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The Progressive Era and social work


									The Progressive Era and It’s
Impact on Social Work
   The United States, 1901-1920
     Roosevelt was young and energetic,
     very well educated (he often read
     two books a day) and had definite
     ideas on how the nation should
     develop in the new century. He
     wanted the U.S. to become a
     dominant world power and wanted
     the Federal government to have
     greater power over the economy and
     in “social engineering.” He was
     more sympathetic to unions than
     many other national leaders.
     He became very popular with the
     new press and the people.
Economic and Social Issues
                 At the time Roosevelt became
                 President, widespread poverty
                 still existed in much of urban
                 and rural America. Help for the
                 poor was generally limited. In
                 cities like New York, many
                 children were essentially
                 homeless and living on the
                 Writers, reformers, and some
                 politicians decried the
                 continued embarrassment of
                 this situation in an otherwise
                 prosperous country.
Child Labor

  The labor movement had made “child labor” a major issue in
  the new century. Children as young as six worked as many
  as 12 hours a day in a number of major industries.
Nature or Nurture?
 Areas that relied on heavy industry
 or mining often had spawned
 “blighted” neighborhoods of
 laborers and their families. In
 these hastily built neighborhoods,
 disease, crime, poverty, and “sin”
 seemed to thrive.
 One group of Americans said that
 these problems were the result of
 the “inferior moral fiber” of the
 inhabitants who lived there.
 Another group said that the climate
 of the neighborhood was the result
 of failings in the institutions, not
 the individuals.

  The economic and social debate was closely tied to the
  issue of “progress” – the idea that life was getting better
  and better.
End of Animal Power
                      19th Century America
                      had at first been
                      dominated by the
                      horse as the prime
                      force for mobility in
                      the nation. Steam and
                      electricity had begun
                      to replace the horse
                      after 1860, but in most
                      cities, horses still
                      dominated most
                      streets up to 1910.
Motion Pictures

 Another emerging industry was
 the result of Edison‟s perfection
 of a camera that would record and
 preserve “moving pictures.” A
 number of acting troupes began
 to make and market “movies” as a
 form of entertainment, while
 others speculated on how this
 new innovation would change
 education, political discussion,
 and understanding of the past.
Heroes or Villains?
 This was the age of the inventors,
 the entrepreneurs, and the
 “industrial heroes.” While many
 labor leaders called them thieves
 and the press called them “robber
 barons,” men like John D.
 Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie,
 and Thomas Edison were seen by
 most of the public as the
 quintessential American hero –
 the “self-made man.” Union
 leaders by contrast were often
 condemned as people who
 protected the weak and useless.      James J. Hill of Minnesota,
                                      builder of the Northern Pacific
White Collar Work

  The growing number of office workers was creating a new
  class – the white collar worker, who made a better salary
  than most industrial workers and usually worked in
  healthier conditions. But questions were raised as to how
  this emerging class of workers would affect American
  creativity, education, and the all-important image of
  “getting ahead.”
Horatio Alger

     The novels of Horotio Alger always told a “rags
     to riches” story about a young, virtuous boy
     who rose to middle-class or wealthy status by
     hard work, clean living – and some luck.
Progressive Movement
 The Progressive movement
 rose from the efforts of several
 middle-class groups who had
 tried in the late 1800s to “better
 society” by pushing through
 limitations on saloons (the
 WCTU), educate immigrant
 children (the settlement
 houses) or aid the poor (the
 Salvation Army). At first these
 groups accepted the American
 tradition of seeking these
 reforms through voluntary
 action, but increasingly they        The Salvation army chapter of
 began to expect government to        Brainerd Minnesota in 1891.
 help push through reforms.
Triangle Fire Tragedy
                    One example of a
                    progressive reform was the
                    reaction to the fire at the
                    Triangle Shirtwaist Co.
                    factory in New York – 146
                    employees, mostly women,
                    as young as 15, died in the
                    fire because little had been
                    done to provide fire escapes,
                    etc. New York passed better
                    fire regulation laws, some
                    proposed by a social worker,
                    Francis Perkins, who later
                    became to first woman in a
                    presidential cabinet.
Settlement Houses

              Jane Addams, a young woman from
              middle-class origins, helped create
              Hull House in Chicago in 1889. This
              settlement house was designed at
              first to help “new immigrants” learn
              English and “American ways,” but
              Addams and her associates quickly
              realized they had to provide help on
              child care, nutrition, employment, and
              other things to really help the poor.
              Eventually, they began to press for
              legislation to help the poor “get a fair
              chance” in society.
Labor and the Women’s Vote
 One way for women in settlement houses to have greater influence was by
 expanding the electorate, and so pushed for votes for women.
 Contents of a leaflet for votes for women, about 1912, in New York:
 •Why are you paid less than a man?
 •Why do you work in a fire trap?
 •Why are your hours so long?
 •Why do you pay the most rent for the worst houses?
 •Why do your children go into factories [to work]?
 •Why don‟t you get a square deal in the courts?
 Because you are a woman and have no vote
 Votes make the law.
 Votes enforce the law.
 The law controls conditions. Women who want better conditions MUST vote.
Narcotics in America

