Section: 11.1 11.2 (circle one)
U. S. History II
Progressive Reformers DBQ
Background Reading: Progressives Reform Society
Industrialization, urbanization, and immigration brought many benefits to America, but they also produced challenging social problems. In response, a movement called Progressivism emerged in the 1890s. Progressives believed that new ideas and honest, efficient government could bring about social justice. Progressive ideas brought lasting reforms that still affect society today.
Origins of Progressivism
The people who made up the Progressive Movement came from many walks of life. They came from all political parties, social classes, ethnic groups, and religions. Many Progressive leaders emerged from the growing middle class, whose power and influence was rapidly spreading. Dissatisfied industrial workers also joined the Progressive Movement. So did a few wealthy Americans driven by a desire to act for the good of society.
What the Progressives shared in common was a belief that industrialization and urbanization had created troubling social and political problems. Progressives wanted to bring about reforms that would correct these problems and injustices. They encouraged their state legislatures and the federal government to enact laws to address the issues faced by the poor. Progressives wanted to use logic and reason to make society work in a more efficient and orderly way. Many, motivated by religious faith, sought social justice.
Muckrakers Reveal the Need for Reform
Socially conscious journalists and other writers dramatized the need for reform. Their sensational investigative reports uncovered a wide range of ills afflicting America in the early 1900s. Even though President Theodore Roosevelt agreed with much of what they said, he called these writers muckrakers because he thought them too fascinated with the ugliest side of things. (A muckrake is a tool used to clean manure and hay out of animals’ stables.) The writers were angry at first but in time took up Roosevelt’s taunting name as a badge of honor. The muckrakers’ articles appeared in magazines and newspapers that entered millions of American homes. People across the nation were horrified by the conditions that were revealed to them.
One influential muckraker was Jacob Riis, a photographer for the New York Evening Sun. Riis turned his camera on the crowded, unsafe, rat-infested tenement buildings where the urban poor lived. Between 1890 and 1903, he published several works, including How the Other Half Lives, that shocked the nation’s conscience and led to reforms.
Background Reading: Jane Addams and the Settlement House Movement
An important goal of many Progressives was to improve the lives of poor people in the cities. One approach was the settlement house, a community center that provided social services to the urban poor. Settlement house workers gave mothers classes in child care and taught English to immigrants. They ran nursery schools and kindergartens. They also provided theater, art, and dance programs for adults.
A young woman named Jane Addams became a leading figure in the settlement house movement. Addams was born in the village of Cedarville, Illinois, in 1860. After graduating from Rockford Seminary, a women’s college, in 1879, Addams struggled to find a meaningful career. Then a trip to Europe opened her eyes to the possibilities of a new career. On a tour of the East End of London, Addams witnessed what she called the “hideous human need and suffering” of that city’s underprivileged. In a formative moment, she watched as “myriads of hands, empty, pathetic, nerveless and workworn” clutched for rotten vegetables and fruit distributed to the poor.
Try as she might, Addams could not shake this troubling image. Overwhelmed with a sense of “uselessness”, she questioned “the assumption that the sheltered, educated girl has nothing to do with the bitter poverty and the social maladjustment which is all about her.” On a second trip to Europe, Addams spent time at London’s Toynbee Hall, a settlement house established by middle-class reformers to better the lot of the underclass.
Inspired by her stay in London, Addams returned to the United States and set out for Chicago on a mission. In 1889, using Toynbee Hall as a model, Addams and her friend Ellen Starr purchased a dilapidated mansion in a poor, run-down section of Chicago and established the nation’s first settlement house, which became known as Hull House. Settlement houses offered a plethora of programs and activities for their poor neighbors, many of whom were recent immigrants. One of Addams’s first programs at Hull House introduced the neighborhood’s Italian immigrants to Florentine art, but immigrant women quickly made it clear that they needed more practical assistance, particularly a kindergarten and nursery school for their children. Hull House also organized sewing and cooking classes, clubs for children, and programs and lectures by local university professors. Labor unions also met there. Addams’s Hull House was replicated in numerous US cities; by 1900 approximately 100 settlement houses had been established throughout the nation.
Not only did Hull House aim to better the lives of the city’s poor and aid immigrants in their transition to urban life in the United States, but, in accordance with Addams’s vision, it also served to reconnect the privileged with the poor. As Addams explained, the settlement was “an experimental effort to aid in the solution of the social and industrial problems which are engendered by the modern conditions of life in a great city. It is the attempt to relieve, at the same time, the overaccumulation at one end of society and the destitution of the other.” The privileged and underprivileged, Addams believed, had much to learn from each other.
