I saw this model for a lesson with the POV movie, The Most Dangerous Man In America, Daniel Ellsburg on the Zinn Education Project and had to try to make one like it for myself. The research for writing the biography cards was very fun and I enjoyed seeing students role play the ‘reception’ in class. Here’s the lesson.
- US2.8 Analyze the origins of Progressivism and important Progressive leaders, and summarize the major accomplishments of Progressivism.
- US2.9 Analyze the post Civil War struggles of African Americans and women to gain basic civil rights.
Common Core Standards:
- .9-10.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
- RH.9-10.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
- RH.9-10.9. Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
- SL.9-10.1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
- SL.9-10.3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.
21st Century Skills:
- Being self-directed
- Interacting effectively
- Reasoning effectively
- Working in diverse teams
- Communicating effectively
- Collaborating with others
- Managing goals and time
- Accessing and analyzing information
Stage 1: Desired Results
- Essential Question: How did Progressive reforms shape America? What impact does (or can) an individual have on American society?
- Essential Understanding: As a response to inequalities created by segregation, industrialization, immigration and urbanization, many reform leaders sought to expand democracy, eliminate corruption, promote efficiency and reform moral behavior.
o Students will know –
- The causes of progressivism
- The people involved and their accomplishments
- The effects of progressive reform
o Students will understand –
- How individuals make a difference in American society
- How politicians respond to public protest and causes
- How political, economic and social issues create challenges and solutions
o Students will be able to do –
- Demonstrate leadership skills through role-play
- Demonstrate effective interview strategies
- Analysis of content based on documents and multiple perpectives
Stage 2: Assessment Evidence
- Document Analysis – Students will individually review primary source documents related to the Progressive Era. Each document is a text, photograph or political cartoon. Students will use the document analysis worksheet from the National Archive to complete this assignment.
- Reception Role Play – Students will each take on the role of a famous individual during the Progressive Era. They will review their character’s personal biography and then interview each other with a list of 10 questions. Each of the questions is designed to create a conversation with random characters concerning the issues of progressive reforms. Students will gain multiple perspectives based on their conversations. At the end, students will reflect on their experience and what they, and their characters learned.
Stage 3: Learning Plan
- Prior Knowledge Grid (warm up)
- Progressivism Review
- Document Analysis (link to primary sources used)
- Reception Role Play
- Exit Card
1. Find someone who supports the suffrage movement. Find out what the root causes are for their position and ask how they intend to support the movement.
2. Find someone with strong feelings about moral reform (changing people’s behavior) and ask them to explain what they would like to change.
3. Find someone who disagrees with progressive reforms. Discover why and ask them to explain if they agree that your cause or expertise is a problem.
4. Find someone who changed in some important way through their experiences with reforms and causes. Ask them to explain how they changed and why.
5. Find someone who helped or influenced another person directly. Ask to explain why and how they did it.
6. Find someone who might disagree with your position. Ask them to explain the reasons why.
7. Find someone who began an organization. Ask them why they founded it.
8. Find someone who worked for the government in some capacity. Ask them to explain why they believe the government is part of the solution.
9. Find someone who came from a wealthy or poor background. Ask them to explain how their experiences shaped their identity.
10. Find someone who addressed more than one reform. Ask them if there is an overlap between both reforms and to explain it.
