Reinventing The People
The Progressive Movement, the Class Problem, and the Origins of Modern Liberalism
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Books often come to be written by circuitous paths. This one is no exception. It began as an offshoot of a larger project on the transformation of working-class political culture in the Progressive Era. In the course of that research, I confronted what appeared to be an inescapable conclusion: not only had a “Progressive movement” existed, despite claims by some historians to...
Introduction: Progressives and the Problem of Class
With the outbreak of the Pullman car shopworkers’ strike in 1894, Jane Addams faced a formidable challenge. She felt torn between sympathy for the strikers and her own desire to bridge the class divisions that the strike revealed. She was frustrated that the arbitration efforts of the Chicago Civic Federation had not borne fruit. As the only member of the arbitration committee...
1. The Labor Problem and the Crisis of the Old Order
Stalwart labor reformer George McNeill spoke for a growing segment of working-class partisans in the 1880s who believed class conflict had become an endemic feature of industrial society and saw a war of seemingly irreconcilable class interests as inevitable.Nearly a year after the great railroad strikes of 1877,McNeill addressed a grand labor parade and picnic in Chicago on July...
2. Constituting Progressivism
Henry Demarest Lloyd, like many American reformers, viewed the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 as a moment of great, if unrealized, promise. For a brief summer, a planned “White City,” the orderly architecture and carefully orchestrated congresses of which suggested the possibility of a new urban order, materialized on the shores of Lake Michigan. Staged...
3. The Politics of Reform
Jane Addams’s battle with ward boss Johnny Powers gave her a healthy respect for the ability of “corrupt” politicians to insinuate themselves into the lives of their constituents. Local bosses addressed the individual needs of their constituents and cemented political loyalty through human friendliness. She called machine politics “this stalking survival of village kindness.” By contrast...
4. Communities of Reformers
Like many of her contemporaries, Vida Scudder moved within a densely organized world of social reform during the early years of the Progressive Era. The orbits of her activity centered around Boston’s settlements and Wellesley College, where she taught English literature.With her reform colleagues she shared a commitment to harmonizing the interests of the “alienated classes.” ...
5. Class Bridging and the World of Female Reform
When journalist Rheta Childe Dorr sought to justify women’s active role in public life, she easily turned to a maternalist metaphor that was commonplace among women reformers in 1910.1 That metaphor wove together the “natural” claims of women as moral protectors of home and family with the argument that the fulfillment of such responsibilities required governmental...
6. The Boundaries of Difference
Progressive reformers believed that harmony between the classes would come only by building democratic community.But like Simon Patten, they worried that racial and ethnic differences would impede that progress.1 Society’s capacity to prepare racially distinct people for the responsibilities of citizenship and ultimately assimilate them remained a central problem with...
7. Class Wars and the Crisis of Progressivism
When Frank Walsh accepted the chairmanship of the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations (USCIR) in the fall of 1913 and its charge to investigate “the causes of industrial unrest,” he publicly expressed views on class conflict that seemed consistent with a tradition of class reconciliation deeply rooted in the mainstream of the Progressive movement.At the same time, he...
Conclusion: War and the Ragged Edges of Reform
The historical record of twentieth-century liberalism is both triumphant and tortured. The roots of this “new liberalism” lay in its critique and, ultimately, abandonment of classical liberalism, with its excessive deference to individual liberty and faith in the natural justice of the marketplace. By the end of the nineteenth century, many reformers believed such principles...