The years between 1900 and 1920 were known as the Progressive Era. During this time period, the United States experienced reforms by the people and reforms brought about by the federal government at a national level. There were many issues during this time period like child labor, the formation of trusts and monopolies, bad working conditions, and mistreatment of the working class. The efforts to reform these issues were either completely unsuccessful or successful with limitations. One of the issues that occurred during this time was the horrible working and unsanitary conditions in factories.
A factory that particularly stood out was the meat packing industry. The dirty and disgusting conditions caused people to get sick and die of various diseases. Things like this caused the emergence of Muckrakers, reporters that worked to expose the true story. An example of this was Upton Sinclair and his novel “The Jungle”, that warned Americans about the horrors of the meat packing industry. This kind of exposure led to reforms, like the formations of the FDA that would check factories for sanitary conditions (Document B).
Another thing that people felt needed to be reformed was child labor. Most children barely got a school education, and went straight to work in factories in order to help support their families. Because this kind of lifestyle was inevitable for many children, reformers passed laws to set a minimal age for when children can begin to work(Document C). However, laws like this were minimally successful because children would go to school until the new minimum age that they could, and then continue to drop out in order to work in factories.
Another reform that was greatly focused on during this time period was the women’s rights movement. Women fought for the right and ability to get more involved in outside life and government (Document H). One of the largest successes during this time was the ratification of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. It is now very clear that the people worked to help bring about reform; however, the federal government also brought about reform at a national level during this time period.
In his speech, Theodore Roosevelt brought about the reform of direct election of senators. This meant that the people would now be able to directly elect their senators in the same way that they elect their president. This was a successful reform because it stuck with the American people from 1912, when this speech was given, until now. There were some laws that were passed by the federal government that weren’t very successful when it came to reform. For example, the Clayton Antitrust Act that was against the creation of trusts and monopolies.
It wanted to kill competition by declaring that things shouldn’t be different prices because that leads to competition, which ultimately leads to the destruction of small businesses and the creation of monopolies. The law made sense when it came to getting rid of monopolies, but it was unsuccessful because of its idea to kill competition (Document E). On top of that, with these new laws, the federal government couldn’t differentiate between good trusts and bad trusts, so they ended up destroying all of them (Document A). The Hammer v.
Dagenhart case particularly stood out during this time period. It argued about whether the government should be able to control interstate commerce and transportation of products made by the labor of overworked children under the age of sixteen. The final ruling transcended the authority delegated to Congress over commerce by the Constitution (Document G). All in all, the period from 1900- 1920 was an era of reform and that’s why it is known as the Progressive Era. The people brought about reforms when it came to child labor, exposing the truth about factories, and women’s rights.
The federal government also brought about reforms about monopolies, labor, education, and much more. However these reforms were successful with certain limitations. For example, when it came to trusts, the government killed all of them whether they were good or bad. As Herbert Croly believed, President Wilson was a smart man but he was not thinking realistically. The national government can’t just pass a few laws of reform and expect all of society’s ills to be healed. Society needs more laws with stricter enforcement in order to provide a truly successful period of reform (Document F).