Cities like Jane Addams’s Chicago exploded during the Gilded Age. Their rapid growth, as Addams noted, generated a profusion of problems for city dwellers, especially the poor. Between 1860, when Jane Addams was born, and 1900, when Hull House was in full operation, the urban population of the United States grew fivefold. The northeastern United States became the most urban region of the country, and the South remained the least urban, yet cities and towns of all sizes throughout the nation grew significantly during the period. Cities attracted native-born migrants from the countryside—such as Addams—as well as European immigrants who flooded urban centers seeking employment. Many African-Americans also left the rural South, seeking greater opportunity in both Southern and Northern towns and cities. In Addams’ Chicago, three of every four inhabitants were foreign born or had foreign-born parents. Moreover, Chicago’s black population had grown nearly tenfold—from 3,600 in 1970 to more than 30,000 by 1900.
Although cities represented opportunity, they were also filthy, crowded, disease-ridden, and often badly governed. Rapid population growth severely strained housing and municipal services, such as garbage collection. The state of US cities and society deeply concerned social reformers like Jane Addams. She and others feared that the social separation and isolation of various urban groups threatened to destroy democracy in the US. She hoped that Hull House and other settlement houses would establish an organic relationship between rich and poor, native-born and immigrant, educated and uneducated, in an attempt to reconstruct in an urban setting the connectedness of small-town America.
More than any symbol, the teeming, bustling, ethnically and racially diverse city exemplified the United States of the Gilded Age. Full of both peril and promise, cities not only physically reconfigured the US landscape but also transformed society and culture. The urbanization and suburbanization begun during the period continues to this day; in 1920, for the first time in US history, more people lived in the city than the country. And although US cities have changed in many ways since then, issues raised by middle-class urban reformers, such as Jane Addams, remain relevant: What, if any, responsibility do privileged Americans have for the poor? What are the best methods for reducing poverty? How can the rich and poor bridge the chasm that separates them? Can the United States be both a highly diverse and, at the same time, unified nation?
Homework: Progressive Reformers DBQ
Using your background knowledge and the 4 documents provided, answer the following question:
What issues in American society did Progressive social reformers work to address? What were their goals?
Your response must include an introductory paragraph (with thesis statement) and two body paragraphs.
Your introductory paragraph must provide context for the Progressive Era, including the term “muckrakers.”
Your response must cite all three documents provided (DRT or SRT).
You might want to use this chart (similar to the one we used in class to investigate working conditions for average Americans) to organize your DBQ. I will not grade this page.
Claim (Topic Sentence)
Document B: Platform of the Progressive Party (August 7, 1912)
…We of the Progressive Party here dedicate ourselves to the fulfillment of the duty laid upon us by our fathers to maintain that government of the people by the people and for the people whose foundation they laid.
It is time to set the public welfare in the first place.
Effective legislation looking to the prevention of industrial accidents, occupational diseases, overwork, involuntary unemployment, and other injurious effects incident to modern industry…
The prohibition of child labor;
Minimum wage standards for working women, to provide a living scale in all industrial occupations.
The prohibition of night work for women and the establishment of an eight-hour day for women and young persons;
One day’s rest in seven for all wage-workers…
Document A: Excerpt from Jane Addams’ book, Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910).
During the same winter three boys from a Hull-House club were injured at one machine in a neighboring factory for lack of a guard which would have cost but a few dollars. When the injury of one of these boys resulted in his death, we felt quite sure that the owners of the factory would share our horror and remorse, and that they would do everything possible to prevent the recurrence of such a tragedy. To our surprise they did nothing whatever, and I made my first acquaintance then with those pathetic documents signed by the parents of working children, that they will make no claim for damages resulting from “carelessness.”
The visits we made in the neighborhood constantly discovered women sewing upon sweatshop work, and often they were assisted by incredibly small children. I remember a little girl of four who pulled out basting threads hour after hour, sitting on a stool at the feet of her Bohemian mother, a little bunch of human misery. But even for that there was no legal redress [remedy], for the only child-labor law in Illinois, with any provision for enforcement, had been secured [achieved] by the coal miners’ unions, and was confined to children employed in mines. . . . There was at that time no statistical information on Chicago industrial conditions, and Mrs. Florence Kelley, an early resident of Hull-House, suggested to the Illinois State Bureau of Labor that they investigate the sweating system [sweatshops] in Chicago with its attendant [use of] child labor.
Document C. Photograph titled “New York Tenement” from Jacob Riis’ book, How the Other Half Lives (1890)