Major Changes in Society during the Progressive Era

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During the Progressive Era, social justice became a mission to many citizens and

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government officials, both in the Republican and Democratic parties. At a time when there was little regulation by the government, the Progressives fought to tighten regulations through the enacting of laws and forming of bureaus to oversee that these laws were being followed. Major changes that took place as a result of their efforts included regulations that affected laborers, children, and the food produced, processed, marketed, and consumed by Americans.

During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, employers were not held responsible for injuries sustained on the job by their employees. Laborers worked at their own risk and had no voice because if they did speak up to draw attention to dangers in the workplace, they risked being fired. It was a risk that most laborers could not take. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, efforts were made to enact laws to protect workers. Little by little, states came on board. By the year 1916, the Kern-McGillicuddy Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1916 was passed. The burden of proof was usually required of the employee and courts were hesitant to rule against employers, but without this change, Worker’s Compensation may have never been born.

Another major change during the Progressive Era was the enacting of child labor laws. Before the Children’s Bureau, children of all ages could be found laboring long hours and in awful conditions. They were no safer than adults who labored in factories and many were critically injured or killed on the job. The Children’s Bureau was formed out of the Progressive

Adams 2 movement to regulate child labor and to place restrictions on employers that would protect the

children. Although child labor was the focus at the time, the Children’s Bureau is still part of our nation today and falls under the Administration of Children and Families.

Before the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, there was no agency to oversee or regulate how food was processed or packaged in the United States. Food processing facilities could be full of rats and filth and cross contamination was highly probable. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was enacted to put a stop to these practices and to ensure that the food being sold to the citizens was healthy and safe for consumption. Out of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the Food and Drug Administration was formed, which is another department of our government which is still alive and well today.

Some of the most prominent and well-known Progressives of the Progressive Era were Theodore Roosevelt who pushed through tough legislation for the Interstate Commerce Act, brought back the Sherman Antitrust Act, and championed conservation laws to preserve our nation’s natural resources; Woodrow Wilson who brought into play the Federal Reserve and Income Tax; William Howard Taft who expanded the Interstate Commerce Commission’s jurisdiction and went onto establish anti-trust legislation and helped to pass the Workmen’s Compensation Act; and Jane Addams who established the Hull-House in Chicago which was a settlement house for immigrants. Between the women fighting for women’s suffrage, child education, health, and labor laws to the men who fought for regulation of shipping rates and workplace protections, great feats were achieved by many people during the Progressive Era. While not all of the changes may have been quickly recognized at the time, to look back on history, it is evident that their efforts were not in vain and that their triumphs were great.

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Major Changes in Society During the Progressive Era. (2019, Jun 24). Retrieved February 7, 2023 , from

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