Alice Paul – I was born into a Quaker family on in Moorestown, New Jersey on 11th January, 1885 and I’ve always believed in a strong education. I went to Swarthmore College and got my masters in sociology at Pennsylvania University. I also was a PhD student at the London School of Economics. In 1908, I heard someone speak who changed my life. It was Christabel Pankhurst, a famous women’s suffrage leader in Great Britain. After that speech, I knew I had to act. Acting began to become second nature. I joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was arrested, imprisoned and even force-fed when I went on a hunger strike. I knew that when I returned home to the US, I would have to carry on this cause. I began to introduce militant methods into women’s suffrage movements there. Soon, we were picketing and marching daily in front of the White House. When the US joined WW1, men assaulted me while I was picketing. I was imprisoned for seven months as a result. Even though President Wilson introduced legislation for suffrage during WW1, I still carried on the fight. I knew that true power grew from action and protest. It wasn’t handed down from politicians. Later in my life, I would support the equal rights amendment, inclusion of sex equality in the United Nations charter as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Lucy Burns – I know prison. I was arrested more times than any other US suffragist, but this isn’t how my life began. I was born in 1879 into an Irish Catholic home. I worked hard in my studies and went to Vasser and then to Yale University for my master’s degree. Then I taught English in a local high school. My continued studies brought me to the University of Berlin and then at the University of Bonn before attending Oxford University in Great Britain. It was there I met some fascinating women. They were suffragists, fighting for equal rights and the vote. While there, I met Alice Paul and we became close friends. One of my fellow suffragists paid me a great compliment. She said, “It fell to Lucy Burns, vice-chairman of the organization, to be the leader of the new protest. Miss Burns is in appearance the very symbol of woman in revolt. Her abundant and glorious red hair burns and is not consumed – a flaming torch…. Musical, appealing, persuading – she could move the most resistant person. Her talent as an orator is of the kind that makes for instant intimacy with her audience. Her emotional quality is so powerful that her intellectual capacity, which is quite as great, is not always at once perceived.” I retired from political life after women in the US got the vote. I told a reporter once: “I don’t want to do anything more. I think we have done all this for women, and we have sacrificed everything we possessed for them, and now let them fight for it now. I am not going to fight anymore.”
Inez Milholland – I’ll admit that I was born into a family in New York of privilege and wealth. My father openly supported many reforms such as peace, civil rights and women’s suffrage, and he had a strong influence on me. I had a very powerful education and it was at Vassar that I began my activism. Although suffrage meetings were banned, I held them anyway. About a third of the student body was enrolled, but I was suspended when it was discovered. I continued anyway. I played on the hockey and track team, as well as the debate team. Eventually, I went to graduate school and got my law degree, after being rejected in many prestigious universities because of my gender. When I met my husband a year later, it was me who proposed to him. Once I began practicing law, I learned about the horrors of prison conditions in New York City. I began to work tirelessly to address these issues as well as civil rights (I joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), child labor, world peace, union rights, and women’s suffrage. I met Alice Paul and Lucy Burns and became famous for organizing a suffrage protest taking place a day before President Wilson’s inauguration in 1913. I dressed in a white dress and cape with a crown, riding a white horse and led the parade.
Rosika Schwimmer – I was born into a Jewish Hungarian family in 1877. I worked hard at my studies and focused my energies at a problem I always knew was wrong: women’s inequality. In 1904 I was asked to address a conference in Berlin, and my activism began. I travelled to London and then to the US. When WW1 broke out, I joined the peace movement and strongly spoke out against the war. I met with President Wilson and Sec. of State William Jennings Bryan unsuccessfully trying to convince them to host a conference to mediate an end to the war. Henry Ford was strongly influenced by my speeches and asked me to be an expert advisor to his efforts to bring about a neutral mediation between the warring nations. I was attacked by American reporters in their articles, however, and had to defend myself against unsupported accusations. I continued to work for women’s suffrage and world peace. When WW1 ended, I returned to the US on a speaking tour, but was accused of being a communist as well as a radical. My positions on women’s rights created a backlash of anti-feminist attacks. Despite all of this, I continued my activism and remained in the US for the rest of my life.
Emma Goldman – I am an anarchist, and have nothing to hide about my radicalism. I strongly believe that the rich oppress the poor, just as men have oppressed women, since civilization began. I do not support women’s suffrage. I support women’s emancipation from the slavery of their everyday lives! As an anarchist, I do not believe in marriage. It is another tool of oppression. I believe in free love and free thought. But let me tell you my story. I was born in Lithuania in 1869. I came to the US in 1885, along with many other millions of immigrants. I worked in factories and met many other like-minded radicals. I gave speeches and was soon in demand across the country. I spoke about worker’s rights as well as access to birth control. For this, and speaking out against the draft during WW1, I was arrested many times. I became infamous in America as ‘Red Emma’. In 1919, I was deported from the country along with many other radicals during the beginning of the ‘Red Scare’ against communism.
