Labor and the Progressive Movement in New York State, 1897-1916

By Irwin Yellowitz | Go to book overview

III
The Social Progressive Societies

THE social Progressive movement cannot be studied in the works of a few influential writers, or through the activities of any one organization; it had no great theorist, and the social philosophy and activities of the reform organizations often differed substantially. Yet there was a basic common belief in the need for the improvement of working conditions and the establishment of social justice. This belief carried the social Progressives into a battle against all the conservative forces in a conservative nation. Despite disappointments and handicaps, this group of reformers added a dimension to Progressivism, and suggested a course for American reform which came to fruition during the New Deal.

The social Progressive movement included many elements, but two important types of organizations were peripheral at best. Various charitable groups had been active for many decades, and although they often supported specific reform measures, their focus was on the relief of individual need, not the removal of the causes which had produced such distress. Leaders of these organizations admitted that comprehensive social reform might eventually end the need for charity.1 Under the influence of the social Progressives' ideas, leaders of the important Charity Organization Society in New York City organized a department for the improvement of social conditions, and they

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1
Social Reform Club of New York, Leaflet, March 1, 1898 ( New York Public Library).

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