What Was the Progressive Movement?

The Progressive Movement (or the Progressive Era) between 1900 and 1920 was a time of sweeping reforms, enabling the United States government to play a greater role in controlling business and protecting the public. Some of its reforms included the introduction of federal income tax, the direct election of Senators and the prohibition of alcohol.

One of the main aims of Progressivism was to increase public participation in the political process. Part of this was to introduce the direct presidential primary, which enabled the public to select candidates for election. "Initiative" was also introduced, allowing proposed laws to be placed on a ballot following the collection of enough signatures by petition.

Importantly, the public were given the power to "recall" or remove elected officials from office by petition and vote.

Prohibition of alcohol was supported by Protestant groups, who supported only those candidates for office who did not drink. Their cause was aided by the outbreak of World War I, which made a national enemy of Germans — many of whom owned breweries and distilleries in the United States.

Among the welfare reforms introduced were laws prohibiting the employment of children under 12 (or up to 16 in some cases), as well as mandating the maximum permitted time for any working day or week. These laws coincided with new state regulations that made school attendance mandatory for children.