Archive for category History

America In The Twenties

Chapter 20 Review: America in the Twenties

 

For most Americans, the decade of the 1920s was a time of wealth. It was a time of rapid growth in American industry, with the construction, automobile, and public utilities industries leading the way.  New methods of mass production made American workers more productive than ever before. The result was a higher standard of living for most workers and much higher profits for business and corporations. Profits were also increased by the tax and tariff policies of three successive Republican presidents. The administrations of Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover pursued a foreign policy designed to extend and protect American overseas investments and trade.

The twenties were an era of dramatic social change in the United States. Women won the right to vote and went on to gain a greater measure of economic dependence. Although European immigration declined with the passage of restrictive acts, migration of rural Americans to the cities continued. African Americans migrated from the rural South to northern Industrial cities in large numbers. They were confined to low-paying jobs and to housing in the poorest neighborhoods. Racial discrimination made movement out of these ghettos nearly impossible. Cities grew upward and outward. Skyscrapers and suburban neighborhoods became common features of the landscape.

Many Americans were disturbed by the changes of the 1920s. They were alarmed that young people were rebelling against the Victorian standards of morality. Some Americans felt traditional values were being eroded as society was becoming culturally diverse. The resurgence of nativism made groups like the Ku Klux Klan more popular.

 

 

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Progressive Era Diplomacy

Chapter 19 Review: Progressive Era Diplomacy

After 1900, whether Americans liked it or not, the nation could no longer avoid playing an important part in world affairs. The progressive presidents clearly understood the new role. Yet each had different ideas about how to go about playing it.

These three presidents also brought very different styles, interests, and values to their handling of international relations. Their specific policies reflected these differences. Roosevelt’s balance-of-power diplomacy differed greatly with Taft’s dollar diplomacy and Wilson’s missionary idealism. Of the three, Roosevelt was probably most successful in completing his foreign policy goals. Taft’s dollar diplomacy had little success. Wilson was probably least successful overall, because idealism and vision exceeded what he could practically accomplish. How the progressive presidents’ foreign policies were judged depends mostly on a definition of national interests and how best to handle them. Americans continue to argue about this.

The desire to build empires plus complicated political alliances pushed Europe into the greatest war the world had ever seen. The United States tried to keep neutral, but such factors as German interference with American shipping and strong cultural and economic ties with England forced the United States in the Great War (World War I). After the defeat of the Central Powers, the Allied powers imposed peace settlement that many historians believe helped to bring about World War II.

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Progressive America

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.

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Stirrings of Reform

Chapter 17 Review: Stirrings of Reform

The United States at the turn of the century was a rapidly changing society. The economy was surging ahead, the cities were growing, and many Americans had more leisure time than ever before; but it was also a society overwhelmed with problems. The industrial cities were troubled with widespread poverty, dangerous and unhealthy working conditions, and corrupt governments. Large corporations had attained vast economic power and political influence. To some, the future of American democracy itself seemed in danger.

While aware of the problems created by rapid industrialization, Americans of this generation firmly believed in the possibility of progress. They rejected the idea that big corporations were beyond their control or that American politics had become hopelessly corrupt. Most Americans seemed convinced that people of motivation together could reform American society. This idea was especially likable to members of the professional class, people trained and skilled in the techniques of management. All they needed to do was to apply those same skills to the nation’s social and political problems.

The result was a series of reform effort known as the progressive movement. Middle-class reformers reached out to the urban poor by establishing settlement houses in the slums. Reform mayors helped clean up community government in a number of cities. Other progressives worked to limit child labor and to regulate the working hours of women. Prodded by reformers, state legislatures enacted factory safety and worker’s compensation laws. Progressives also made government more democratic by introducing changes to election processes.

Although progressives achieved major reforms, women, African Americans, and American Indians still occupied a minority status in American society. Despite the efforts of organizations that fought for political rights and the hard work of heroic and dedicated minority leaders, the reform movement still had a long way to go.

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