The 1890’s to the 1920’s – Progressive Era

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Category:Child Labor
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“Dear Aunt Bessie,

The 1890’s to the 1920’s is known as the Progressive Era. During this time many Americans were suffering but some were thriving. During this time the average poverty level for a family of six is $600, and the average earning of an American worker is less than $500. The Progressive Era presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, and Woodrow Wilson helped to change many issues within the American society. Even though they helped many of Americans society they didn’t help all, they made little to no changes within racial segregation and to labor unions.

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When you called me to your bedside you gave specific instructions on how to give away your $1,000,000 to 3 different Progressive reforms you told me to give $600,000 to the neediest cause, $300,000 to the next most needy cause, and $100,000 to the third needy cause. With your life savings and specific instructions, I plan on giving $600,000 to help with child labor, $300,000 to reforming the meat packing industry and the last $100,000 to women’s suffrage.

Children as young as 5 were working in factories, coal mines, textiles and many other labor-intensive jobs that were ultimately dangerous. The children working in these industries encountered many different horrific and dangerous things during their long work days and even longer work weeks. The children working in the coal mines encountered long periods of labor-intensive work without any breaks. “…the air at times is dense with coal-dust, which penetrates so far into the passages of the lungs that for long periods after the boy leaves the breaker, he continues to cough up the black coal dust.” (Hine “National Child Labor Committee Report”) During these long work days, the children were exposed to dense coal-dusts what are then breathed in and enter the lungs. With large dense coal-dusts that were breathed into these children’s lungs, they experience many lifelong health effects and issues. Along with the danger to their health, these children also were exposed to danger and death. “Fingers are calloused and cut by the coal and slate, the noise and monotony are deadening… While I was in the region, two breaker boys of 15 years… fell or were carried by the coal down into the car below. One was badly burned and the other smothered to death.” (Hine “National Child Labor Committee Report”) These children started working from a young age of 5 all the way to the age of 18. The children working within these child labor jobs were not only exposed to the harsh elements of the jobs but some were even beaten for their work if not done right, and this is why I am giving $600,000 to Child Labor.

Rats, rats feces, poison, spit, sawdust, and dirt were all going into the meat we eat every day. The meat being consumed by everyday people of all ages and races were consuming these elements in their meat every day without even knowing it. Those working within the meat packing company don’t care what they are shoveling into the meat processing system. “There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had tramped and spit…” (Sinclair “The Jungle”) The meat that fell onto the floor the workers would later recollect the meat and continue to process and packaging it to be sold. “It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats. These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread and meat would go into the hoppers together.” (Sinclair “The Jungle”) The packagers didn’t care what they were putting into the meat all they cared about was the money they were making. With the help of Sinclair’s book “The Jungle” the public was finally opened up to the truth of what was going on and they were hit in the gut by this information. The people became concerned and that’s where we got out consumer protection law that slowly started to change the face of the meat packaging company but the food we are still eating contains different elements that we don’t know that we are consuming and because of this I have chosen to give $300,000 to consumer protection within the meat packing industry.

Lastly, there is women’s suffrage. Jane Addams the co-founder of Hull House was an advocate for women’s rights and suffrage. The Hull House is the center for immigrants and it symbolized the movement for the high mid class helping the poor. She fought for women’s suffrage and made many claims about how a woman cannot do basic things without the power to vote. “…she cannot fulfill these simple obligations by her own efforts because she is utterly dependent upon the city administration for the conditions which (make) decent living possible.” (Addams “Why Women Should Vote”) Women’s suffrage fought for their rights in many different ways. Women still don’t have all the same rights of the rights as men including men of color and this is why I am choosing to give $100,000 to the women’s right suffrage.

With your life savings, these are the three most needy causes that I believe need help. Even though there is still conservation that I decided to give nothing too I hope you are proud of how I gave away your $1,000,000. I thought about what you said and making the choice was hard but I know that you felt strongly against child labor and I knew that that needed to get the most because the child labor is a huge problem that needs to get fixed. I also know how the meatpacking industry effects everyone no matter the race or gender because we all consume that meat and I knew that needed to be fixed because those consuming it don’t even know that they are. And lastly, I knew that women’s suffrage needed attention as well because they were endlessly fighting for change but we’re not receiving change and therefore that is how I decided what Progressive reforms deserved some of your life savings. I hope that you are proud and pleased on how I gave away your money and I am truly honored that you picked me to do so.”

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The 1890’s to the 1920’s - Progressive Era. (2021, Jul 03). Retrieved from