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Gospel of Progressivism

Moral Reform and Labor War in Colorado, 1900-1930

By R. Todd Laugen

Publication Year: 2011

Chronicling the negotiations of Progressive groups and the obstacles that constrained them, The Gospel of Progressivism details the fight against corporate and political corruption in Colorado during the early twentieth century. While the various groups differed in their specific agendas, Protestant reformers, labor organizers, activist women, and mediation experts struggled to defend the public against special-interest groups and their stranglehold on Colorado politics. Sharing enemies like the party boss and corporate lobbyist who undermined honest and responsive government, Progressive leaders were determined to root out selfish political action with public exposure. Labor unions defied bosses and rallied for government protection of workers. Women's clubs appealed to other women as mothers, calling for social welfare, economic justice, and government responsiveness. Protestant church congregations formed a core of support for moral reform. Labor relations experts struggled to prevent the outbreak of violence through mediation between corporate employers and organized labor. Persevering through World War I, Colorado reformers faced their greatest challenge in the 1920s, when leaders of the Ku Klux Klan drew upon the rhetoric of Protestant Progressives and manipulated reform tools to strengthen their own political machine. Once in power, Klan legislators turned on Progressive leaders in the state government. A story of promising alliances never fully realized, zealous crusaders who resisted compromise, and reforms with unexpected consequences, The Gospel of Progressivism will appeal to those interested in Progressive Era reform, Colorado history, labor relations, and women's activism.

Published by: University Press of Colorado

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

Writing and researching can be lonely endeavors. For this reason, I dearly appreciate the assistance of so many people and groups along the way. Financial support from various institutions proved invaluable in sustaining an initial vision...

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pp. xv-xviii

Roscoe Conkling, US senator from New York, knew how to oil a political machine with gobs of patronage. You grease my hand with a postmaster’s job or a customhouse post and I’ll grease yours with fifty votes, a hundred, or a thousand...

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Introduction: The Varieties of Colorado Progressivism

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pp. 1-10

Soon after cofounding a new independent voters group in 1905, Denver attorney Edward Costigan appeared before the South Broadway Christian Church to appeal for support. Although the church was not yet fifteen years old, its Romanesque facade...

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1: Protestant Progressives and the Denver Party Machine

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pp. 11-39

In his second year as Denver’s juvenile court judge, Benjamin Barr Lindsey invited police commissioners to his courtroom. Judge Lindsey had just begun a series of innovative reforms to help delinquent children. However, urban temptations continually...

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2: Public Enemy: Colorado Fuel and Iron or the Saloon?

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pp. 41-64

In July 1908, Denver hosted the Democratic National Convention. William Jennings Bryan received the presidential nomination on the first ballot with few dissenting votes. Colorado voters had overwhelmingly supported Bryan in his previous presidential...

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3: The Denver Tramway Crisis and the Struggle for Masculine Citizenship

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pp. 65-94

Just six years after the horrific violence of the Ten Days’ War after Ludlow, class warfare erupted in Denver. On August 5, 1920, an angry mob surrounded private guards employed by the Denver Tramway Company to break a five-day-old strike...

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4: The Consuming Public and the Industrial Commission

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pp. 95-124

In his 1906 Annual Message to Congress, President Roosevelt urged support for a bill to mandate the government investigation of labor disputes before allowing workers to strike.1 In an “age of great corporate and labor combinations,” the president insisted...

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5: Ben Lindsey and Women Progressives

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pp. 125-151

On his national lecture tours, Judge Ben Lindsey often celebrated the political work of Colorado clubwomen. His collaboration with activist women was more interesting to eastern audiences because of early twentieth-century debates about women’s...

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6: The Colorado Klan and the Decline of Progressivism

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pp. 153-186

The year 1924 proved pivotal for Colorado Progressives. While most women’s club leaders sought to mobilize members along feminine rather than party lines, Colorado labor leaders hoped to sustain a national movement devoted to the economic problems of farmers and workers...

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Epilogue: The Progressive Legacy

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pp. 187-192

Colorado Progressives left a complicated and unfinished legacy: demands that government officials curb prostitution, gambling, and alcohol use while easing burdens on taxpayers; a faith that class conflict could be resolved through scientific investigation...


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pp. 193-224


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pp. 225-231

E-ISBN-13: 9781607320531
E-ISBN-10: 1607320533
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607320524
Print-ISBN-10: 1607320525

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 14
Publication Year: 2011