Important Progressives

Theodore Roosevelt

Born in 1858 to a wealthy family in New York City. Roosevelt attended Columbia Law school as he became interested in a career in politics. Roosevelt was a statesman who served as the 26th President of the United States elected in 1901. Roosevelt attempted to stop corruption and help every American have a voice during his presidency. As president Roosevelt was active in promoting and signing legislation aimed at progressive ideals. Roosevelt and his administration sought a middle man between capitalist and laborers. After his presidency Roosevelt decided to leave politics and go out and enjoy nature. This did not last long however as Roosevelt attempted another run at the Presidency but lost. Toward the end of his life he was a major advocate for military reediness especially during World War I.  Roosevelt died in 1919 at the age of 60 in his home in New York. Roosevelt is an American icon as his impact still lives on in the United States today.



William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft born in 1857 Cincinnati, Ohio into a wealthy family his father Alphonso was a United States Attorney General and Secretary of War. Taft attended Yale University he was destined to be like his father and graduate with a law degree. In 1904 President Roosevelt made him his Secretary of War and was later positioned for a run at the Presidency.  He ran and won for president in 1909. He was president for one term and just like President Roosevelt, Taft tried to break up monopolies and advance other progressive ideals. When it came to foreign policy he was much different than Roosevelt as Taft supported international peace while Roosevelt wanted the United States to be ready for war at all times. President Taft left the presidency in 1913 and returned to Yale University as a professor. In 1921 President Harding appointed Taft as Chief Justice as he had a major role in business issues with the Harding administration. Taft died in 1930 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. President Taft is viewed as a Progressive President because how he attempted to destroy monopolies with the different legislation he passed during his time as President of the United States.



Thomas Woodrow Wilson

Born in Staunton, Virginia to a family that owned multiple slaves. His father helped found the Presbyterian Church in the United States.  Wilson spent his early life in Georgia and South Carolina. Wilson received his Bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and later attended John Hopkins University to receive a Ph.D. in political science. Wilson went on to teach at many different schools but landed at Princeton University, one of the most prestigious schools in the United States. Wilson became President of Princeton University in 1902. In 1910 Roosevelt ran for Governor of New Jersey and won as a democrat. In 1912, he ran for President and won. He was later reelected for a second term in 1916. During his presidency Wilson was a leading progressive. He passed many progressive bills such as the graduated income tax, Federal Reserve Act, anti-trust legislation and federal support for agriculture. Wilson was also the President when women received the right to vote and laws on prohibition were passed both of which involved progressive ideology. Wilson helped lead the United States through World War I and wanted to help create a peaceful future for the world. Wilson is most remembered for his “Fourteen Points” as the basis for the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. One of these points was to create a league of nations, similar to the United Nations today. Unfortunately, the United States Congress voted to not enter the league of nations and without the United States guidance the league of nations never reached its full potential. Wilson died in from a stroke in 1924 at the age of 67. President Wilson will always be remembered for his progressive form of politics and his part in the Treaty of Versailles.

Social activist in the Progressive Era

Jane Addams

Born in 1860 in Cedarville Illinois Jane Addams was the eight of nine children. Her father was a well-known senator and a business man, Addams lived a privilege life as a child. Addams graduated from the Rockford Female Seminary in Illinois and then briefly attended medical school. In 1889 Addams opened up one of the first Hull House in the United States. This house was located in Chicago and provided help for the immigrants and poor living in the area. Throughout the years, the organization exploded extending their services to include child care, educational courses and other social programs. Addams was also a leader of the women’s suffrage and peace movement. Addams helped inspire women to reach for their goals and wanted to be treated equally to men. In 1931 Addams received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on internationalism and peace. Addams died in 1935 in Chicago. Her legacy will live on as one of the first feminist and as a pioneer in social work.


Booker T. Washington

Washington was born as a slave in Virginia in 1856. After the Civil War Washington left home and attended Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute in Virginia. With no money Washington also worked as a janitor at the school to help pay for his tuition.  In 1881, the Alabama legislature approved 2,000 dollars for a “colored” school. The name of the school was the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. Washington was recommended to run the school and he accepted the great opportunity. The Tuskegee Institute became one of the top schools in the country from the help of Washington. Race relations was a major problem in the United States at this time and Washington believed that African Americans should allow social segregation as long as whites allow them economic progress, educational opportunity and fair court trails. Washington was an adviser to both President Roosevelt and President Taft. Many American citizens viewed him as the leader of the African American community throughout the progressive era. Washington died in 1915, at the age of 59, of congestive heart failure. He will be remembered as an advocate to improving education and life for black Americans after the Civil War.


W.E.B. Du Bois

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born in 1869 in Massachusetts. Du Bios had a great education during his childhood as he attended white public schools and was supported by his teachers. For college, he attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Here Du Bios realized the major problem racism is in the United States. Du Bios entered Harvard University where he was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard. Du Bois wrote many books about the African American community and the push for equality. Du Bois wanted to be completely equal to white Americans. Du Bois was influential because he laid the groundwork for the future civil rights movement and for full equality for all people of color.  Du Bois died in 1963 at the age of 95 one day after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.


Henry Ford

Ford was born in 1863 on a farm in Michigan. His mother died when he was just thirteen years old leaving him devastated. Ford left the farm in 1879 and worked as an apprentice machinist in Detroit. In 1891 Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminate Company. In 1903 the Ford Motor Company was created which still continues today. Ford introduced the Model T which was easy to produce and created the idea of using the assembly line for making cars. This revolutionized the car industry making cars easy to produce and less expensive to purchase. Ford died in 1947 at the age of 83.



Why was the progressive era important?

The Progressive era movement was to eliminate corruption in the government and to give the power back to the people. During reconstruction, the wealth and power in the United States was controlled by a small group of individuals. This movement main target was political machines and their bosses which can be seen throughout politics in the 1800s. United States citizens wanted this to be changed. Women and African Americans wanted their voice to be heard. The poor wanted fair wages which they could feed a family with. The progressive era changed the United States into a country that cares about the social and economic problems that their citizens have. Some of the rights we have today came from laws passed during the progressive era. One of the major problems was working conditions. Some adults would be working fifteen hour days for little money in a dirty factory. Kids would be forced to work dangerous jobs for little or no money. The government came in to regulate these companies and forced this companies to respect their workers. The progressive era was a time of change and a focus on making a brighter and safer future for the United States.