A Guide to the History of Illinois

By John Hoffmann | Go to book overview

6
THE PROGRESSIVE ERA, 1900-20

JOHN D. BUENKER

IN ILLINOIS, AS elsewhere in the United States, the first two decades of the twentieth century were characterized by so many efforts to "reform" society and to promote "progress" that contemporaries and historians alike have called the period the Progressive era. During this complex and volatile era, Illinoisans struggled to adapt to life in a rapidly emerging industrial, urban, multicultural society. Their efforts resulted in a proliferation of voluntary associations, many of which entered the political arena. Concurrently, they sponsored "reform" candidates who produced an outpouring of "progressive" legislation. Although the Prairie State did not achieve the reputation accorded Wisconsin, Oregon, or a handful of other "progressive" states, it clearly earned a place within the mainstream of reform. Indeed, as John D. Buenker contends, in "Illinois and the Four Progressive-Era Amendments to the United States Constitution," Illinois Historical Journal, 80 (Winter 1987), the state played a crucial role in making the income tax, direct election of U.S. senators, prohibition, and woman suffrage the law of the land.

Despite Illinois' size and importance, there is no comprehensive history of the Progressive era in the state. Ernest Ludlow Bogart and John Mabry Mathews, The Modern Commonwealth, 1893-1918 ( Springfield, 1920) is a detailed narrative, but it lacks analysis or interpretation. Donald F. Tingley, The Structuring of a State: The History of Illinois, 1899 to 1928 ( Urbana, 1980) provides a topical approach to the period, reviewing in turn industry, agriculture, labor, and

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