Progressive Reform And Howe

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Lourdes VazquezSection 1IQuestion 3 Changing AmericaPeople face change in many ways. Some embrace it, some run from it, and some don't even notice it. Change surrounds us every moment of every day; change is constant. Change is one of the words the words that can be used to describe America as it moved into the twentieth century; change was everywhere as the nineteenth century gave way to the roaring twentieth. This change however was radical as the people off this time witnessed a world which they had once known and cherished vanish before their eyes only to be replaced by big business, corrupt politics, and horrid working conditions.

In response to all this many citizens decided that they too would make changes. These people were known as progressives and though they differed in what they felt needed to be done to address all the change that surrounded them, they were still a set of people who embraced the idea of not simply making changes, but making them for the better of all versus a select few. As with any story, that of the progressive era, has not one, nor two, nor even three sides but many. Despite the many views manifested by the progressives, the movement itself was one that greatly affected American life and is thus a vital and utile historical concept. The word progress suggests moving forward or making improvements, thus it can be said that the progressive movement was just that, an effort to move onward; onward to reform and away from the detrimental effects that industrialization had brought upon the nation. Political machines were running cities, big business was controlling everything, and the working conditions people had to endure to scratch out a living were atrocious. America was filled with ideas and concepts its people had never seen before

Small businesses were crushed by big ones as there existed no legislation to regulate them. The nation had always maintained a laissez-faire philosophy when dealing with the business and was having difficulty in doing otherwise. Likewise businesses were not cooperative as they did not see any reason for changing the hands-off policy America had been founded on. America had never seen industrialized labor before either. Everything had always been done on the farm, for a couple of people, not a couple hundred.

The government in general had always had very hands off policy toward the people as well and was not about to jump into the midst of things as it did not know how to go about doing so. People saw this and realized that there was a need for change, the people who saw the need for change and went after it are known as progressives for they wanted to progress their nation by addressing the problems that it was faced with. Though the people of the progressive and reform era are labeled as progressives, the fact that they share a name does not mean that all their ideals were the same as well. Progressives were divided mainly into two camps and from those into even smaller ones. There were the progressives who wanted to go back to the good old days, those who wanted to preserve the way of life that was slipping through their fingers, and then there were those who wanted to address the changes by making changes.

Some progressives felt that it was necessary to preserve the way of life that was fast disappearing in America. On the other hand some progressives felt that the government needed to be run differently because of all of the changes in public and private sector. Either way, change was part of the equation. The progressive era was composed of many people, each possessing one, two, or more of the many ideals that helped define the progressive era. It can be said however, that most progressive reformers were upper middle to upper class people for whereas the poor certainly saw the problems and recognized the need to solve them, there were not in a position where they could.

Those who made up the progressive front were educated people, people who had the connections to get to the places where the reform needed to be done. One such progressive reformer was Frederic C. Howe, a small town upper class corporate lawyer who was very active in reforming politics on the city level (the level where much reform of the Progressive era took place). Was Howe however considered to be what is called a "typical reformer"? He made changes, he fought for the poor, he helped knock down big business, so can't he be considered a typical reformer? No. Howe can never be seen as a typical reformer because there was no such thing. Yes, there was a movement that defined the turn of the century, but it was too much of a broad one to say that any member of it was typical. Each member of the progressive agenda had his own.

As mentioned before there were many battles to be fought and thus though all were on the same side, the side that wanted to see a better America, not all were in the same tent. It can be said however, that Howe was indeed a typical political reform progressive as demonstrated by the work he did in Cleveland. Howe recognized the damage corrupt politicians and big businesses could have on a city and decided not to stand by in watch, but rather fight big business and it suffocating grasp by pushing city measures that benefited the many versus the few. Howe was a progressive in that he realized that changes needed to be made to counter the ones that had already come to pass and did not stand by to wait for them to take flight, but rather he flew with them. No one can be a typical reformer, for the spectrum of reform is a much too broad one.

One progressive may be fighting for workers rights while the other may be ridding a city of corrupt politics. The study of history is made easier when it is divided into parts or pieces. The way we have chosen to study the history that spans the 1880s to the 1820s is by labeling it the Progressive era. This does not mean that it was a time where one set of ideals ruled a nation, nor does it mean that one set of people known as the progressives defined it with a single philosophy-but they did help. The progressive era was a response to all of the change that came so quickly following the civil war.

America had recently let go of an institution that had been in practice since it's founding. This was to be followed by the expansion of the railroad, the invention of the automobile, the growth of the immigrant population, the growth of the cities, and the media, the growth of everything as the small life ways dwindled away. By looking at this era of 40 years and labeling it so one is able to create a commonality out of all that was going on at the time. One is able to tame some of the confusion and rapid change that shaped America. The concept of progressivism accounts for the actions of the people who decided that they weren't going to watch America's evolution from the sidelines, but rather be a part of it and if possible steer it in a direction that would be best for the people. As when studying any period of time one must not generalize for it was not solely art of science that defines the Renaissance, just as it wasn't political or labor reform that defined the Progressive era; it is a combination of all the actions and reactions that followed each other as evolution of the nation marched on. There are many ways to go about doing something as made evident in the Progressive era. Some reform manifested itself in the workplace, other types in the city, and other types within the federal government itself. In all however, it was these many changes, as different and as spread out as they were, that define an era filled with change, changing lifestyle, changing family structure, a changing workplace, changing businesses, and changing cities.

People had no choice but to confront these changes with changes of their own. Was there a typical type of person who confronted this change? No it takes all kinds and the progressive era was no exception. In fact, what made the progressive era so effective was the myriad of people who define it. The many ideas and concepts possessed by reformers of the country came together to meet political corruption, big business, and labor disputes head on. All these issues were handled in different ways, with different philosophies, but they were handled nonetheless.

How can the progressive era not be seen as a historical concept? A concept is not a strict or rigid idea, it is just that, a concept, a loose idea under which many similar ones may fall, for when it was all said and done, reforms were made, and more changes took place, until America's people had somehow responded to all the changes that have helped shaped it into the nation it is today.

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