Women in the Progressive Era

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Women are historically treated worse than their male counterparts and this is especially true before the progressive era. It was frowned upon for women to work and those women who did have jobs, were treated as second class citizens. Not only did women make less than men, but the little wages they did make they were not allowed to keep. Pay was given to the respective men in their lives and for most women that fell to their husbands. The hours they were given to work were not appealing either. Women also weren’t allowed to own land and on top of this, women were not allowed to vote.

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During the progressive era there were women who fought for women’s suffrage. Among them are Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony. Through arrests, protesting, and being beaten simply for fighting for their rights they ended up successful. The 19th amendment passed by congress on June 4th, 1919 and ratified on August 18, 1920 granted women the right to vote. However, this law was not extended to their black counterparts. In fact, it’s not until years down the line do black women finally get the same suffrage. While women receiving the right to vote was a success, the fact that women of color could not isn’t. Suffrage wasn’t the only right women received during the progressive era though. They also gained the right to keep their money and were given better hours at their respective jobs. Muller v. Oregon is the supreme court decision that allotted the latter (Progressive Era Lecture). The outcome of the court case stated that women were not allowed to work more than a ten hour day. This was a double edged sword however, because while women did work less hours, it took women out of the conversation. What if individual women wanted to work more? What if they needed the money? The court telling them what to do was not what women wanted, they wanted the right to decide for themselves.

This idea of women fighting for their rights may have started during the progressive era, but it definitely did not end there. Today, in present day America, women are still fighting for their rights and speaking up when they are wronged. The #MeToo movement is an example of that. The Me Too movement is a movement against sexual assault and sexual harassment. In October 2017 the hashtag #MeToo went viral on social media platforms in attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual misconduct. It was widely successful and showed that women from all backgrounds and places experience sexual harassment and are not just saying things to say things. If it weren’t for those past day feminists fighting and taking the first steps in securing women’s rights, women might not be where they are today. Because of their actions in the past women are allowed to vote, keep the money they have earned, and hold land. They paved the way for women to fight for other rights and to speak their mind on what they believe in.

Progressives during this time were not only for women’s rights though, they were also for child labor reform. With the rise of industrialization, factory owners began to employ children. Children could get paid less than adults and because they were smaller than the average adult they could fit into machines to clean them. The conditions that these children were working in were dirty and often times dangerous, however many of their families needed the money. People [living on] ninety cents a day, [eating] beans and cornmeal week in and week out [and running] up debt at stores until they cannot [be] trusted any longer was a common struggle (Gorn 25). Everyone in the family had to play a part and by 1880, one out of every six kid had a full time job (GIlded Age Lecture). However, there were no guidelines for these children working and no limits. This made young children especially at risk. As the progressive era progressed, more and more people began to turn away from the idea of children working. This is in part because of new ideals in American that romanticized childhood as a time to play and have fun (Progressive Era Lecture). As long as children were in factories they couldn’t have that time of growth, and pay and education. However, despite how many people were against child labor, efforts to pass a law prohibiting it was very difficult.

While child labor laws weren’t especially successful during this time, the culture that cultivated regarding child labor and childhood is still seen today.

The Progressive era was a time for fresh ideas and reforms. Reforms and ideas regarding women’s rights and children labor are still seen today.

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Women in the Progressive Era. (2019, Jul 09). Retrieved December 2, 2022 , from

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