Chapter 18 Review: Progressive America
The reformers of the Progressive Era were the first generation of Americans to expand the role of the federal government into the affairs of everyday life. They looked to the federal government to solve problems too large for local and state governments. They voted for legislation that put federal meat inspectors in the packing plants and that forced food processors to label the contents of their products. At their insistence, Congress created the Federal Trade Commission to oversee the huge corporations. Out of the progressives’ belief in progress and social justice came the foundation for the modern regulatory state.
Aware that the presidency was the only elected office that represented all the people, Roosevelt and Wilson found new ways to expand the powers of the office. They used the visibility of the White House and the power of the press to mold public opinion and to shape legislation.
Although the Court took a traditional approach to most of the progressive legislation, some reform legislation was upheld, including the right to make laws limiting the numbers of hours that women could be made to work.
Passage of the Sixteenth Amendment finally answered the question of whether or not an income tax was constitutional. The direct election of senators, Prohibition, and universal women’s suffrage were other reformers that were created in this period by amendments to the Constitution.
The influence of progressives was also felt in literature and art. Writers criticized Social Darwinism and began to write fiction using realistic settings and characters. Painters began to experiment with abstract art forms that influenced people’s perception of reality.