People: Progressive Era

Jane Addams is best known as the founder of a settlement house, called Hull House, where she provided help for poor immigrants who had come to Chicago. The idea for Hull House came after she saw a similar institution in London. Hull House provided kindergarten and day care for the children of working mothers and after school activities for older children. Later an art gallery, employment bureau, library, public kitchen, music and art classes, as well as facilities for swimming and sports activities, were added. She was also involved in numerous organizations that promoted social reform involving the rights of children, African Americans and women. Jane Addams became active in the peace movement during World War I and was the first president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Because of her outstanding work, she was the first woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
Susan B. Anthony was born in Massachusetts, the daughter of Quaker abolitionists. At her first women’s rights convention in 1852, she declared that voting was “the right which woman needed above every other.” In 1869 Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Lucy Stone founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). This organization condemned the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as injustices to women because they failed to clearly protect women’s rights. She and Stanton also published a weekly newspaper, The Revolution.

In 1872, Anthony decided to test the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment by casting a vote. She argued that because the amendment protected the “privileges and immunities” of all citizens, that it should protect her right to vote. She was arrested, imprisoned, tried, and found guilty of voting. Anthony’s trial gave her a chance to bring her message to a larger audience.

In the 1880s, NWSA merged with another suffrage organization to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Stanton became its first president. In 1892, Anthony became its second president – a post she held for eight years. Anthony died in 1906, fourteen years before the Nineteenth Amendment would secure women’s right to vote. The fight for women’s suffrage was continued by others including Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt.

Carrie Chapman Catt, was born in Iowa, studied education and law, and became a high school principal.

Later a superintendent and then a newspaper reporter, Catt soon became a lecturer for the woman’s suffrage movement. Working closely with Susan B. Anthony, Catt succeeded Anthony as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1900. She urged President Woodrow Wilson to support an amendment to the Constitution securing the right to vote for women.

Catt found the group’s efforts disorganized, and introduced a strategy to work for a suffrage amendment. The strategy was known as the “winning plan,” and advocated working for reforms on both the state and federal levels. She opposed the efforts of Alice Paul to boycott Democratic candidates who refused to support women’s suffrage, as well as Paul’s more militant strategies. Catt’s perseverance in working to ensure state reforms giving women the vote were critical to securing adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment. This amendment illustrates the constitutional principle of equality. After its passage, Catt founded the League of Women Voters and advocated child labor laws.

Alice Paul was born in New Jersey to a Quaker family. She became interested in women’s suffrage while a graduate student in England. She became interested in women’s suffrage while a graduate student in England.

She came back to the United States in 1910 and turned her attention to winning the vote for women in America. She earned her PhD in economics, concentrating on the status of women in Pennsylvania. She wished to build on the efforts of earlier suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Paul organized a large parade to coincide with the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. She published leaflets and held daily pickets in front of the White House. She burned copies of Wilson’s speeches, calling them “meaningless words” about democracy. In 1917 she and many others were arrested for peacefully marching. While in jail, she began a hunger strike and was force-fed by prison authorities.

Paul’s actions alienated some, including National American Woman Suffrage Association President Carrie Chapman Catt, who believed the women’s suffragists were becoming too militant. On the other hand, those who were arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights to speak, publish, peaceably assemble, and petition won the public’s sympathy. Wilson ordered them released from prison. He also soon lent his support to women’s suffrage. Congress approved the Nineteenth Amendment within a year and it was ratified by the states in 1920. Paul continued her campaign for women’s rights, leading a successful campaign to add gender as a protected category to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The work of Paul and other women’s suffragists illustrate the civic values of perseverance, courage, initiative, industry, and civic skills including volunteering.

W.E.B. DuBois was a leader in the struggle for civil rights for African Americans in the first years of the 20th century. In 1895, he became the first African American to receive a PH.D from Harvard. DuBois broke from Booker T. Washington’s philosophy which preached that African Americans should work hard for economic gain and the respect of whites, even though it might mean they had to endure discrimination for the time being. DuBois believed Washington’s philosophy would perpetuate the oppression of African Americans. In 1903, DuBois published perhaps his most famous book, The Souls of Black Folks. In 1909, he helped create the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). His later Pan-Africanism ideas were based on the belief that people of African descent from all over the world should unite to fight oppression. When he left the NAACP in 1934, he favored complete black separatism. After moving to Ghana, he became a citizen of Ghana and a member of the Communist Party. He died in Ghana on August 27, 1963, the eve of the March on Washington.
Theodore Roosevelt, born in New York in 1858, was serving as Vice President when President William McKinley was assassinated. With this event, Roosevelt became the youngest person ever to become President. His views on foreign affairs were summed up with the proverb he often called his motto, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Roosevelt was willing to interfere in the affairs of other nations when it benefited the United States.

At home, Roosevelt expanded the federal government’s power of eminent domain. He signed laws establishing five national parks. Explaining his fight for a “square deal” for Americans, he used authority under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to take on consolidated companies that took away consumers’ choices. He worked to protect companies from extreme demands from labor unions. He urged federal lawmakers to enact legislation protecting workers, including child labor laws and a bill providing workmen’s compensation for all federal employees. He proposed laws regulating the nation’s food supply. In response, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, paving the way for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Roosevelt became famous for using the “bully pulpit” to advance his ideas.

Roosevelt had his critics. While the Founders believed that powers not granted to the federal government were forbidden, Roosevelt claimed that powers not forbidden were granted. Many charged that the many regulatory agencies he proposed threatened liberty. President William Howard Taft, who succeeded Theodore Roosevelt as President in 1908, said that Roosevelt’s view of “ascribing an undefined … power to the President” was “an unsafe doctrine” that could do “injustice to private right.” Some later historians have called Roosevelt an activist president, because of the way his actions increased the power of the federal government over states and individuals’ lives.

Upton Sinclair was born in Maryland in 1878. He believed unregulated capitalism was responsible for much of the poverty he saw, and so he joined the Socialist Party. He decided to write a series of articles on the Chicago meat-packing industry. The series told the fictional story of an immigrant family who found work in the stock yards. The stories first appeared in a socialist newspaper. In 1906, Sinclair combined them into a fictional novel, The Jungle. It was a world-wide best-seller. Americans were shocked and horrified at the working conditions Sinclair described.

President Theodore Roosevelt read The Jungle and ordered inspections of the meatpacking industry. Soon after, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drugs Act (1906) and the Meat Inspection Act (1906). Sinclair exercised his right to freedom of the press in order to bring about what he saw as a needed change.

Ida B. Wells exercised her rights to freedom of speech and press to bring national attention to the crime of lynching. Wells was born in Mississippi in 1862, the oldest of eight children. She put herself through college and became a teacher in Memphis, Tennessee.

In 1892, Wells lost three close friends to a lynch mob. These gruesome killings made headlines, but no one was arrested or charged. As a journalist and a newspaper owner and editor, Wells courageously wrote about the racism that motivated such murders. The press attacked her as a “black scoundrel” for saying that lynching had nothing to do with justice or honor. A mob ransacked her office and threatened her life, but she continued her crusade.

Wells later moved to Chicago where she published The Red Record, the first documented statistical report on lynching. She became a respected public speaker, and traveled widely, lecturing on anti-lynching activities, speaking out against segregation, and advocating for women’s voting rights. She co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.