a corollary that the markets of the world belonged to him. . . .
When Mr. Rockefeller began to gather the oil markets into his hands he had a task whose ﬁeld was literally the world, for already, in 1871, the year before he ﬁrst appeared as an important factor in the oil trade, reﬁned oil was going into every civilized country of the globe. Of the ﬁve and a half million barrels of crude oil produced that year, the world used ﬁve millions, over three and a half of which went to foreign lands. This was the market which had been built up in the ﬁrst ten years of business by the men who had developed the oil territory and invented the processes of reﬁning and transporting, and this was the market, still further developed
, of course, that Mr. Rockefeller inherited when he succeeded in corralling the reﬁning and transporting of oil. It was this market he proceeded to organize.
The process of organization seems to have been natural and highly intelligent. The entire country was buying reﬁned oil for illumination. Many reﬁners had their own agents out looking for markets; others sold to wholesale dealers, or jobbers, who placed trade with local dealers, usually grocers. Mr. Rockefeller’s business was to replace independent agents and jobbers by his own employees. The United States was mapped out and agents appointed over these great divisions. Thus, a certain portion of the Southwest— including Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas—the Waters-Pierce Oil Company, of St. Louis, Missouri, had charge of; a portion of the South—including Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi—Chess, Carley and Company, of Louisville, Kentucky, had charge of. These companies in turn divided their territory into sections, and put the subdivisions in the charge of local agents. These local agents had stations where oil was received and stored, and from which they and their salesmen carried on their campaigns. This system
, inaugurated in the seventies, has been developed until now the Standard Oil Company of each state has its own marketing department, whose territory is divided and watched over in the above fashion. Local agents reporting to division headquarters thus cover the entire oil-buying territory of the country. These report in turn to the head of the state marketing department, and his reports go to the general marketing headquarters in New York. . . .
But the Standard Oil agents were not sent into a territory back in the seventies simply to sell all the oil they could by efficient service and aggressive pushing; they were sent there to sell all the oil that was bought. “The coal-oil business belongs to us,” was Mr. Rockefeller’s motto, and from the beginning of his campaign in the markets his agents accepted and acted on that principle. If a dealer bought but a barrel of oil a year, it must be from Mr. Rockefeller.
Excerpts from Robert M. LaFollette’s speech -
“The Danger Threatening Representative Government”
(Corporate / Party Corruption in Politics)
. . . The basic principal of this government is the will of the people. A system was devised by its founders, which seemed to insure the means of ascertaining that will and of enacting it into legislation and supporting it through the administration of the law. This was to be accomplished by electing men to make, and men to execute the laws, who, would represent in the laws so made and executed the will of the people. This was the establishment of a representative government, where every man had equal voice, equal rights, and equal responsibilities.
Have we such a government today? Or is this country fast coming to be dominated by forces that threaten the true principle of representative government? . . . forces that thwart the will of the people and menace representative government . . . are fast dominating us
The existence of the corporation, as we have it with us today, was never dreamed of by the fathers . . .The corporation of today has invaded every department of business
, and it’s powerful but invisible hand is felt in almost all activities of life . . . The effect of this change upon the American people is radical and rapid.
I am well aware that the combining of capital admits of operations upon a vast scale, and may cheapen production in the long run, but we pay too dearly even for cheap things, and we cannot afford to exchange our independence for anything on earth . . .
. . . So multifarious have become corporate affairs, so many concessions and privileges have been accorded them by legislation, -- so many more are sought by further legislation, -- that their specially retained representatives are either elected to office, directly in their interests, or maintained in a perpetual lobby to serve them. Hence it is that the corporation does not limit its operations to the legitimate conduct of its business. Human nature everywhere is selfish, and with the vast power which consolidated capital can wield, with the impossibility of fixing any personal or moral responsibility for corporate acts, its commands are heard and obeyed in the capitals of the state and nation.
But in a government where the people are sovereign why are these things tolerated? Why are there no remedies promptly applied and the evils eradicated? It is because today there is a force operating in this country more powerful than the sovereign in matters pertaining to the official conduct.
The official obeys whom he serves. Nominated independently of the people, elected because there is no choice between candidates so nominated, the official feels responsibility to his master alone, and his master is the political machine of his party. The people whom he serves in theory, he may safely disobey; having the support of his political organization
, he is sure of his renomination and knows he will be carried through the election, because his opponent will offer nothing better to the long suffering voter. . . .
Between the people and the representatives there has been built up a political machine, which is master of both. It is the outgrowth of the caucus and convention system. . .
In the years of business prosperity, which the country experienced, with the development of the great Upper Mississippi Valley, men in every pursuit of life were engrossed with their individual affairs and left caucuses and conventions wholly to the politician. When finally the pressure of hard times and the multiplying abuses in official life turned their thoughts toward needed reforms in legislation, they awoke to find themselves the mere subjects of this new master, the political machine, which had come to be enthroned in American politics. They found it running their caucuses, naming their delegates, conducting their conventions, nominating party candidates, making the party platform, controlling legislatures and state administration, and fooling a majority of the people year after year with plausible explanations through the columns of its own press.
Think of it! The citizen recognized the supremacy of the machine and abandoning the contest, the official recognizing the supremacy of the machine obeying its orders. What then have we left? It is the very life of a republic that the laws shall be made and administered by those constitutionally chosen to represent the majority. Government by the political machine is without exception the rule of the minority. . .
. . . Do not look to such lawmakers to restrain corporations within proper limits. Do not look to such lawmakers to equalize the burden of taxation. Do not look to such lawmakers to lift politics out of the ways of darkness.
No, begin at the foundation, make one supreme effort
, --even under the present bad system, --to secure a better set of lawmakers. Rally to the caucuses and conventions, each with the party in which he believes, Secure one victory, if possible, over the machine, elect men who will pass a primary election law which will enable the voter to sell the candidate of his choice without the intervention of caucuses or convention of the domination of the machine. Do this and your officers will respond to public opinion. Do this and the reforms you seek will be within easy reach . . .
Oh, men! Think of the heroes who died to make this country free; think of their sons who died to keep it undivided upon the map of the world’ Shall we, their children, basely surrender our birthright and say: “Representative government is a failure? No, never, until Bunker Hill and Little Round Top, sink into the very earth.”
Let us here, today, under this flag we all love, hallowed by the memory of all that has been sacrificed for it and for us, dedicate ourselves to winning back the independence of this country, to emancipating this generation and throwing off from the neck of the freemen of America, the yoke of the political machine.