Discuss the involvement of women's groups in Progressive-era reform movements
Describe the first moves Americans made toward empire.
Discuss the reasons the United States entered World War I.© BrainMass Inc. brainmass.com December 24, 2021, 11:59 pm ad1c9bdddf
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Topics in American History
Women and the Progressive-Era Reform Movement
The progressive Era is that time period in US history that marked the turn of the 20th century from the 1890's to the late 1920's. This was the period marked by industrialization and urbanization brought on by the after effects of the American Civil war many decades back. The invention of the steam engine in the 19th century led to the realization of mass production and mass travel through steam ships that can cross oceans and steam trains that sped up the spread of information and goods as well as the creation of factories powered by mechanized elements. In America, in cities like Detroit, Chicago and New York - tenements sprouted up - becoming residences for immigrants from Eastern Europe and for former American-African slaves as well as displaced individuals. Factories and railroads offered them jobs and became manpower for corporations that aimed to earn and create wealth culminating in the roaring 20's. Amidst this atmosphere, women south to have their voices heard as they sought to instil some form of social change to society to advance women's rights including in areas of suffrage, education, health and sanitation, wages, working conditions and social welfare. The following items evidence the efforts of women in this era:
1. Ida Tarbell - in 1904, she exposed the unfair business practices of the Standard Oil Company in an expose. This resulted to the prosecution of the company under anti-trust law.
2. Eleanor Roosevelt - advocated for women's reform in branches of government, and used her influence to affect laws and standards to advance reform favourable to women from suffrage to education and healthcare.
3. Frances Perkins - proved women can rise in top positions both in private and public organizations, first becoming head of NY Consumer's league and then taking up the position of Secretary of Labor under Pres. Roosevelt. This is apparent in the establishment of the Children's Bureau and the Women's Bureau in the Department of Labor.
4. Sue Shelton, Mary Williams Dewson and Mary McLeod Bethune are suffragists and civil and women's rights activists who lobbied both the government and private sector to get behind the cause of giving women the voting, employment and property rights like men.
According to the National Women's History Museum (2017), "At the end of the nineteenth century, women were considered the "moral guardians" and protectors of the home. During the Progressive Era, female reformers used this ideology to argue that in order to protect the home, women should move into the public sphere where they could exercise their moral authority over issues such as public sanitation and education, which ultimately affected the home. In massive numbers, women joined volunteer organizations to work for reform. "The many realities we have today - gender rights, equality, voting rights, social welfare, equal opportunities - all these were 'luxuries' and dreams for these women pioneers back during the progressive era. Their work however served as foundation to the social justice realities we in the Western civilization enjoy today.
American Activities towards Empire
The Americans, until the end of the 19th century were concentrating on nation-building as their affairs were about uniting and consolidating the geographical and political bounds of their nation being a young state. But according to Patrick (n.d.), "1890 was a watershed year for the United States in terms of its view of the world past the continental boundaries of North America. In the thirty years preceding 1890, Americans were largely indifferent to foreign affairs and the conduct of international relations. For a variety of reasons Americans were not yet terribly interested in or prepared for an overseas empire. This would change dramatically during the 1890s. In the next thirty years the United States would participate in two wars, acquire territorial possessions in far-flung areas of the globe as it created an empire for itself, and American presidents began playing an active role on the world stage." So what are these activities and factors that prompted the US towards expansionism or building an 'empire'? Patrick (n.d.) suggests the following:
1. Historic Territorial Expansionism - With the US seeing acquiring territory as a national cornerstone, it was constantly seeking new land in its feverish nation-building activities. Patrick (n.d.) writes, "By 1890, all of the middle portions of North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific had come under American control but the desire for new land didn't simply vanish. That desire for growth remained a motivating factor for American action well into the twentieth century. Americans now began to cast covetous eyes on land beyond the continental boundaries of North America - to Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Isthmus of Panama, the Philippines, etc. "
2. The Notion of Manifest Destiny - According to Patrick (n.d.), "Manifest Destiny was a popular concept in the 1840s as both an encouragement to and a rationalization for the spread of the United States across the entire continent. Americans came to accept the ethnocentric idea that it was the divine mission of America to bring the benefits of Christianity and civilization and progress to all areas of North America...The concept of Manifest Destiny did not end however with these conquests. Americans of the late 1880s and 1890s began discussing the additional task facing a modern America - that of spreading Christianity and civilization to areas beyond continental boundaries.
