Definition: Period from 1900 – 1920 during which reformers sought to improve government, regulate businesses, help workers and help the poor.

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Theodore Roosevelt (Republican)

  • VP for William McKinley, became president at age 43 when McKinley assassinated in 1901- youngest ever
  • Wanted to give all Americans a ‘Square Deal’- a more just and equitable society
  • Much of the Progressive legislation was passed while he was in office until 1909
  • Known as the ‘trust buster’ and conservationalist for establishing system of national parks
  • Tried to run again in 1912 under the Bull Moose Party (progressive party)

The Muckrakers

  • Journalists and writers who fought for reform
  • Used newspapers and novels to expose corruption, injustice
  • Often bent the truth to accomplish goals
  • Best example- Upton Sinclair- wrote novels, like The Jungle, describing evils of capitalism


  • Women fighting for the right to vote
  • Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton start National Women’s Suffrage Association in 1869 to secure amendment in Constitution
Progressive Legislation
1901New York State Tenement House LawRequires fire escapes, lights in dark hallways, a window in each room
1902Maryland Workmen’s Compensation LawProvide benefits for workers injured on the job
Wisconsin Direct Primary LawAllows voters to select candidates
Oregon Initiative and Referendum lawsGives voters power to initiate legislation and vote on important issues
Newlands ActFunds irrigation projects in West
1903Oregon women’s labor lawLimits work for women in industry to 10 hours a day
Elkins ActStrengthens Interstate Commerce Act
1906Hepburn ActAuthorizes Interstate Commerce Commission to set maximum railroad rates
Pure Food and Drug ActProhibits sale of adulterated or fraudulently labeled foods and drugs
Meat Inspection ActEnforces sanitary conditions in meatpacking plants
1910Mann ActProhibits interstate transportation of women for immoral purposes
191316th AmendmentAuthorizes federal income tax
1915Seaman’s ActRegulates conditions of maritime workers
1916Federal Farm Loan ActProvide farmers with low interest loans
Federal Child Labor LawBarred products produced by children from interstate commerce (declared unconstitutional in 1918)
191918th AmendmentProhibited sale and production of intoxicating liquors
192019th AmendmentGave women the right to vote

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American History & Identity: 1900-1950

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