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Immigration During the Progressive Era
Transcript of Immigration During the Progressive Era
By: Sarah Louzon
The Progressive Era
What is Progressivism? Well it is the term applied to a variety of responses to the economic and social problems rapid industrialization introduced to America. Progressivism began as a social movement and grew into a political movement, startes in the 1890s and ended in the 1920s. In the early progressive era people rejected Social Darwinism. Their were people who believed that the problems society faced (i.e. poverty, violence, greed, racism, class warfare, etc.) could best be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace. Progressives lived mainly in the cities, people that were college educated, and believed that government could be used as a tool for change.
Social reformers, like Jane Addams, and journalists, like Jacob Riis and Ida Tarbel, were powerful voices for progressivism(they made people publicly aware of the issues around them that needed to be fixed). They concentrated on exposing the evils of corporate greed, combating fear of immigrants, and urging Americans to think hard about what democracy meant. Other local leaders encouraged Americans to register to vote, fight political corruption, and let the voting public decide how each issue should best be addressed (the initiative, the referendum, and the recall). The progressive era ended after World War I ended, when the horrors of war exposed people's cruelty and many Americans associated President Woodrow Wilson's use of progressive language with the war.
What Immigrates came? Why?
Many of the issues targeted for reform by the Progressives were direct or indirect results of the great wave of immigration and industrialization around the turn of the century. In the single decade from 1900 to 1910, 8.8 million immigrants entered the United States, many of whom came from nations, ethnic groups and religions that contrasted with the traditional dominance of American immigrants from the countries of Western Europe. They came from southern Europe and eastern Europe such as Italy, Russia, Poland and Greece, as well as Asian locales such as China and Japan.
Immigrants came to America during these eras mostly for the economic opportunities. As the United States saw unprecedented industrial growth following the Civil War an unprecedented demand for labor, mostly cheap and unskilled, also grew. The vast majority of these "new immigrants" came here seeking work and the dream of going from "rags to riches"; This was popular viewed idea, America as the land of opportunity where anyone willing to work hard, save money and be smart could become rich. Some New Immigrants such as Russian and Ukrainian Jews came seeking refuge from religious oppression by governments at home. But, by far the greatest reason for new immigration was for employment. The southern and eastern European nations most new immigrants fled were in dire economic times with high unemployment and limited opportunity.
Problems They Faced in America
Immigrants from southeastern Europe provided cheap labor to support the rapid growth of major industrial centers and settled in densely-populated urban enclaves. Political parties and bosses used the voting base offered by immigrants to gain in their pursue of their goals, often by aiding immigrant families with practical assistance in jobs, housing, or other benefits. The poor housing, sanitation and health care, as well as the extensive exploitation of child labor in both factories and at home, became prevalent in most immigrant communities also became a focus for reformers.
The reality of the immigrants life was far from the roads paved with gold many envisioned. Industrial jobs paid low wages, demanded long hours and offered no benefits or security. The tenement housing most immigrants could afford in the near-bursting American cities proved crowded, expensive, dangerous and unsanitary(This is best chronicled by photographer and reporter Jabob Riis).
Problems They Faced In America Continued
Language, customs, religions and traditions clashed with those established in the US at the time, based on the culture brought my the older immigrants. This social conflict led to discrimination against such groups and the Irish on the east coast and the Chinese/Asians on the western coast. This also assisted in the neighborhood distinctions (i.e. Chinatown, Little Italy, etc..) that developed in large cities, as immigrant groups clustered together and continued to speak, worship and practice the traditional ways of their homelands. The labor unions feared and opposed the influx of new immigrants because they feared in a competition for jobs and a lowering of wages as new arrivals proved willing to work for lesser pay.
The U.S. also started restrictive laws that became barriers to immigration, as the Chinese were excluded from immigrating and quotas and limits began to further restrict arrivals.
Why America Made the Immigrant's Conditions
After the process of docking the boats, immigrants would disembark and walk into the Registry Room where the sifting process improved throughout the years, meant strict scrutiny of new arrivals. they would see doctors who would check if they had any physical problems such as poor eyesight, bad backs, trachoma, or other potentially contagious diseases. Inspectors kept an eye open for suspected prostitutes, anarchists, and those likely to become a public charge and officers who would look over their legal documents.
The stunning growth in US industrial development fueled the seemingly endless demand for workers, which the desperate immigrants willingly fulfilled.
The contributions of the new immigrants were life-changing to Americas growth. It also changed the ethnic diversity of the immigrants in America into a more multi-cultural society with varied language, traditions and practices. The cultural contributions of the new immigrants can be seen in the art, food, music and culture of modern America.The political machines were important to immigrants both politically and in terms of welfare. The Progressives disliked them because the political machines were corrupt. The Progressives also felt they gave too much power to immigrants, who were often not well educated. The Progressives’ attitude towards immigrants was also seen in the push for Prohibition. Drinking was associated with lower class immigrants and the Progressives did not approve. Therefore, they banned alcohol in large part to try to reform these lower class immigrants.