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The American Progressive Movement  

During the first two decades of the 20th century, a diverse group of Americans believed that reform was necessary as the country became more urbanized and diverse
Last Updated: Jun 29, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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President Roosevelt


The Progressive Movement

   Between 1900 and about 1920, many Americans came to believe that reform was necessary in a country that was becoming increasingly urbanized.  Politicians like Teddy Roosevelt saw the need to regulate certain industries, curb the power of trusts and conserve public land.  Writers like Upston Sinclair, Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffems wrote of the appalling conditions in the meat packing plants, the power of a large oil corporation and urban political corruption.   The progressive "movement", if it can be called that, was a movement for social, political and economic reform.  The adherants to the movement did not wish to fundamentally challenge the capitalistic system.  Rather they wanted to make capitalism more "just."  They wished to expand democracy with the initiative, referendum and recall.  They believed in women's sufferage and the direct election of senators.  They worked to lessen the terrible plight of urban workers.  They believed in progress.  They did not wish to destroy corporations, but to regulate them.  Some urban mayors initiated reforms like the eight hour day, a minimum wage and paid vacations.  Public transportation was improved.  Governors like Republican Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette of Wisconsin established a state income tax, the direct primary and a railroad commission to regulate rates. Because Taft sided with the more conservative wing of the Republican Party in 1912, Teddy Roosevelt ran as a candidate for the Progressive "Bull Moose" Party.  However, Wilson, a Democrat , won in 1912

When the dissillunsionment of World War I ended the movement as Wilson foresaw,  some progressive ideas were incorportated into the New Deal of the 1930's.

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