The Progressive Movement

Download Text here
(remember option+click)

This chapter explains how Americans' responses to the problems of the early 1900s shaped attitudes, government, and society during the Progressive Era.

5.1 The Roots of Progressivism

Section 1 discusses the beginnings of progressivism. The Progressive movement emerged in the early 1900s as a series of reform efforts designed to respond to the problems created by big business and the unregulated growth of cities. Most progressives shared a strong faith that science and knowledge could improve society, and many believed that government should take an active role in solving society's problems. However, progressives differed widely in their views and actions. Some progressives focused on making government more efficient, while others worked to make government more responsive to voters. Together these activists impacted government on the local, state, and national levels. Many progressive women concluded that they needed the vote to promote social reform, and they rallied behind the suffrage movement. Progressives, who focused on social welfare issues such as alcohol abuse, child labor, and the health and safety of Americans, created charities and won reforms on specific issues. Some progressives advocated the creation of government agencies to regulate big business, while others thought socialism would solve society's problems.

5.2 Roosevelt in Office

Section 2 describes how progressivism entered national politics during Theodore Roosevelt's administration. Roosevelt's expanded use of presidential power changed the nature of the presidency and significantly increased the powers of the federal government. In promoting progressive reforms, he wanted to ensure that the interests of private concerns did not hurt public interest. To this end he challenged the monopolies of trusts, created a government bureau to monitor the activities of corporations, and pushed for laws that would protect consumers. During his administration, the Interstate Commerce Commission gained the authority it needed to regulate the railroad industry. His threat of military intervention during a miner's strike expanded the government's role in preventing conflicts between the nation's different groups. Roosevelt's efforts to conserve the nation's resources and to prevent unregulated exploitation of public lands became a distinguishing mark of his presidency.

5.3 The Taft Administration

Section 3 reviews progressivism under the presidency of William Howard Taft. As Theodore Roosevelt's most trusted lieutenant, Taft seemed a logical candidate to continue Roosevelt's progressive policies. Taft was a skillful administrator and judge, but he disliked politics and lacked Roosevelt's dynamic personality. He angered progressives when he threw his support behind a Senator who worked contrary to progressive goals. He further alienated progressives by signing a law that raised tariffs and by rejecting progressive concerns in an environmental controversy. Even though Taft had attacked trusts and increased federal regulation during his presidency, voter discontent led to a sweeping Democratic victory in the 1910 congressional elections. When Roosevelt could no longer contain his disapproval of Taft's policies, he announced that he would challenge Taft in the next election.

5.4 The Wilson Years

Section 4 discusses progressivism under President Woodrow Wilson. At the Republican National Convention in 1912, conservatives gave Taft the Republican nomination, while progressives followed Roosevelt to his newly formed Progressive Party. The Democrats nominated Woodrow Wilson, whose New Freedom brand of progressivism rejected monopolies and promoted competition. With the Republican vote split, Wilson won the election. Wilson enhanced the power of the presidency by taking an active role in crafting and promoting legislation. His reforms expanded the role of government and affected tariffs, the banking system, trusts, and workers' rights. Wilson's presidency enacted laws that demonstrated Progressive era ideals. Progressivism led many Americans to begin expecting the government to play an active role in regulating the economy and solving problems. Although progressives ignored some groups, their efforts expanded democracy and improved the quality of life for millions of Americans.

Part 1
The Roots of Progressivism

Vocabulary Define: progressivism, muckraker, commission plan, direct pri- mary, initiative, legislation, referendum, recall, suffrage, strategy, funds, temperance, advocated, prohibition, socialism

People and Terms Identify: Jacob Riis, Robert La Follette, Alice Paul.

  1. List two muckrakers:
  2. List three industries or problems muckrakers exposed
  3. write two sentences explaining, in your own words, the ideas of the efficiency progressives.
  4. explain how the Seventeenth Amendment is an example of progressivism.
  5. Write a journal entry, either as President Wilson or as Alice Paul, on the day of the Washington March. Use three key terms and/or names from this lesson in your paragraph.
  6. list the leaders and outcomes of major social welfare progressive reforms.
(Child labor, health and safety, Prohibition)
  1. Read about the Progressives’ various attempts to reform big business. Choose one of their approaches and write a paragraph about how effective you think it was.
  2. How would you explain the rise of the Progressive movement?

Part 2
Roosevelt in Office

The Living Past, produced by Charles H. Tarbox, written and edited by Monroe Manning.
0634 PA8733 Living Past (Part 3)

This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives

Producer: Charles H. Tarbox
Audio/Visual: sound, b/w
Creative Commons license: Public Domain

Vocabulary Define: trigger, arbitration, issue, environmental.

People and Terms Identify: Square Deal, Northern Securities, United Mine Workers, Hepburn Act, Upton Sinclair.

  1. Name three reforms that Theodore Roosevelt made as president.
  2. Write a conclusion about Roosevelt’s role in progressivism.
  3. Look for the names of three authors whose work led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. List their names and writings.
  4. Have you visited state parks, national forests, or wildlife preserves? What experiences can visitors have there that would not be possible without the efforts of Theodore Roosevelt and others to conserve the American wilderness? Write your 1 paragraph with your thoughts.
  5. What various efforts were made to regulate concentrated corporate power?
  6. What interest did Theodore Roosevelt have in environmental conservation?

Part 3
The Taft Administration

Vocabulary Define: dynamic, schemes, syndicate, insubordination, established.

People and Terms Identify: Joseph G. Cannon, Payne-Aldrich Tariff, Richard Ballinger.

  1. List Taft’s conflicts with the progressives.
  2. Based on what you have learned about Teddy Roosevelt, do you think he ran for president in 1912? Why or why not?
  3. How did Theodore Roosevelt help Taft get elected?
  4. Why were progressives disappointed in Taft as president?

Part 4
The Wilson Years

Vocabulary Define: capacity, levying, income tax, unfair trade practices, labor, foundation.

People and Terms Identify: Progressive Party, New Nationalism, New Freedom, Federal Trade Com- mission, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

  1. List Wilson’s Progressive economic and social reforms. (*four (4) of each)
  2. Imagine that you worked in the White House during the presidencies of both Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Write a journal entry comparing and contrasting their presidential styles. Be specific in describing their personalities and presidential actions.
Think about how Teddy Roosevelt’s decision to run for president again influenced the election of 1912.
  1. What effect might this have had on the country?
Think about the child labor laws that President Wilson supported.
  1. How do similar laws affect you and your class- mates today?
  2. Should there still be federal guidelines to restrict the hours or places in which people under age 14 can work?
In your opinion,
  1. what were the major successes of the Progressive movement?
  2. What were the major failures?
  3. How would you evaluate the legacy of the Progressive movement?