3. Economic Factors - By the end of the 19th century, industrialisation in America has reached maturity so that they produced more than they needed. Thus began the need to find new markets for surplus goods. The idea behind international expansion according to Patrick (n.d.), was that " If the United States were to acquire an overseas empire, not only would the peoples of that empire mean more consumers for the American manufacturer but also a dependable supply of cheap raw materials and natural resources to fuel an industrial America. "
4. Naval Development - According to Patrick (n.d.), "One of the most important reasons for the creation of an American empire in the 1890s and into the new century was the influence of naval strategists, and most particularly Alfred Thayer Mahan. An admiral in the United States Navy, Mahan authored three very important books during the crucial last decade of the nineteenth century regarding the influence of naval power - The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 (1890), The Influence of Sea Power Upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793-1812 (1892), and The Interest of America in Sea Power (1897)" He argued that a world power ought to have a merchant marine capable of global trade, that a world power ought to have a powerful navy to influence the globe, and if the US wanted to be a world power, it needed to be a naval power too.
5. Jingoism - the notion of jingoism is the attitude of carrying a warlike spirit for American pride into the international scene - to achieve, to declare American capability and emergence. People like Henry Cabot Lodge, Thayer Mahan and Theodore Roosevelt were seen as jingoists and their views and influenced so many people in this era that it moved strategies towards the creation of American power.
US entry to WW1
The US was far removed geographically from Europe in WW1 so that its entry into the war was seen as a surprise to the belligerents - both the central and allied powers. Prior to 1917, the US worked to stay neutral but a number of factors moved it to take part including the following (History Lists, 2017):
1. German atrocities in Belgium - the invasion of neutral Belgium and the stories of the German atrocities in the British Media shocked the American Public and turned support to entry in public opinion.
2. Economic Interest - Allied powers borrowed money from US lenders like J.P. Morgan so that if Germany won, the $3 billion in loans and bonds purchases (a massive amount back then) would not be paid and would lead to the possible collapse of the banking system in the US.
3. Sinking of Lusitania - the British passenger ship Lusitania was sunk in 1915 by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland with over 1,000 passengers killed, 128 of them Americans. This increased the anti-German sentiment among the US Public.
4. Unrestricted submarine warfare - German blockade of goods from America to reach Britain harmed trade as well as passenger safety, with Germany ignoring the Sussex Pledge (not to attack passenger ships).
5. Zimmerman Telegram - German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman's telegram to Mexico was made public after it was intercepted. In it, he suggested that, "if the US should declare war on Germany, Mexico should declare war on the US In return, Mexico would get back the territory lost in the Mexican-American War (Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona)."
There are other factors as well but these 5 played an important role in swaying public opinion that galvanized the official response of the then US government to participate in WW1 and cooperate with the Allied powers.
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1. Hardesty, B. (2006). Book 5: The Rise of the American Empire (1877 - 1917). URL: http://www.history2u.com/book5_empire.htm
2. History Lists (2017). 5 Reasons for the US Entry into World War I. URL: http://historylists.org/events/5-reasons-for-the-us-entry-into-world-war-i.html
3. National Women's History Museum (2017). Introduction to Women in the Progressive Era . URL: https://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/progressiveera/introwomenprogressive.html
4. Patrick, L. (n.d.). America Acquires An Empire: Factors Prompting American Internationalism During the 1890s and Beyond. URL: http://www2.austincc.edu/lpatrick/his1302/acquire.html