Calls for Reform
in Gilded Age America
Jefferson Parish Public Schools
Summer 2008 Colloquium
Dr. Janet Allured
McNeese State University
• Laissez faire philosophy.
• Political stalemate – two parties evenly
matched in strength.
• Electoral fraud at all levels of government.
• “Shadow presidents”
Pendleton Act, 1883
• Federal Civil Service
• Corporate critics called for reigning in the
power of big business and/or redistributing
– Henry George, Progress and Poverty (1879)
– Edward Bellamy
– Alliance movement
– Labor Unions
– Socialist Labor party (1877); Socialist Party
• State laws regulated corporations and
railroads. Largely ineffective.
• Federal legislation:
– Interstate Commerce Act, 1887
– Sherman Anti-Trust Act, 1890
• Farmers Alliances, 1870s-1880s
• Ocala Demands (Ocala, Fla.):
– Attacked the “money power” that manipulated the free
– Called for:
• Tariff reduction
• Abolition of national banks
• Regulation of railroads
• “free silver”
• Income tax
• Direct election of U.S. senators.
• Subtreasury system.
Revolt of the Farmers
• The People’s Party, or Populists, 1892.
– Promised to restore government “to the hands
of the people.”
– Called for expanding the role of government;
– Organized black as well as white farmers.
Problems in the Cities
Immigration Under Attack
Child Labor, 1909
• Across America during the late
nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries there was a large
movement to revise labor laws,
particularly ones relating to
children. Lewis Wickes Hine, the
man that took this photo, spent a
bulk of his career photographing
immigrants and children working
in factories and living in poverty.
His photographs were used by
various welfare agencies for
reform campaigns and he even
became a photographer for the
National Child Labor Committee.
This photograph was taken at
Wheaton Glass Works in Millville,
• Places of flux, innovation, and anonymity.
• Young people freed from parental control.
• Vice proliferated in lower-class
• Pornography, birth control, abortion readily
• Homosexual communities.
• Anti-Vice crusader;
• Hired as a lobbyist by
• Comstock Act, 1873
• States passed “mini”
• Evangelical Protestants vs. all others
• Sabbatarianism (Sunday-closing laws or
– Prayer and Bible reading
– Compulsory attendance
• Temperance crusade/Prohibition.
“Women’s Crusade Against Intemperance:
Pleading With A Saloonkeeper” 1874
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth
Cady Stanton (seated)
• Stanton founded the
movement in 1848,
and was joined by
Anthony in 1851.
• Neither lived to see
Amendment ratified in
• For many men, as well as some
women, women's suffrage
reversed gender roles, confusing
traditional concepts of
male/female duties both in and
outside of the home. As this
cartoon suggests, anti-suffragists
feared women's suffrage could
lead to something as absurd as
men taking care of domestic
responsibilities. Cartoonists of the
period presented editorials often
supporting women's suffrage, but
just as often criticizing the
potential for such equality in
politics. Becoming "hen pecked,"
or losing one's power to females,
struck fear in the hearts of men
throughout the country.
Map of Woman Suffrage
Ida B. Wells-Barnett