The Politics of Progressivism: Leaders of the Progressive Era

Read this article describes some of Teddy Roosevelt's contemporaries. In your journal, offer suggestions for at least three more leaders who you believe also reflect the traits of those profiled in this article and explain why.

Progressive reformers included activists, writers, academics, and some of America's most prominent statesmen.


  • Identify the primary leaders of the Progressive Movement and the roles of women and African Americans in the movement.


  • Many big names that citizens associate with law, business, ethics, and literature spring from the Progressive Movement.
  • A great political progressivist, Theodore Roosevelt passed many laws that were meant to curve business and aid labor. He was, however, also someone who wished to maintain a large military. As a private citizen, he explored conservation issues, especially in the West.
  • The women's health movement was incubated by Jane Addams but evolved into a movement on contraceptive education by people such as Margaret Sanger.
  • Many progressivists knew each other, despite their fields, and often worked together to help create sweeping changes in society.
  • The progressive movement grew because of the likes of well-educated and well-informed individuals from the middle or upper classes.
  • Though labor and business often collided, men like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller used the money they made from their businesses to help society. They built schools and donated money to the arts. Likewise, Henry Ford used his company to give people generous wages to show that big businesses can be proactive.
  • The progressive movement grew because of the likes of well-educated and well-informed individuals from the middle or upper classes.


  • Woodrow Wilson

    Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856 –1924) was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921.

  • Margaret Sanger

    Margaret Higgins Sanger (September 14, 1879 – September 6, 1966) was an American birth control activist, sex educator, and nurse.

  • Jane Addams

    Jane Addams (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935) was a pioneer settlement worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in woman suffrage and world peace, who vehemently opposed Wilson's turn away from pacifism to militarism.

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt (1858 – 1919) was the 26th President of the United States of America (1901–1909). He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity.

William Howard Taft (1857 – 1930) was the 27th President of the United States (1909–1913). In his only term, Taft's domestic agenda emphasized trust-busting, civil service reform, strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission, improving the performance of the postal service, and passage of the Sixteenth Amendment.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924) was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. In his first term as President, Wilson persuaded a Democratic Congress to pass major progressive reforms, including the Federal Reserve Act, Federal Trade Commission Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act, and an income tax.

Jane Addams (1860 – 1935) was a pioneer settlement worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in woman suffrage and world peace. She was among the most prominent reformer of the Progressive Era and helped turn the nation to issues of concern to mothers, such as the needs of children, public health, and world peace.

Florence Kelley (1859 – 1932) was an American social and political reformer, widely regarded for her work against sweatshops and for the minimum wage, eight-hour workdays, and children's rights.

Alice Stokes Paul (January 11, 1885 – July 9, 1977) was an American suffragist and activist. Along with Lucy Burns and others, she led a successful campaign for women's suffrage that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (July 3, 1860 – August 17, 1935) was a prominent American sociologist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, and a lecturer for social reform. She served as a role model for future generations of feminists because of her unorthodox concepts and lifestyle.

Margaret Higgins Sanger (1879 – 1966) was an American sex educator, nurse, and birth control activist. Sanger coined the term birth control, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, and established Planned Parenthood.

Emma Goldman (1869 – 1940) was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

Susan Brownell Anthony (February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906) was a prominent American civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th-century women's rights movement to introduce women's suffrage into the United States. She was a co-founder of the first Women's Temperance Movement with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and an important advocate in leading the way for women's rights to be acknowledged by the American government.

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931) was an African American journalist, newspaper editor, and an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented lynching in the United States, showing how it was often a way to control or punish blacks who competed with whites.

Booker T. Washington (1856 – 1915) was an African-American educator, author, and advisor to Republican presidents. He was the dominant figure in the African-American community in the United States from 1890 to 1915.

William Edward Burghardt "W. E. B". Du Bois (1868 – 1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, and editor. After graduating from Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology, and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

Samuel Gompers (1850 – 1924) was an English-born American cigar maker who became a labor union leader and a key figure in American labor history. Gompers founded the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and served as that organization's president from 1886 to 1894 and from 1895 until his death in 1924.

Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856 –1915) was an American mechanical engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency. He is regarded as the father of scientific management and was one of the first management consultants. Taylor was one of the intellectual leaders of the Efficiency Movement and his ideas, broadly conceived, were highly influential in the Progressive Era.

Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry.

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