The Progressive Era, 1900 – 1920: America’s Quest for a Better Society

Edward O'Donnell
Edward O'Donnell
College of the Holy Cross

Edward O’Donnell is a professor of history at College of the Holy Cross. He is the author of several books, including Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age. He frequently contributes op-eds to publications like Newsweek and The Huffington Post, and has been featured on PBS, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and C-SPAN. O’Donnell also has curated several major museum exhibits on American history and appeared in several historical documentaries. He currently hosts a history podcast, “In the Past Lane.”

 

 

Overview

The period 1900-1920 was marked by a wide-ranging effort by many Americans – from President Theodore Roosevelt to settlement house pioneer Jane Addams – to rein in the excesses and abuses that accompanied the industrial boom, rapid urbanization, and political corruption of the Gilded Age. This spirit of reform (Progressivism) brought about significant changes in politics, business regulation, labor law, women’s rights, and social welfare policies. Yet there were limits to this reform, most notably around race relations. In this presentation, Professor O’Donnell will examine the ideas and motivations of these reform movements and assess their success and enduring legacies.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was Progressivism and what were its core ideals?
  1. Why did progressives believe it was important to control the power of large corporations?
  1. What led to the movement to regulate the quality of consumer products, like food and medicine, in the Progressive Era?
  1. What ideals and values inspired the environmental conservation movement?
  1. What were the major flaws in the American democratic system that progressive reformers attempted to address?

 

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