Essay on A Progressive Movement

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A Progressive Movement

Much of a historian’s job is to read what their colleagues have written on their subject of interest at the moment. Often, they then go on to write their own opinions on the subject, thereby influencing the historians of the future. The famed historian and teacher Richard Hofstadter wrote The Age of Reform in 1955 about the late 19th century and early 20th century movement of Progressivism. In turn, other historians that include Paula Baker, Richard McCormick, and Peter Filene have written their opinion on what the movement we call Progressivism really was, and what its real significance is, or even if it really existed as a movement in its own right. Richard Hofstadter’s book The Age of Reform was
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Filene defines a movement as a “collectivity acting with some continuity to promote or resist a change in the society…one can then analyze its internal characteristics along four dimensions: program, the values which underlie this program, membership and supporters” (20-21). Filene finds the program of a social movement the most important part, for without a program the movement will be unable to sustain itself. His most convincing point is that on so many issues, the Progressives, supposedly a defined and cohesive movement, had numerous splits within their group. For example, “The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 created, according to Arthur Link, a conflict between ‘uncompromising’ and ‘middle-of-the-road’ progressives.” The most convincing example concerns women’s suffrage, “a cause that has generally been attributed to the progressive movement.” However, as Filene points out, progressive Presidents Roosevelt and Taft were unwilling to appease feminists with suffrage, and stayed far from the idea for as long as possible. Indeed, if a list of 400 so-called progressives is carefully researched, it may be noted that they are divided almost exactly down the center for and against a woman’s right to vote (22-23). In this way, it is clear that
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