The Progressive era lasted from 1900 to 1920. There was a great deal of change in everything. The economy changed, politics changed, and even society and the way that people interacted with each other changed. Some people think that this was a retrogressive era, where racism flourished against African Americans and immigrants, and foreign policy was too aggressive. Others think that this was a progressive era, where equality was finally given to women who had waited for it for so long. Even with this disagreement, overall the 'Progressive' Era was a combination of both. Though racism flourished and foreign policy was overly aggressive, there was an increase in political equality and an economic boom.
The first example of how the United States retrogressed socially was the fast increase in racism and xenophobia across the country. From 1900 to 1909 the number of immigrants who came to the United States an astonishing 9 million and from 1910 to 1920 was still at a very high 6 million.
These were large numbers compared to that of the Gilded Age, which averaged about 4.5 million. White Americans were proud of how the United States was and wanted to defend it and keep it the same. They also did not want the immigrants to move in because of: job competition, and political beliefs such as Socialism and communism. This hostility of immigrants is called xenophobia. White Americans were also mad at African Americans because of job competition, which led to wage cuts. Soon white supremacy groups like the KKK resurrected around the country, but this time their hatred was not only aimed at African Americans, it was aimed at anyone who was different or anyone that the White Americans found to be in any way harmful or invasive. With World War I, White Americans developed an extreme hatred toward Germans and anyone of German descent because the United States was in the midst of fighting the Germans who started the war. Acts like the Espionage and Sedition Acts were passed and they led to the arrest and deportation of many German Americans and immigrant labor leaders. All of these factors led to a retrogression of the United States socially by creating a racial and ethnic hierarchy that put White Americans at the top and anyone who was different below them.
Another example of how the United States retrogressed socially and economically was the United States overly aggressive foreign policy. The United States was very forceful in how it interacted with other countries. In one instance the United States government got involved in affairs between Europe and Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Venezuela and the Dominican Republic owed Europe money and were having a hard time paying it back. Europe threatened to come into Venezuela and the Dominican Republic in order to receive their money. President at that time, Teddy Roosevelt, told Europe that if they came into the western hemisphere he would have to get involved. He got the United States involved by moving into the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and enforcing taxes used to pay back the money owed to Europe. Teddy Roosevelt managed to get the United States involved in an event that it had nothing to do with. Another event that shows the United States need to be involved was their interaction with Panama. The United States wanted to get into Panama top build the Panama Canal. When the United States first made its attempt and starting this project Panama was under the control of Columbia and would not let the United States buy Panama. Teddy Roosevelt was not pleased with this and convinced the Panamanians that they would be better off revolting against Columbia and gaining their independence. After the Panamanians were independent Teddy Roosevelt rented the Canal Zone from Panama at a very low cost. The United States had the need to get involved in other countries affairs. They took over the Dominican Republic and Venezuela's debt to Europe and even 'convinced' Panama to fight for independence that they had not tried for before. With the diversity of the United States it is very hard for the government not to be influenced into getting involved with other countries but the United States should concentrate on its self not the affairs of the world.
An example of how the United States progressed in terms of social and political equality was the change in women's right to vote. Since 1787, white men have had the right to vote. In 1870, Black men were given the right to vote in the 15th amendment. But political equality for women was not reached. Women 'suffragettes' fought for years to gain the right to vote. Women thought they were approaching equality with men when World War I came along. With most men of working age out of the country fighting in the war, many job opportunities opened for women in factories and on the railroads. By women being given this opportunity to show men that they could work just as well as men could, women proved that they deserved a chance at politics. In 1920, all the women's hard work paid off, and the nation made a new amendment. This amendment stated, "the rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States of any state on account of sex." (Bailey, A 18) This guaranteed political equality.
Another example of how the United States progressed was the economic boom. Before World War I the United States economy was on the rise. The United States was the main supplier to both the Allied Power and the Central Power. Many people in the United States were making money off of the war and were intent on spending more money on self-indulgence. Therefore supporting the rise of the economy. After entering World War I the United States economy boomed. Herbert Hoover, a government official, managed to raise the United States food production by an amazing 25%. This huge increase in food production was one way that the United States was able to become a self-sufficient country. Howard Taft was able to keep management and labor cooperating by coming up with compromises. He promised management that there would be a limit to the right to unionize and he promised labor a raise and a guaranteed eight-hour day. There was a drawback to the increase in pay. The salaries increased 20% but inflation at the time rose by 100%. This growth of the economy was progress, socially and economically. It helped the United States to flourish.
So what? You say. The United States has had its upsides and its downsides through out history. People are not perfect. They have flaws, and it is people who make the United States what it is and what it will be. So the Unites States will always have flaws. Racism and America's subconscious need to be involved are its major flaws. But on the other hand the United States is always trying to better itself and change the ways that have caused conflicts through out time.