Sunday, September 19, 2010
What was "Progressivism?"--a movement of middle class (and largely upper middle class) whites who attempted to reassert the control they had previously enjoyed in American society by reigning in what they perceived to be the excesses that unfettered capitalism had unleashed.
A prime example of this is the campaign for Women's Suffrage, one of the earliest and longest-lasting, and most difficult to achieve of the programs that epitomize progressivism. The battle for women's suffrage predates progressivism by nearly 40 years; we generally date the beginning of this movement to August 1848 and the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. While it was argued by opponents that this was far too a radical notion, proponents argued that extending the right to vote to women would help ensure that the corrupting influences on the body politic (especially the liquor lobby and capitalism) could only be defeated by the votes of women.
Rise of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)--founded at Washington Court House in 1874 in the aftermath of a local temperance battle. In 1879, Frances Willard became president (after serving as another officer briefly), and remade the organization into an all-encompassing social advocacy organization for a short time.
Who Were the Progessives? Progressivism and Secular Protestantism--progressives tended to emerge from evangelical Protestant homes, where they had lost the faith of their fathers (and mothers), and instead channeled their energies into creating a better place on this earth. The tended to find places in newly emerging professions, especially in journalism and academia. This is also the first period in American history when women could readily find a place for themselves outside of the home, as the first generation of college educated women began to emerge.
Posted by Gregory M. Miller at 7:05 PM