Organize or Perish: America's Independent Progressives, 1913-1933

By Eugene M. Tobin | Go to book overview

I
Introduction

In 1924, when columnist William Hard challenged the readers of the Nation to answer the question "What is Progressivism?" they might have been permitted a moment's hesitation or even nostalgia.1 For in the six years since the end of the Great War, neither the United States nor the world seemed "safe for democracy" much less reform. The American people and their elected representatives thoroughly repudiated the wartime idealism of one president and then proceeded to embrace the benign platitudes of his successor. The League of Nations, purportedly the cornerstone of postwar collective security, was the victim of personal pride and domestic politics. The repression of dissent and nonconformity, which had been implemented under the guise of wartime solidarity, continued after the Armistice as a security blanket against internal enemies. Prohibition, women's suffrage, and immigration restriction, ironically the most visible remnants of a now-twisted progressive tradition, were passed in a surge of misplaced idealism. But the Eighteenth Amendment proved unenforceable; the enfranchisement of women proved only that the sexes were more alike than was commonly acknowledged; while the restrictive legislation of the early twenties made "100 percent Americanism" synonymous with racial hysteria.

But let us not overstate the case--too much. Progressivism was not totally moribund, nor were its advocates inactive. Social welfare reformers greeted the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy- Protection Act ( 1921) with pleasure, though both its duration and appropriation were limited.2 But even that modest triumph was tempered by Supreme Court decisions in the next two years which overturned a national child labor law and a state minimum wage statute for women. Efficiency experts, however, could point to the continuance of another side of reform--the nonpartisan regulatory commission--when Con-

-3-

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Organize or Perish: America's Independent Progressives, 1913-1933
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in American History ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • I- Introduction 3
  • Notes 11
  • II- Amos R. E. Pinchot And George L. Record: The Radical Progressive Alternative, 1912-1916 13
  • Notes 37
  • III- Liberal-Labor Relations Before the War 43
  • Notes 61
  • IV- The Road From Henry Street To Wall Street 67
  • Notes 89
  • V- Liberals And The Postwar Reconstruction, 1919-1920 97
  • Notes 124
  • VI- Independent Progressives, 1921-1924 131
  • Notes 160
  • VII- The Wilderness Years, 1925-1928 167
  • Notes 197
  • VIII- Rehearsal for Reform 203
  • Notes 237
  • IX- Conclusion 245
  • Note 250
  • Bibliographic Essay 251
  • Index 261
  • About the Author 281
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