The progressive movement emphasized on social change by eradicating social problems and advocating for civil rights. The social reformers were mainly educated and vocal about social issues. This paper will examine the life of three reformers W.E.B Du Bois, Margaret Sanger and Jane Addams who were born at the time of progressivism and were social reformers, working for various social issues, they all played an important role to bring various social issues to the front.
All the three reformers advocated and commented on the social issues in the American society successfully. Du Bios emerged as a social reformer with his book “The Philadephia Negro: A Social Study” which was a first case study on the African American community. He was the first to oppose the “Atlanta Compromise” which stated that the Southern blacks would not ask for their rights and would get the only vocational education. He rejected the plans and demanded equal rights for black people. He opposed the ideology of white biological superiority and founded NAACP to promote Pan-Africanism (Divine et al., 2011). Similarly, Sanger worked for the birth control rights of women and become the pioneer in advocating for the use of contraceptives and sex education in the society (Divine et al., 2011). And Addams was the first internationalist to settle immigrants, advocated for peace and democracy, condemned war and became first female president of the National Conference of Social work and established National Federation of Settlements. All the three reformers contributed to the social change and progressivism at the time when there were not many people speaking about these issues (Divine et al., 2011).
Although they advocated for different social issues, all of them were critical of their society and wanted to improve the lives of people. For instance, Du Bois was deeply disturbed by the Jim Crow laws and segregation based on the race. For Margaret Sanger sex education and birth control rights were important. However, Jane Addams focused on settling the immigrants, peacebuilding and women rights to vote. There advocacy for the bringing positive change and social change brings them together as social reformer (Divine et al., 2011).
All three reformers of the progressive era wrote about the injustices embedded in the American society. The writing was their tool to educate, gain support and spread the ideas about the social injustices. Their pens spoke for them and the social issues, highlighting impacts and nature of the social, political and economic discrimination of women and minorities. Their identities as an African American, a nurse, and a social worker helped them engineer the ideology for the social change. They found writing as a technique to advance their advocacy for the causes that they cared the most.
They shared common characteristics with the reformers of the progressive movement (1890-1920). All the three were born during the time frame of progressivism, and they were educated like most of the reformers. Lastly, they advocated for social change and criticized the discrimination and evils in the American society. They promoted the rights of minorities and neglected people in the society courageously. Their themes for advocacy fall under the themes of progressive movement which are poverty, racism, greed, social justice, violence, and warfare. Therefore, they are the social reformers of the progressive movement.
To conclude, Du Bios, Sanger and Adams played a crucial role in bringing change in the American society. They worked to promote civil rights and abolish the injustices. They become pioneers in their activism regarding change and reforms in the society by eradicating segregation and enhancing political and social rights of women and minorities. Their tireless efforts to promote human rights have earned them respect and recognition globally.
Divine, R., Breen, T., Fredrickson, G., Williams, R., Roberts, R., Gross, A., & Brands, H. (2011). America past and present. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education/Longman.