President Woodrow Wilson – I’ve had many opportunities in my life, all of which I owe to the greatness of the United States of America. I have received a great education at many prestigious universities and later became the president of Princeton University. When I was asked to run for the Governorship of New Jersey, I decided to enter a career of politics to support progressive reforms. My name was suggested in the nominating convention of 1912 for the Democratic Party and I was elected in a three-way race against two former presidents (Taft and Roosevelt). I campaigned on supporting individual and state’s rights. I was responsible for introducing many important laws: anti-trust legislation, a lower tariff, a ban on child labor, the creation of the Federal Reserve, a graduated federal income tax, and an 8 hour work day for railroad workers. In 1916, I campaigned on the promise to the American people that I kept them safely out of the Great War (WW1) that was ravaging Europe. When pressed by my daughters, I eventually supported the women’s suffrage movement, although I had my reservations at the time. With my support, Congress and the states passed the 19th Amendment by 1920.
John Dewey – I believe strongly that all schools must help students achieve their full potential as human beings. It is the duty of a democratic society to educate their children to become productive citizens as well as moral beings. I’ve travelled around the world studying education, in Mexico, the Soviet Union, Japan, Turkey and China. But perhaps I should tell you my story first. I was born in Vermont in 1859. Although I was not an outstanding student when younger, I became one by working hard. I graduated from college in 1878 second in my class. By 1884, I received my PhD. I began teaching at the University of Chicago and met Jane Addams and her work at the Hull House. I strongly supported progressive reforms. I became a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Progressive Party. I also wrote many books on the subject of education. It is my life’s work, as is the work of improving society.
President Theodore Roosevelt – Life is hard, but the struggle makes us stronger. This is something I have believed for most of my life. I was born into a wealthy Dutch family in 1858, but struggled with ill health. I worked hard through exercise and school to become a leader but was struck down when both my wife and mother died on the same day in 1884. I moved to the frontier to find myself and recover from grief. When I returned, I began an interesting career. I became police chief of New York City, a New York state representative, then Governor of New York. I was lucky to be assigned as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the beginning of the Spanish American War. I resigned and formed a volunteer unit of ‘Rough Riders’. We entered battle and were able to defeat the enemy. Then I was chosen to be Vice President to President McKinley. Then, the world changed when the President was shot in 1901. I redefined the role of the presidency. I spoke out boldly on issues of progressive reforms and trust-busting. I introduced laws regulating the meat and drug industry. I helped regulate interstate commerce. I also expanded protected federal land through greater conservation. I read on average a book a day, invited select guests to the White House for boxing matches and led the country as a ‘Bull Mouse’. I am extremely proud of my record as a Progressive.
Ida Tarbell – I was born in 1857 in Pennsylvania. I lived my first three years in my grandfather’s log cabin. When my father moved towns, he entered the oil refining business as an independent businessman. Then larger companies drove him out of business, including the Standard Oil Company, owned by John D. Rockefeller. As I grew up, I prioritized my education, eventually studying in Paris. While there, I wrote articles for many papers and magazines. McClure’s was one of the most popular. Lincoln Steffens, who was also like me – wishing to report the news in order to fix problems and expose corruption in society – ran it. President Roosevelt called us ‘muckrakers’. The most popular series of articles I wrote was an expose on the Standard Oil Company. By using their power and position to create monopolies, Standard Oil had become one of the biggest threats to free enterprise. I had to tell their story in order to help politicians understand what needed to be done: trust-busting. My articles, and those of my fellow muckrakers, were instrumental in changing America for the better. We helped improve working conditions, clear and rebuild slums, end child labor, protect unions, help immigrants, regulate trusts, and more.
Jacob Riis – I believe the poor are victims, not the makers of their fate. I’ve always believed this – at least ever since I arrived in America. You see, I was born in 1849 in Denmark. I made my way to the US in 1870 and had to sleep many nights on the streets while working menial jobs. I eventually became a reporter and then one focusing on crime. I decided that I had to use my words to tell the stories of poverty in New York City. In 1889, a series of my articles was published by Scribner’s magazine. This series included a whole set of photographs. It shocked America. I learned that this was one of the most powerful forms of storytelling. For the next 25 years, I travelled around the country showing my pictures and giving lectures on the poor. I wrote over a dozen books on the subject. The most famous was called ‘How the Other Half Lives’. Theodore Roosevelt read it when he was police commissioner of New York City. He took action based on my book. So too did Lincoln Steffens, known as the ‘father of investigative journalism’ or muckrakers. A new generation of reporters and writers was influenced by my work. Their stories would influence others to make real change. It is an honor and a duty to follow this path.
