Paradoxes of Reform

The Progressive Movement was a wide-ranging reform movement whose impact was felt through the American socio-economic and political arena from cities to the states and finally to the national level from the 1890s up to the 1920s (McNeese 3). Its heightened activism was perhaps felt in the 20th century; and as some critics argue, the effect of progressives continues to be felt to the present day. As the primary area where it started, the progressive movement defined 20th century California to a great extent.

The ideas of the progressive movement included the granting of civil liberties, multi-dimensional implementation of justice, conservation of ethics and economic progressivism. Progressive activists in California wanted an evolving society. Core to their mission was the abolition of slavery and promotion of the middle class as well as economic growth fostered by expansion of infrastructure and elimination of corruption from governing authorities (Chan and Olin 199). Morally, reformers wanted the public to change its behavior and shun sin and vice.

Progressives in California believed that the way forward for their society was through their ability to apply evolving political, economic and social ideals to solve the problems that faced them. Through this doctrine, the progressives were able to establish a vibrant society in California whose strengths lay in social uprightness, the power of the academy, reform of social, political and economic institutions, democracy and a responsibility to the wider society (Chan and Olin 201).

They thus set California on a growth path and founded the principles of good governance (McNeese 83). Progressives proposed various reforms. On top of these were political reforms, which were aimed at eradicating the inefficiencies and injustices that characterized the system before the Progressive Movement. Secondly, progressives aimed to expose corruption as a means of eliminating waste of public resources as they believed that science, expertise and the related technology was the way ahead in solving problems that affected the society (Chan and Olin 205).

This also propelled their propositions to modernize the infrastructure, conserve the environment have the government as well as the society intervene in economic and social affairs. Democratically, Progressives wanted to deliver the running of institutions from large corporations and state assemblies unto the people. This resulted into the use of primary elections and the granting of the right to vote to women. Progressives also pushed for Constitutional amendments so that the reforms they brought could be permanently entrenched as laws.

In terms of political process and social issues, the legacy of progressives still remains in today’s California. The greatest legacy is perhaps the promotion of direct democracy through reforms like the introduction of primary voting, the referendum and the recall. The framework for the activist government that still endures in California to this day was laid by progressives, and so did the workers’ compensation system. Socially, the progressives had to wait until the New Deal for most of the social measures they advocated for to be realized.

Women played a significant role in the progressive movement (McNeese 34). Female progressives pushed for increased government involvement in the provision of education and other social welfare services. Women also wanted the government to extend its involvement in addressing issues relating to workers’ compensation and working conditions as well as the provision of health services (Chan and Olin 203). As a result of this involvement and active participation in the reform process, women gained many benefits, most of whose impact is felt even today.

Perhaps the most crucial reform benefit gained by women is their enfranchisement. Women’s plight became addressed more conclusively, and when the New Deal later came to be passed with significant contribution from progressive women activists, the place of women in the American society has never been the same; more opportunities were presented and equality was promoted. Works Cited Chan, Sucheng and Olin, Spencer C. Major Problems in California History: Documents and Essays. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. McNeese, Tim. The Progressive Movement: Advocating Social Change. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House, 2007.