   Jane Addams of Hull House wrote that opium addiction was
   widespread in Chicago. Teenaged children “stole from their parents,
   pawned their clothes and shoes, did any desperate thing to get „the
   dope‟ as they called it.” Meanwhile, other narcotics were used in
   patent medicines and sold openly. A Federal Narcotics Act in 1909
   was the first major attempt to stem this practice.
Cures for Addiction
                Several dubious cures for drug addiction
                were available from mail order
                businesses or from traveling salesmen
                who claimed to be physicians. Many of
                the cures contained other narcotics, and
                the user simply substituted one
                addiction for another.
                It was estimated in 1900 that over
                300,000 Americans were regular users of
                heroin, and at least twice that used
                Of course, Kopp‟s Baby Friend cough
                syrup contained morphine – “for that
                good night‟s sleep.”
Public Health
 Upton Sinclair‟s book, The Jungle,
 shocked the public with its details
 about the lack of sanitation in the
 processing of food – the book led
 several cities to establish offices for
 food and restaurant inspection, and
 public health services to offer classes
 on sanitation in the preparation of
 food. Other cities spent money to
 improve the quality of drinking water.
 The Federal Pure Food and Drug Act
 helped further – in one example, Coca
 Cola had to remove cocaine from its
Crusading Journalism

              The worst aspects of the industrial
              trusts became the subjects of book-
              length studies by journalists like Ida
              Tarbell, who wrote about Standard
              Oil, calling it the “octopus” that
              controlled the nation through its
              dominance of the drilling and
              distribution of oil.
Urban Corruption

            In 1904, Lincoln Steffens, who had
            written a number of articles for
            McClure’s magazine, published The
            Shame of the Cities – an exposure of
            machine government and corrupt ties
            between elected officials and local
            crime. Many of the nation‟s greatest
            cities – including Minneapolis – were
            embarrassed by the revelations.
John Fitch
 John Fitch, a native of South Dakota,
 studied political economics at the
 University of Wisconsin, then took up
 journalism, where he specialized in the
 conditions of industrial workers. His
 book, “The Steel Workers” (1910)
 graphically showed the harsh work
 conditions, dangers, and low pay of
 those who made steel for the big steel
 firms. The book helped boost the
 membership of the steel workers unions.
 Fitch later wrote for Survey, the first true
 social work magazine. He taught
 classes at the New York School of Social
 Work from 1917 to 1946.

             Roosevelt did not appreciate the
             exposures of journalists and
             called them “muckrakers.” TR
             believed that the government
             should practice a “new
             nationalism” by suppressing the
             “bad trusts” while permitting the
             “good trusts” (those that
             advanced American power in the
             world) to flourish.
Florence Kelley
                  Florence Kelley, another associate of
                  Hull House, became so frustrated in
                  the effort to find a lawyer to argue
                  cases for child labor regulations that
                  she studied law herself, got a license
                  to practice law in Illinois, and argued
                  Illinois became one of the model
                  states for laws that put limits on how
                  children could be employed and how
                  long they could work in a day.
                  Kelley also played a role in a key U.S.
                  Supreme Court decision in 1908 to
                  place 10-hour limit on a work day for
Birth Control

 As a nurse, Margaret Sanger
 defied state and Federal laws to
 provide women with information
 on birth control (even churches
 that agreed with the „social
 gospel‟ movement opposed birth
 control). Forced to flee to
 Europe in 1914, Sanger returned
 in two years to create the first
 birth control clinic in the U.S.
The Children’s Bureau

                                   Originally part of the Department
                                   of Commerce, the Children‟s
                                   Bureau was moved by Wilson to
                                   the Department of Labor in 1913.
                                   It‟s director, Julia Lathrop, was a
                                   veteran of the Hull House reform
                                   movement and fought vigorously
                                   to obtain stronger child labor

 By 1918, most states had child labor laws, but hundreds of thousands
 of children were little affected by these laws because they worked in
 areas (small businesses, agriculture, etc.) that were not covered by the
 provisions for maximum hours or minimum wages. Wilson decided to
 push for more stringent child labor laws.
Emergence of the Profession
            In 1898, 25 students attended a
            “Summer School Course in
            Philanthropic Work” in New York City.
            The courses, sponsored by the Charity
            Organization Society of NY, provided
            classes on urban poverty, industrial
            labor, and practical issues dealing with
            health, education, and home economics.
            The courses were repeated the following
            summer and then expanded. By 1920s,
            this first school of social work was
            closely affiliated with Columbia
            University. With instructors like John
            Dewey (left) Franz Boas, and Jane
            Addams, the program‟s reputation grew,
            and idea of a social work education was
            taken up by other cities and schools.
Announcing the Profession

 In 1915, Abraham Flexner, a prominent
 leader in medical education, gave a
 paper, “Is Social Work a Profession,” in
 which he noted: “The unselfish
 devotion of those who have chosen to
 give themselves to making the world a
 fitter place to live in can fill social work
 with the professional spirit.” Flexner
 believed that social work was destined
 to play a major role in the modern
 industrial state that the United States
 was rapidly becoming.
Civil Rights

               Wilson also did not have any
               interests in civil rights (as a
               child in Virginia in the 1860s
               he resented the defeat of the
               Confederacy by Lincoln‟s
               armies). While Roosevelt and
               Taft had invited African-
               Americans like George
               Washington Carver to dinner at
               the White House, Wilson
               ended the practice and refused
               to meet with any civil rights
Revolution at Home

                                The 19th Amendment to the
                                Constitution gave the right to vote to
                                all American women aged 21 and older.
                                Not every woman accepted that this
                                would provide full equality. Alice Paul,
                                a suffragette, called for an “equal
                                rights amendment” to prevent any
                                discrimination against women in
                                business or society.

 Throughout the 1920s, women would enter business in a number of
 “new” professions – law, journalism, medicine, and “social welfare.”
 But the majority still worked in nursing, clerical jobs or teaching (and
 teachers who married were fired in most states).

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