Lewis Hine – 1903 was the year that would change my life. It was the year I purchased my first camera. I know this is a shock, especially for a farm boy from Wisconsin, but I did not know my life’s calling until I took my first photographs. It was then that I became a documentary photographer. My specific focus was the poor. I began first with photographs of recently arrived immigrants at Ellis Island in New York City. Then, as I published my work, I began to study the children working in factories. These are some of my most famous photos. I am very proud that these images tell the stories of so many thousands of children in American cities. I also travelled to the coal mines to take pictures of children working there. It broke my heart, but I knew I was exposing something evil that had to be ended. Sometimes businesses would refuse me access to take my pictures. I had to disguise myself as a fire inspector, at times, just to get in. When the Keating-Owen Act was passed outlawing child labor, the commission responded that my pictures provided more help than any other resource in telling the truth of these conditions. In spite of this, it was very difficult for me to make money selling these pictures. I myself lived in the same desperate poverty that many of my subjects faced.
Charlotte Perkins Goodman – My father abandoned me. This was how I came into the world in 1860 – in poverty. I received very little formal education, but my aunts (one was Harriet Beecher Stowe), really influenced me. Life was hard. My mother never showed affection for me and I did not easily get along with other children. Mostly I read. I began my first career briefly as a painter. Then I got married and had a child. Things still did not go well. Stress and depression brought me to a nervous breakdown and as a result, I began to write about my experiences. My first story, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ told the story of my collapse. I divorced my husband and left my child with him – and then moved to Chicago. When there, I met Jane Addams and other women at the Hull House. I quickly discovered that I had a talent for writing and speaking, and soon began touring the country addressing women’s suffrage and equal rights issues. Things were changing. I was beginning to have an impact. My book, ‘Women and Economics’ became very influential. I argued that women should have full access to equal work. Men who desire weak and feeble women are the problem. Women, I said, should be economically independent. I joined the pacifist movement during WW1, and after, continued to write both fiction and non-fiction. My stories often had women as the strong lead.
Upton Sinclair – My early life was filled with extremes, and this is what turned me towards socialism. First, I was born in 1878 in Baltimore. My family was poor and my father was an alcoholic, but I spent much of my childhood with my wealthy grandparents. Back and forth. This made me wonder why America was like this. I went to school and did well. Soon, I was writing stories for newspapers. In high school, I had a story published in a national magazine. I earned enough to buy my own apartment and support my parents. I continued to write. Many of my stories focused on the stories of the poor. Then I learned about socialism. I began to see that there were other ways to organize government and society. When my book, ‘The Jungle’ was ready to be released, six publishers turned it down. They said that it didn’t represent a desire to help the poor as much as a pure hatred for the rich. When it eventually was published in 1906, it became a bestseller. Winston Churchill read it and loved it. So too did President Roosevelt. He pushed for the Meat Inspection Act almost immediately. I also became wealthy myself from royalties. Using this money, I set up a small socialist community for 80 people on Long Island. I ran for office unsuccessfully on different occasions, but continued to write and tell stories of injustice.
Florence Kelly – First, you need to understand something: I am no saint and I definitely speak my mind! Now, I was born in 1859. My father was a US Congressman, and I had a very privileged education. I went to Cornell University and then the University of Zurich. When in Europe, I became a follower of Karl Marx and was soon translating some of his writings to English. When I moved back to America, I got married to a German physician, but it did not go well. Soon, I divorced him, took my three children, and moved to Chicago, where I met Jane Addams and others at the Hull House. I became greatly influenced by their work there, helping the poor, workers, immigrants, and women. I wrote and spoke frequently. There were many topics I researched and lectured about but none was as important to me as working conditions in factories and child labor. When I was asked by the Governor of Illinois to become his first factory inspector in the state, I jumped at the chance! Soon, the legislature of the state regulated child labor due to my efforts. I founded the National Consumer League as an organization whose main purpose was to limit working hours and improve working conditions. I travelled around the country informing and persuading people about the difficult and dangerous conditions under which many workers labored. I also strongly endorsed women’s suffrage and civil rights. I was one of the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. I also became a pacifist during WW1. I believe my work has helped make America a better place.
