Prior to the Progressive Era, America was a corrupt society where the majority of the population was abused and treated unfairly. Politics was incredibly untrustworthy, as large businesses truly conducted what was happening in the government. Towards the end of the Gilded Age, civilians became fed up with the way of life and the laissez-faire attitude from the government.
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In the Progressive Era, influential ideas and voices came from being in a constant state of manipulation. Modern unions and parties formed in the Progressive Era brought a much-needed light to the horrendous ways of life in America. Women had no rights, so they spoke out against their injustices. For the first time in American history, their voices were heard. Thanks to unions being formed, children were given support and help with labor laws. The food industry was in dire need of new laws to promote healthier ways of producing food for the entire country, and unions changed laws around meat production by setting new health standards. Although it happened later, the Progressive era was a needed revolution because it introduced a new wave of reform where actual change for minority groups was being made. The Progressive Era introduced hundreds of new ideas and action to benefit those in need. Life in America now is dramatically better than it would have been.
For decades in America, there was a lack of support for mothers and their choices over their reproductive health. Women’s bodies have been subjected to men as their minds and bodies have been under control of their male counterparts for centuries. Especially in the slums of the Gilded Age, mothers young and old were constantly reproducing children that they did not have the means to take care of. They had no control over their bodies or how their maternal care was handled, in most cases it was extremely unsanitary, unsafe and in some cases deadly. As well as a lack of maternal care, there was no public education on sexual health. The reason for this was because laws were instilled where it was extremely difficult for anyone to obtain birth control or contraceptives which were deemed illicit. There was no way for women to have any rights regarding their sexual health but during this essential time, the conversation finally changed. In the Progressive Era, there was a generous amount of women who acknowledged that they had a voice in their reproductive health and bravely spoke out against the injustices that they faced for their reproductive rights. Two women especially were important activists and reformers in this cause, Margaret Sanger and Emma Goldman. Emma Goldman was the first person to ever give a public showing of how to use contraceptives. They fought for women’s sexual rights. Margaret Sanger is best known for establishing the American Birth Control League in 1921. This organization started a new wave of birth control clinics around the country. These turned into Planned Parenthood clinics which served men and women by providing health services, educating civilians, providing contraceptives and more. Thanks to these clinics and these influential and outspoken women they were able to help thousands gain knowledge and sway the opinion of the United State’s government on laws pertaining to contraceptives as they fought against them. They won multiple cases for the rights of women and men everywhere to be able to obtain contraceptives for years to come.
In a corporate country that was so heavily based on upholding a certain economic standing as a world power, there was a lack of compassion and thought for those working for American businesses. Organizations run on the mindset to do nothing but yield profits had no regard for the working conditions of their employees. They did not care about employing young children because they were less likely to strike and easier to manage than adults. Just like women and men working in factories, children had no rights. A majority of the working class were kids under 18, they would work 70 hours a week to provide for their families. They were trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty and education was not the priority. The Progressive Era brought change to the lack of laws pertaining to children’s labor. Unions such as The New York National Child labor committee, founded in 1904 by Florence Kelley former resident of Hull House, and Lillian Kelley both who were social and political reformers, they formed The New York Child Labor Committee. Meeting with other reformers like Reverend Edgar Gardner Murphy who was an author and worked in education and social work. They came together in 1904 set up the official National Child Labor Committee by setting out on the much needed mission of “”promoting the rights, awareness, dignity, well-being and education of children. They carried out investigations which led to state legislatures across the country. Their work convinced 28 states to have laws pertaining to child labor. These laws for children workers have helped for years to come as more and more laws will be instilled over the years to benefit kids health and rights.
Women in America started to protest their lack of rights not only in their household but their role as American citizens. Many associations were formed pertaining to women’s voting rights. The National American Woman Suffrage Association, National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, National Association of Colored Women and many more grew where many women started to speak out against injustices. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were crucial to women’s rights activists. Anthony and Cady Stanton founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society. Cady Stanton focused on many women’s rights including women’s suffrage rights. These organizations worked tirelessly for political equality, as woman swaying the political ballad they could vote for rights that would benefit their sex. The challenge to typical women’s roles was revolutionary for the time as for so long their voices had been silenced, but after tirelessly fighting and protesting women were granted the right to vote in 1920. This was revolutionary as it was the first time in America where a large minority fought for what they needed and in return of their efforts were granted their dying wish.
Just as women and children had limited rights, there was a lack of safety and rights for people’s health in general. America had become so enamored with basing a society on manufacturing, Americans lost their humanity. The progressive era was revolutionary for reintroducing the essential humanity, thanks to many reformers. The Jungle was a book published by Upton Sinclair which inadvertently exposed the disgusting conditions in the meatpacking industry. The fictional story revealed true horrors such as rotting and unsanitary meat being mislabeled for sale, and workers facing horrible workplace conditions. After the release of The Jungle, public demand for regulation in the meatpacking district soared. The book ultimately helped inspire Teddy Roosevelt to pass The Meat Inspection Act and The Pure Food and Drug Act on June 30th, 1906. The law stated that interstate transportation of unlawful food or drug was prohibited, and the penalty was seizure of suspicious product and/or the responsible parties being prosecuted. This act has now evolved into the FDA of today, keeping consumables safe for all Americans.
No country is perfect. Nations are constantly growing and changing. America, for so long was content with being a corrupt society. For so long, thousands and thousands of civilians were treated with no regard for their human rights. Thanks to the Progressive Era there was a new wave of reform which completely changed the trajectory of human life in the country for years to come. Without this movement, women would have no reproductive health rights, children would be working in factories without any safety standards, women’s voices would not be heard and our food industry would continue to be unsanitary. Although this movement can be thought of to be reactionary to the horrors of previous decades, it was profound for America as this era started nationwide movements and reforms. Minority groups rose and created the needed platform where they spoke out against the atrocities they have faced for decades. This movement was revolutionary because for the first time in American history minority groups created unions and organizations to rise against the injustices which they faced and through rising up, a change was actually inflicted within the government and legislation.
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