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“Elinor Morgenthau, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jane Addams in Westport, Connecticut,” 1929. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

The Progressive Era was a period of social and political reform that took place in the United States from the 1890s to the 1920s. Legislation of this era sought to correct social problems caused by rapid industrialization in the second half of the nineteenth century.  The Progressives of this period were also focused on the elimination of the political corruption of the party bosses and political machines of the Gilded Age. Social reformers such as Jane Addams and W. E. B. DuBois argued that education and intervention could improve the lives of the underprivileged, while muckrakers such as Jacob Riis and Ida Tarbell published works designed to enlighten those who lived a comfortable distance from slums of Chicago or the boardrooms of the Standard Oil Company.

The era saw a wide range of reformers associated with many different issues, such as compulsory public education, civil rights, temperance, women’s suffrage, local government reorganization, birth control, trust busting, and child labor, to name a few. With an ever-growing immigrant population, a widening economic divide, and a lack of social programs, “child saving” was a mandate that the Progressives could agree upon.