Robert LaFollette – Fightin’ Bob. That’s what they called me in Wisconsin. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. I was born in 1855 and worked as a farm hand for many years before going to the University of Wisconsin in 1875. There I met Robert Ingersoll and his teachings about freedom had a powerful influence on me. I decided to go into politics. When I was elected as a Congressman, I quickly learned how others ‘played the game’ with party bosses making the calls instead of the people being represented. When the head party boss of the Republican Party tried to get me to change a court case with a bribe, I exposed him publically. That’s not democracy. When I was elected Governor in 1900, I pushed though many reforms in the interests of the people. Initiatives, referendums and recalls were introduced. So to were secret ballots. I also supported tax reform, regulating railroads, and protecting trade unions. The people needed to have democracy protect them from the greed and corruption of corporations and the politicians they had ‘in their pockets’. I had the honor to be elected senator in 1906. My wife and I openly supported women’s suffrage and when WW1 broke out, I spoke out against conscription and the Espionage Act. I was labeled a traitor, but I had the support of many of my constituents.
US Representative George White – What is it like to be the only African American in Congress? I can tell you. I was that person. In 1900, I realized that new voting regulations made it very unlikely that I would be reelected. My long road was at an end – but maybe I should tell you where it started. I was born in 1852 in North Carolina. I slowly became educated after the Civil War and became involved in local government. Within years, I was elected to different positions representing my district in North Carolina. In 1896, I was elected to the US Congress. I spoke out against lynching (public racial murders) in the south. I also worked hard to get African Americans in my district appointed to different positions in local government. It was difficult. My anti-lynching bill was quickly defeated. When I retired from Congress I told my colleagues, “This Mr. Chairman, is perhaps the Negroes’ temporary farewell to the American Congress. But let me say, phoenix-like, he will rise up someday and come again. These parting words are on behalf of an outraged, heartbroken, bruised and bleeding people, but God-fearing people, faithful, industrious, loyal people-rising people, full of potential…”. No African American was elected after me for another 28 years.
Senator Joe Bailey – Yeah, I’m from Texas, and proud of it. I represented that great, powerful state in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate for many years. I was born in 1863 and had a great education, even though I went to five different colleges. When I first got involved in politics, some people accused me and others of using violent tactics against our opponents. I refused to testify against myself, and no one called me on it. I’m outspoken, yes I am! I speak for the people. They want me to represent them as a Populist, and I did so. I have no problem telling the railroads that they need to regulate themselves. I also have no problem telling corporations that they need to be taxed too. What’s that? Women’s suffrage? Heck, no. I am one of the biggest opponents to the idea. Women belong in the home, not in politics! Well, my political career ended when it was found out that some of my ties to the Standard Oil Company were questionable. Bribes? No, no, no. Politics is a rough business. I once even ended up in a fist fight with Senator Albert Beveridge. So, am I a progressive? What do you think?
JP Morgan – Money is power, and don’t you question it. I know money. I’ve lived my whole life chasing one form of deal after another, and I’ve made myself incredibly rich based on my decisions as an investor and banker. I have no idea what these progressives think they are doing. Can the US be the nation it is today without the wealthy, like me, making the decisions they do? I run banks. Banks run the economy. It’s that simple. I formed my own bank from my father’s banking company in 1895. Within a few years, I met Andrew Carnegie in a party and offered to buy his steel company from him. He scribbled ‘$500 million’ on a napkin, and we had a deal. Within a few years, I reorganized his former company into US Steel, one of the biggest corporations in the world. When Thomas Edison wanted to merge his companies, I helped to create General Electric. Then when the financial panic of 1907 broke out, I told President Roosevelt to have ‘his people contact my people’ and we would take care of it. I can’t believe that he refused me. That man has a huge ego and is delusional. Doesn’t he understand that my wealthy friends help get him elected? By the height of my power, I sat on the boards of almost all of America’s most powerful corporations. Those muckrakers won’t stop attacking me for it! Money is power! Someday, they may finally understand that!
