What Are Some of the Notable Accomplishments of the Progressive Era?

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The Progressive Era is notable for the advent of regulation and reform on issues like child labor, race and gender equality, public health and safety, immigration, corporate greed and labor conditions. Occupying an important place in history during the first two decades of the 20th century, the Progressive Era kicked off major reforms that shaped America’s development into a modern nation.

The exact dates of the Progressive Era are up for debate, but it is safe to say that this period of reform and social action lasted roughly from the late 1800s through about 1920. This era saw development and progress in various nations throughout the world, but in the United States, some very important laws and regulations were passed, and many of these rules still impact the nation’s moral and legal landscape. Major news stories drew public attention to events like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a tragic event in which a mostly female labor force was trapped inside a factory with no means of safe escape as the building burned to the ground, resulting in lurid, graphic news reports that drew shock and horror from the public. Many people began to see injustice all around them, and the call to social action in the Progressive Era led to some important changes. These accomplishments include:

  • The prohibition of labor for young children
  • Rules guaranteeing safe and fair working conditions for laborers of all ages
  • Passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote
  • Growing social activism among African-Americans, who were largely barred from voting
  • Government regulation of “robber baron” capitalism practiced by businessmen like John D. Rockefeller
  • Wide awareness of the horrific conditions of America’s working poor
  • Publication of important works like Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”, which drew unprecedented attention to dangerous working conditions and lack of sanitation in meatpacking facilities
  • Regulation of industries like railroad and pharmaceuticals
  • The prominence of activists like Jane Addams and Booker T. Washington, who drew attention to the plight of oppressed poor and racial minorities in America