To understand many of the women’s reform activities and the woman suffrage efforts during this time period in America, this concise historical overview of the societal changes is most helpful. These next few paragraphs will provide some background and insights into the “Gilded Age” and the “Progressive Era.”
Historian Robert H. Wiebe claims that between 1877 and 1900 was “an age” in America of
He also claims that during that time, the United States was a society without a core.(1)Historian Michael McGerr argues that the United States was several nations. It was extremely regional, and it was split by race, ethnicity, and by class from the end of the Civil war until the 1900s. America experienced massive growth in land mass as well as in industrialization. The country changed from being primarily rural agricultural to being urban industrial. (2)With these major shifts numerous social changes occurred. According to historian Louise Knight, “democracy’s nineteenth century meanings were destabilized by many nineteenth-century developments.” She describes these developments asindustrialization,
The Progressive era was an outgrowth of the many ideological and social conflicts that developed int he Gilded Age. It started approximately in 1890 and ended just before 1920. (7) There has been much debate among scholars whether or not progressivism was a movement, because it did not meet the criteria of a movement. Historian Peter G. Filene states a social movement must have unanimity of purpose on a programmatic or philosophical level as well as goals, a form of organization, and members who combine and act together in a deliberate self-conscious way. In fact, progressives shared no party (with he exception of an attempt in 1912 for Theodore Roosevelt’s candidacy for President of the United States) or organization. Many who claimed to be progressives disagreed on many major issues and many of those issues were contradictory. Historians have summed up lists in ways that progressives were divided. Richard Hofstadter claims the progressives had “two minds.” Historian Daniel T. Rogers agrees with the “two minds,” but further expounds their division as follows:
Both Filene and Rogers agree that progressivism was not a movement, but “an era of shifting, ideologically fluid issue-focused coalitions, all competing for the reshaping of American society. (8) Rogers further states that “if progressivism qualified as an “ism” at all, surely it was a system of shared ideas. (9)
The previous paragraph begs the question, “Who were these so-called progressives?” This group or groups were comprised of
This varied listing supports Filene and Rogers’ claim that the progressives were issue-focused coalitions.
A second question tends to follows, “What did these issue-focussed coalitions accomplish or try to accomplish? Overall, progressives sought to
Many reforms fell into three classes which were to
As stated earlier progressivism contained many varied participants varied ideas and goals, varied coalitions that became political pressure groups.
Their efforts did produce a variety of results such as:
The extra-party pressure groups that were formed included:
These helped to change the rules of politics of that time. (12)