John D. Rockefeller – My story? Yes, I can understand why you would like to know. How did a man born in 1839 selling household goods and farm tools become the nation’s wealthiest man, worth well over a billion dollars? It’s all about oil. When I sold my farm store, I invested in a series of oil rigs. One of my partners discovered a better refining process and I supported him. Then I negotiated a lower fare for transporting my oil and my sales skyrocketed. Within a year four of my 30 competitors were out of business. Soon, the rest would follow. Standard Oil was the world’s largest supplier of oil for a time. Then some politicians and muckrakers got it in their head that they wanted to break up my trust! Break it up? Consolidation of my competition is a perfectly justifiable way of making money. This is the natural order of things, when the strong and wealthy survive and thrive and the poor struggle. How could it be any different? I made all of my millions fairly and no progressive, not even Ida Tarbell, is going to tell me differently!
Helen Kendrick Johnson – No, women absolutely do not need suffrage! I should know. My husband and I are two of the most prominent anti-suffragists in the country. I was born in 1844 and raised and educated by my father, who taught Greek at the University of Rochester. Before I became an anti-suffragist, I wrote travel articles and children’s stories. My husband is a newspaper editor. In 1897, my book ‘Women and the Republic’ was published. Many people consider it the best summary of arguments against the women’s suffrage movement. My main arguments are that women do not need to get legal, economic, political and social equality. Women make great mothers and wives. In fact, I use many statistics in my book as well as anecdotes to illustrate my position that our country needs women staying home for our country to be strong.
Jane Addams – Thank you for asking about my story. It’s a simple one, but one I am humbled to share. I was born in 1860, but my mother died when I was 3. My father, a devout Quaker, raised me on his own. I realized how important my education was and studied very hard. I was in medical school when a severe spinal surgery forced me to abandon my studies. While travelling in Europe, I visited a settlement house in London providing services and needs to the poor and immigrants in a run down neighborhood there. I immediately decided to replicate this social experiment in America. I moved to Chicago and encouraged a friend to rent an abandoned mansion in a heavily immigrant neighborhood. We named it the Hull House. My life soon became devoted to that building and everyone in it. My volunteer staff and I would host free breakfasts for children. We would offer English language class to immigrant workers. We hosted meetings for unions. We provided shelter to the homeless. Soon, other Hull Houses were begun in other American cities. Woman and reformers flocked to our Hull House in Chicago. We became the center for reform. I helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Women’s Peace Party, and the American Civil Liberties Union. I am honored to work with my fellow reformers and activists. Hopefully someday, America will no longer require our services and sacrifices.
Henry Ford – I am a businessman and do not have much time for stories! I can tell you that I have been strongly influenced by some activists (those with honor and dedication). While I have no general position on the progressive reforms, I can tell you that as a businessman I strongly believe in supporting better working conditions and pay for my workers. I paid my workers $5/day, which by far was more than they got elsewhere. I often walked my factory floors, finding out how they were all doing. Look, I am no saint, but I can tell you that an efficient factory is a profitable one. During WW1, I sponsored a peace conference to help mediate the war. Because of internal problems, the conference fell apart and I had to return home, but it was well worth the effort. Peace is good business.
Lester Frank Ward – I am a sociologist. In fact, I am one of the first sociologists in America. In my long life, I have experienced a great deal that helped me develop this thinking. I was born in 1841 and even found in the Civil War, wounded three times. Over time, in various colleges and with various degrees I developed an expertise in the fields of geology, paleontology, anthropology, and archaeology. Some of my biggest contributions to modern thinking at the turn of the 20th century was my response to the belief in social Darwinism. I strongly disagree that man is helpless before the forces of evolution. By extension, I do not believe that poverty is inevitable. I strongly support the premise that government intervention can reduce and eliminate poverty. In essence, it is the role of government to shape society’s destiny. My thinking was highly influential on Presidents Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson. Many progressive reformers were informed and persuaded by my thinking.
Dr. W.E.B. DuBois – The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line. Everything that I know and experienced tells me this. It is the time when all men and women need to free themselves from the oppression of their suffering. As a child, growing up in Massachusetts, I learned about the history of my people. My high school principal gave me a recommendation to Fisk University in Tennessee. When studying there, I quickly learned how segregation takes away a person’s dignity and denies him his rights. When I attended Harvard University, I knew that I had to do something about it. I began a newspaper, called ‘The Crisis’ and wrote a popular book called ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ to describe the problems we faced and the solutions to them. When I helped organize the Niagara Movement in 1905, my colleagues and I drew up a plan of action on the issues of manhood suffrage, equal economic and educational opportunities, an end to segregation and full civil rights. Then, with the help of other progressives, I helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This would be the means to our end. When WW1 came, I broke with some of my colleagues and supported the war. I believed that out of this chaos would come a fully confident American Negro with the ability to demand from his country what he had given in blood and sacrifice.
