Study Guide

Muckrakers & Reformers People

  • Jane Addams

    Jane Addams (1860–1935) was a Progressive reformer and the most prominent advocate for the settlement house movement, which was dedicated to improving social conditions for immigrants and other residents of urban slums. In 1931, she became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

    In 1889, Addams and her friend Ellen Gates Starr co-founded Hull House in Chicago to provide social and educational services to the predominantly immigrant residents of the city's crowded working-class tenements. In 1910, she published Twenty Years at Hull House, a significant book that recounted her experiences in Chicago and her thoughts on ethical aspects of life in the Progressive Era. Addams' writing invoked several key elements of the "social gospel," a Protestant-based philosophy that determined to bring Christian morality into all aspects of society and the economy. 

    She was a leading supporter of Theodore Roosevelt when he ran for president in 1912 on the Progressive (or "Bull Moose") Party ticket. Addams also founded the Woman's International League for Peace and Freedom before winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

  • Carrie Chapman Catt

    Carrie Chapman Catt (1859–1947) was president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) during the final push for the vote before the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. She also founded the International Woman Suffrage Association and served as its honorary president until 1923.

    Catt worked at both the state and federal levels to support legislation to enfranchise women. A supporter of President Woodrow Wilson, she consequently opposed the more radical tactics of fellow NAWSA activist Alice Paul when Paul tried to provoke change by voting the Democrats out of office. 

    Instead, Catt orchestrated a "winning plan" for suffrage victory that would coordinate activities among state and local suffrage associations. Catt remained at the head of NAWSA while Paul formed her own organization, the NWP. After women achieved the franchise, Catt reorganized NAWSA as the League of Women Voters.

  • Carry A. Nation

    Carry A. Nation (1846–1911) was a deeply religious temperance activist in Kansas. Nation secured a place for herself in the history books when she traded her seemingly ineffective Women's Christian Temperance Union membership for direct and sometimes violent action against drinking establishments. 

    At 6 feet tall and 175 pounds, she soon became legendary as an axe-wielding crusader bent on destroying saloons across the country. Her name was a direct reference to her goal: to carry the nation toward a dry—and, she was convinced, moral—future.

    Nation, who was briefly married to an alcoholic in the 1860s, joined up with a growing movement of primarily female temperance activists who were enraged by the state's uneven enforcement of an 1881 "dry" law. Nation had a dream in June 1900 in which a voice appeared to her and said, "Take something in your hands, and throw at these places in Kiowa and smash them." Arming herself with rocks, brickbats, axes, and a fervent faith in the righteousness of her cause, Nation led her followers on a succession of saloon attacks between 1900 and 1910, chanting "Smash, ladies, smash!"blank">nationwide prohibition policy in 1919.

  • Alice Paul

    Alice Paul (1885–1977), suffragette and founder of the National Women's Party, was a central figure in the passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women's suffrage and one of the most radical women's rights activists of the early-20th century.

    Paul's radical ideology led her to break with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and help form the Congressional Union, later known as the National Women's Party. Inspired by the militant Women's Social and Political Union in England, Paul advocated that women "hold the party in power responsible" by voting against Democrat Woodrow Wilson in the election of 1916. 

    The conflict between Paul and the NAWSA President Carrie Chapman Catt, a Wilson supporter, led to a serious ideological divide within the movement. At the helm of the NWP, Paul orchestrated the first-ever picket line at the White House in 1917, was arrested on a trumped-up charge of "obstructing traffic" and sent to the Occoquan Workhouse, where she demanded to be treated as a political prisoner arrested for her beliefs, rather than for committing a crime. When reports of her treatment reached the press, public pressure forced the White House to order her release. 

    After helping to win ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, Paul went to law school and wrote the first version of the (still unsuccessful) Equal Rights Amendment, which was first presented to Congress in 1923. She lobbied for women's rights until her death in 1977.

  • Mary Church Terrell

    Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954) was a prominent African-American activist who served as president of the National Association of Colored Women, the only national organization that represented Black women during the Progressive Era. She supported the women's suffrage movement as a "prospective enfranchisement of my sex" and an "emancipation of my race."

    Terrell was born into an elite family in the Black community of Memphis, Tennessee, and was one of very few African-American women to attend college during the late-19th century. She worked to apply the "Social Gospel" of Christian uplift and charity to her fellow African Americans, and sought to shield them from whites' charges that they were biologically inferior. In their defense, Terrell pointed to the terrible living and working conditions that confronted Blacks in the late-19th and 20th centuries. 

    She was a popular lecturer who condemned segregation, and even at the age of 89 (three years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white man), Terrell led picket lines in protest against discrimination in District of Columbia restaurants and department stores.

  • William Marcy Tweed

    William Marcy Tweed (1823–1878), commonly known as Boss Tweed, led Tammany Hall, New York City's notorious Democratic political machine. During the 1860s and '70s, Tweed and his Tammany associates—the so-called "Tweed Ring"—stole millions of dollars from the city treasury through theft and extortion. Historians have estimated that Tammany Hall pilfered between $20 million and $200 million from New York taxpayers.

    Tweed was elected to serve as a New York City alderman in 1851. He ascended the ranks of the municipal government and then served one term in Congress, but quickly found that power and—stolen—wealth were easier to acquire and maintain at the local level. By 1868, Tweed controlled the entire Democratic Party in the state of New York, but lost control in 1871 when a slate of opposition candidates successfully ran against his Tammany officials. 

    Two years later, he was convicted of forgery and larceny, but only served two years in prison. He was immediately re-arrested when New York State sued him for $6 million. Tweed managed to escape from debtor's prison and flee to Cuba, but the State Department tracked him to Spain, where he was captured. Tweed was extradited to New York and died in debtor's prison on April 12th, 1878.

  • Theodore Roosevelt

    Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) was the 26th President of the United States, a leader of the Republican Party and, later, the Progressive movement. He was the first president to become a truly "popular" leader by using the media to appeal directly to the American people.

    Roosevelt, who became a national hero for his leadership of the "Rough Riders" regiment in the Spanish-American War, ran as William McKinley's running mate in the presidential election of 1900. When McKinley was assassinated by a crazed anarchist in 1901, the young Roosevelt suddenly became president. 

    Unlike his conservative predecessor, Roosevelt shared many of the goals of the Progressive movement and might fairly be considered the first Progressive president. In his own time, Roosevelt was one of the most popular presidents in American history.