Civil War and the Klan
This essay will examine gender during the Progressive Era. The Progressive Era was a time when political reform and social activism cogitated on racist and sexist views in the United States during the early 19th century. “Gender and sexuality were compelling symbols in the two largest waves of the Ku Klux Klan, those of the 1860s and 1920s”. Although the Klan from the post-Civil War and the Klan from the early twentieth century had different agendas for citing violence, they both used the same verbiage for gender and sexuality. Each group petitioned their white men to protect white women against anyone who posed a threat to their sexual purity.[footnoteRef:2] [1: “Organizing 100% American Women.” McGaughy, Kent. American Perspectives: Readings in American History, Volume 2. Pearson Learning Solutions, (2015)
During then, gender was used to amend corruption that was otherwise complex and heightened by race and class. The basis of gender is the network of women that came together to tackle problems and legislate intentional far-reaching structural change. The main argument made throughout the Progressive Era is that women fought to define themselves as feminine and conservative, but by the same token, felt the need to be more involved in political matters.
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Although women attempted to redefine the correlation between home and modern industrial society, they were still constrained in what they could or could not do.
Important to realize, there has been a total uprising in the outlook of the trade-unions amongst the employed women and their professions within a two-generation period.[footnoteRef:3] [3: Susan B. Anthony, History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. IV (1886): 311–13. Reprinted in Aileen S. Kraditor, ed., Up From the Pedestal: Selected Writings in the History of American Feminism (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1968),
“No one needs all the powers of the fullest citizenship more urgently than the wage-earning woman, and from two different points of view—that of actual money wages and that of her wider needs as a human being and a member of the community”.[footnoteRef:4]The Progressive Era brought about American labor market enactments that deliberated a myriad of supporting arguments that claimed, women should be protected from workplace hazards and jobs that were potentially dangerous and fit for a man, kept from minimum wage positions that could lead them to prostitution, and maintain their wifely duties in the home so that the male of the households wages wouldn’t decrease. Consequently, this was not the case as seen in The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. [4: Anthony, “Woman Suffrage”
The women of the shirtwaist industry worked in conditions that were unsafe and worse than slaves on a plantation. “Life for a young woman in the shirtwaist industry was harsh and oppressive”.[footnoteRef:5] The women worked long hard hours and for very low wages; the supervisors of the shop were highly uneducated men that had no regard for women.[footnoteRef:6] The poor conditions caused women to protest even though they were greeted with little sympathy for the middle-class.
It wasn’t until the factory burned down when people started to realize there was an issue at hand. The building was said to be fireproof but the only safe haven was the walls holding up the building. Most of the people in the building couldn’t escape the smoke and flames so they either burned to death or were killed when they jumped from the burning building.[footnoteRef:7] [5: “The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.” McGaughy, Kent. American Perspectives: Readings in American History, Volume 2. Pearson Learning Solutions, (2015),
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was just one of the many discriminatory incidents during the Progressive Era that drew national attention for better working conditions for women in the workforce. Gender during the Progressive Era has proven that the standards of work and wages for men cannot differ from the work and wages of women for any occupation without posing a threat to the higher paradigm. Women should be placed upon the same trade level in order to maintain a satisfactory standard of life.
- “Organizing 100% American Women.” McGaughy, Kent. American Perspectives: Readings in American History, Volume 2. Pearson Learning Solutions, (2015), 341-345
- Susan B. Anthony, History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. IV (1886): 311–13. Reprinted in Aileen S. Kraditor, ed., Up From the Pedestal: Selected Writings in the History of American Feminism (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1968), 274–276.
- “The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.” McGaughy, Kent. American Perspectives: Readings in American History, Volume 2. Pearson Learning Solutions, (2015), 203-207