Ida Wells-Barnett – My parents were slaves, you see. It’s an interesting way to begin a story, isn’t it? Many people my age can say this in America, if their skin is the color of black gold. This is the soil from which I grew. When I was 16, both of my parents and a younger brother died of yellow fever. To keep the family together, I took a job as a teacher at a local black school. I had my priorities, didn’t I? Eventually, I got the opportunity to attend Fisk University in Tennessee, but I had a tough time there. Getting into trouble would become a symbol for me. It meant I was doing something right. Don’t you ever feel that way? Against the world? The problem that others had with me was my talk about women’s rights. I once wrote that, “I will not begin at this late day by doing what my soul abhors; sugaring men, weak deceitful creatures, with flattery to retain them as escorts or to gratify a revenge.” I continued to write articles for local newspapers concerning civil rights. This was my sword, but then again, there was also my action. I refused to give up my seat to a white passenger on a train in 1894 and was arrested and sued. When I wrote about how the local education board underfunded black schools, I was fired from my job as a teacher. That didn’t stop me, or even slow me down. I then wrote a series of articles condemning the lynching of 3 African American businessmen and as a result, a white mob destroyed my paper’s printing press. Luckily I was in Philadelphia at the time. The mob said they would kill me in an instant if I returned. I knew I was on the right track. I married the founder of the first African American newspaper in Chicago and we had 4 children. Through my writings, I had met many other progressives and I became one of the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. My book, ‘Lynching and the Excuses For It’ became a best seller. I also strongly supported women’s suffrage. In my life, I knew I was fighting the good fight? How do I know? Judge me by me enemies. Look at what they feared.
John Muir – The natural world took millions of years to gain its beauty. It must not be erased in an instant in order to put a few dollars in the pocket of some banker. Yes, I strongly believe in conservation. In 1892, when I founded the Sierra Club, it was the main purpose of our organization. We must educate people to understand that natural beauty lost is never regained. I remember back to 1868, when I first arrived at Yosemite in California. I lost my breath at such beauty. Working there for years as a guide and shepherd, I walked tens of thousands of miles up and down the valleys and mountains. There I met Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of my heroes. He inspired me to follow my passion in life. I also befriended a young Theodore Roosevelt. He and I would travel for days alone into the wilderness, with small packs and big dreams. I knew then that in order to save my world, I would have to enter his. Politicians would have to know and act in order to save the wild beauty of America. And so they did. I was very proud to see Yosemite National Park created, as well as dozens of others. Corporations that emptied whole mountain ranges of trees for lumber, or destroyed the countryside with mines had to be stopped. The profits would not replace the millions of years of natural development. The world needed to be saved, and I was lucky enough to play a part in the saving of small pieces of it.
Carrie Nation – Evil? Evil is liquor, and the face it wears is the face of a drunk. How do I know this? My father died of alcoholism, but that wasn’t what brought me to my calling. No, it was the voice of divine inspiration that told me to go out and smash the evil around me. I worked in the temperance movement for years before I heard this voice, but once I heard it, my life was clear. I would greet bartenders with, “Good morning, destroyer of men’s souls!” Soon, my vandalism in the cause of temperance was becoming sensational. When my husband suggested I take a hatchet with me on my next expedition, I said, “That’s the most sensible thing you’ve said to me since we were married.” I was on a divine mission, and soon I had followers. I described myself as “”a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what he doesn’t like…” Moral reform is what this country needs. I remember the Civil War. I see the problems of poverty. My family suffered from mental illness and much of my adult life was spent taking care of them. Between 1900 and 1910 I was arrested on more than 30 occasions. Men would run and hide when I entered bars and saloons. I would yell to my followers, “Smash, ladies, smash!” The Women’s Christian Temperance Organization, to which I belonged, became one of the largest women’s organizations in the country, fighting for women’s rights, prison reform, pacifism and health care in addition to our holy cause against alcoholism.