Progressing into the 20th Century 1 of 2

"The turn of the century." For many people, moving from one century to the next seems like a new beginning. In reality, the idea of a "century" is just numbers on a calendar or on a clock. (We should remember that there have been and still are different systems for telling time and counting the years.) But still, in our western European civilization, a new century is a powerful symbol of progress. People look back at the last 100 years and remember the struggles that happened. And we tend to look forward with hope to the next 100 years.

Omaha, 1900
Omaha, NE 1900.
Courtesy Historical Colorado, CHS.J3318

When the calendar changed from 1999 to 2000, the event was marked by celebrations and fireworks. Television networks broadcast the events live from around the globe as people in each new time zone marked the turn of the century.

The same sort of celebration happened when the century turned from 1899 to 1900, especially in the United States. After a century of European expansion into the west, the open frontier closed, and new and old residents had to figure out how to live together. The United States had almost split into two nations, and now citizens of the north and south, black and white had to figure out how to live together. There were political issues to sort out — what was the most fair way to govern this suddenly huge nation? And there were social issues that dominated the concerns of people. These people who were interested in progressive reform came together into a political movement known as "Progressivism."

In this era, we’re going to concentrate on these main issues:

  • Reforming labor and health issues in the beef industry.

  • The struggle over whether or not to allow women to vote.

  • Changing the care for orphans.

  • Gaining citizenship for Native Americans.

  • Racial tensions in Nebraska.

  • The "Noble Experiment" that prohibited alcohol for over a decade during the first third of the 20th Century.

Find out more about Populist Roots [1875-1899].

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