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

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
1901 New York State Tenement House Law Requires fire escapes, lights in dark hallways, a window in each room
1902 Maryland Workmen’s Compensation Law Provide benefits for workers injured on the job
Wisconsin Direct Primary Law Allows voters to select candidates
Oregon Initiative and Referendum laws Gives voters power to initiate legislation and vote on important issues
Newlands Act Funds irrigation projects in West
1903 Oregon women’s labor law Limits work for women in industry to 10 hours a day
Elkins Act Strengthens Interstate Commerce Act
1906 Hepburn Act Authorizes Interstate Commerce Commission to set maximum railroad rates
Pure Food and Drug Act Prohibits sale of adulterated or fraudulently labeled foods and drugs
Meat Inspection Act Enforces sanitary conditions in meatpacking plants
1910 Mann Act Prohibits interstate transportation of women for immoral purposes
1913 16th Amendment Authorizes federal income tax
1915 Seaman’s Act Regulates conditions of maritime workers
1916 Federal Farm Loan Act Provide farmers with low interest loans
Federal Child Labor Law Barred products produced by children from interstate commerce (declared unconstitutional in 1918)
1919 18th Amendment Prohibited sale and production of intoxicating liquors
1920 19th Amendment Gave women the right to vote
Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "The Progressive Era," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,

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