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Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Gilded Age, 1870 – 1900

  • Growing Economy
    • Rapid industrialization
    • Big business
    • Government corruption
  • Immigration
  • Urbanization


Progressive Era, 1890s – 1920s

  • Goals for Progressive Reformers
    • Protect social welfare
    • Promote moral improvement
    • Create economic reform
  • Popularized by literature
    • Expose inequities, corruption and other problems plaguing society
  • Muckrakers – authors who exposed corruption


Ida Tarbell

  • Investigative Reporter
  • Exposed Standard Oil for unfair practices
  • The Business of Being a Woman 1912
  • The Ways of Women 1915



  • Work drew people into towns and cities
    • National pop. doubled between 1860 and 1910
    • Urban pop. doubled each decade


Family Unit

  • Immigrants identified with their own ethnic group
  • Creation of ethnic ghettos
  • The condition of these neighborhoods added to anti-immigrant sentiment from WASPs White Anglo Saxon Protestants


Immigrant Girls

  • Young unmarried immigrants or the daughters of immigrants
    • Factory work, mill work, domestic work
    • 3 out of 4 were under 25


Immigrant Women

  • Married women rarely took full-time work outside of the home
  • They took in piecework or boarders
  • By 1900 1 out of 5 urban homes took in boarders


Women’s Christian Temperance Union

  • Worked to end the sale and use of alcohol
  • The vote would help women pass local laws against alcohol
  • National Consumers League
    • Consumer power
    • Florence Kelly
    • Child labor
    • Food safety


Child Labor

  • Children worked
    • Tenement manufacture
    • Textile factories
    • Mining / quarrying
    • Agriculture


Child Labor Movement

  • Rise of the middle class
  • Changing attitude towards children
  • New focus on childhood as a special age
  • Education important but not accessible to all children
  • Reformers public demonstrations against child labor


National Child Labor Committee

  • Founded by Addams, 1907
    • Lillian Wald
    • Florence Kelly
    • Federal child labor law was passed, 1916



  • Male union members did not want interference between the labor-capital relationship
  • Parents 
    • Wanted children to work
    • Families needed the income
    • Not all families expected their children attend school
  • Business
    • Source of abundant source of cheap labor
    • Size meant they could fit into small spaces
    • Were easy to control / take advantage of


Invisible Labor

  • Domestic labor continued for women even when they joined the paid labor force.
  • “Invisible work” work that women did that was unrecorded and not included in the census
    • This includes work they did for pay at home


Factory Work

  • Textile industry
  • Assemble shirtwaists
  • Insufficient wages
  • Long hours
  • Unsafe conditions
  • Locked doors
  • Girls and women provided their own basic materials


Women and Labor Unions

  • Men’s unions excluded women from joining 
  • A threat to male workers
    • Thought women’s work to be temporary
    • Thought to reduce men’s wages
    • Fear of pushing men out of work
  • Ideal of domesticity
    • Women shouldn’t work
    • Although it was necessary for the poor


Labor Strikes

  • Women were  involved in labor strikes although initially not part of an organized unions
  • In time, women formed their own unions


Mary Harris Jones – “Mother Jones”

  • Labor Activist
    • Worked with Knights of Labor
    • Gave inspirational speeches to workers during strikes
  • A founder of the Social Democratic Party 1898
  • Helped establish the Industrial Workers of the World 1905
  • Some quotes
    • “I’m not a humanitarian.  I’m a hell-raiser”
    •  “Sit down and read.  Educate yourself for the coming conflicts”
    • “Reformation, like education, is a journey, not a destination.”


Clara Lemlich, 1886 – 1982

  • Factory worker
  • Labor activist
  • Jewish immigrant from Ukraine
  • International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union


Uprising of 20,000

  • Great New York Shirtwaist Strike
  • Nov 1909 – Feb 1910
  • Settled with improved: 
    • Hours
    • Working conditions
    • Wages


Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

  • March 25, 1911
  • 145 workers killed
  • Brought attention to sweatshop conditions


Protective Laws

  • By 1914, 27 states regulated women’s hours
  • By 1920, 15 states set minimum wage laws
  • Laws did protect women but also limited them in many ways



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History 111