Civic Passions

Civic Passions: Seven Who Launched Progressive America (and What They Teach Us)

Cecelia Tichi
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Civic Passions
    Book Description:

    A gripping and inspiring book,Civic Passionsexamines innovative leadership in periods of crisis in American history. Starting from the late nineteenth century, when respected voices warned that America was on the brink of collapse, Cecelia Tichi explores the wisdom of practical visionaries who were confronted with a series of social, political, and financial upheavals that, in certain respects, seem eerily similar to modern times. The United States--then, as now--was riddled with political corruption, financial panics, social disruption, labor strife, and bourgeois inertia.Drawing on a wealth of evocative personal accounts, biographies, and archival material, Tichi brings seven iconoclastic--and often overlooked--individuals from the Gilded Age back to life. We meet physician Alice Hamilton, theologian Walter Rauschenbusch, jurist Louis D. Brandeis, consumer advocate Florence Kelley, antilynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, economist John R. Commons, and child-welfare advocate Julia Lathrop. Bucking the status quo of the Gilded Age as well as middle-class complacency, these reformers tirelessly garnered popular support as they championed progressive solutions to seemingly intractable social problems.Civic Passionsis a provocative and powerfully written social history, a collection of minibiographies, and a user's manual on how a generation of social reformers can turn peril into progress with fresh, workable ideas. Together, these narratives of advocacy provide a stunning precedent of progressive action and show how citizen-activists can engage the problems of the age in imaginative ways. While offering useful models to encourage the nation in a newly progressive direction,Civic Passionsreminds us that one determined individualcanmake a difference.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0538-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Two Gilded Ages A Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Danger and Opportunity An Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    Like a time capsule packed with treasures, the Gilded Age opens on a dazzling fashion show of ladies and working girls in their late-1800s upswept hair and ostrich-plumed hats. They parade in colorful, floor-length, puffedsleeve dresses and promenade arm-in-arm with whiskered gentlemen and dandies wearing swallowtail coats with fashionable creaseless trousers. They socialize, both men and women, at ice cream parlors, pedal bicycles built for two, and shop at the palatial department stores of Messrs. A. T. Stewart and Marshall Field. They sweep into limelighted theaters in the evenings, vacation at the mountain lake or seashore in summer, and visit...

  5. 1 The Dangerous Trades
    (pp. 29-56)
    Alice Hamilton

    The brass cuspidor surely caught Dr. Alice Hamilton’s eye when she arrived at the National Lead Company office on Chicago’s Sangamon Street a few minutes ahead of her scheduled appointment with the company vice president. The cuspidor (or spittoon), a receptacle for spit tobacco juice, signaled men’s territory and the all too common viewpoint that came with it: “Men knew the world. Women didn’t. Women were not fit to deal with the world.” The petite Alice Hamilton, M.D., was unfazed. An alumna of the University of Michigan Medical School, she had years of experience in primary care and laboratory research....

  6. 2 The Pittsburgh Survey
    (pp. 57-88)
    John R. Commons

    Dressed for travel in a coat and tie, John R. Commons, a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin, stepped onto the railroad platform at the Madison depot, where he met up with his three young men graduate students. It was a hot summer day in 1907, and the four made small talk while waiting for their train.

    Nobody on the platform had reason to be especially curious about the professor and three young men. When the pale yellow Milwaukee Road train cars pulled in, the four climbed aboard and stowed their valises on overhead racks of the air-cooled...

  7. 3 Justice, Not Pity
    (pp. 89-122)
    Julia Lathrop

    Why do babies die?The lady traveler pondered the question with intense concentration as she crossed the marble concourse of Washington, D.C.’s Union Station in the late spring of 1912. The awful question cut across every category of life in the United States. Hanging unanswered, it shadowed families and communities and darkened the nation’s very future. Of the 2.5 million babies born in the United States in 1911, 300,000 did not survive the first year of life.Why do babies die?The question itself was tragic. No one could think it political. That, in fact, was its attraction and its...

  8. 4 The Wages of Work
    (pp. 123-163)
    Florence Kelley

    January 1899. A New England gentleman, John Graham Brooks, caught a New York Central train for Chicago. The famous Water Level Route sped him along the Hudson River and Lakes Ontario and Erie until he crossed the frozen stubble fields and industrial zone of Indiana and reached Chicago’s Union Station. Brooks’s destination was Hull House, where he’d lived for a few months in 1896 while teaching a course in the city. At age fifty-two, the former Unitarian minister was well known in Progressive social circles. He traveled and lectured widely, but this January, Brooks came to Chicago for one express...

  9. 5 Citizen
    (pp. 164-204)
    Louis D. Brandeis

    In the heavy heat of July 1905, Adolph Brandeis of Louisville, Kentucky, looked carefully at the several neatly folded newspaper clippings enclosed with letters from his adult son, Louis. Stuffing envelopes was a longtime father-son custom and a mainstay of conversation between the eighty-threeyear-old father and his forty-nine-year-old son. The excellent U.S. postal service helped. It helped bridge the 1,000-mile distance from Kentucky to Boston, Massachusetts, where Louis, a highly successful attorney, lived with his wife and two young daughters. Louis looked forward to the editorials and articles from the hometownLouisville Courier-Journal. In turn, his father received current news...

  10. 6 The Social Gospel
    (pp. 205-239)
    Walter Rauschenbusch

    In the autumn of 1908, the Baptist Protestant minister Walter Rauschenbusch arrived at the entrance of New York City’s lavish Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at Fifth Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street. The doorman who ushered in the tall, slim, “physically commanding” figure probably did not know he was the best-selling author of a controversial new book titledChristianity and the Social Crisis. Nor could the gold-buttoned doorman guess that the hotel threshold was Rauschenbusch’s version of the Rubicon River of the ancient Roman Empire—a point of no return. As someone who was classically educated, Rauschenbusch himself surely knew the story of Julius...

  11. 7 Lynching in All Its Phases
    (pp. 240-274)
    Ida B. Wells-Barnett

    The two-story family brick home was quiet when Ida B. Wells-Barnett sat down at her dining room table and reached for theChicago Daily Tribuneon November 10, 1909. So far, it was an ordinary day in the Wells-Barnett household. The four children, ages five to fourteen, were at school. Their father, the attorney Ferdinand L. Barnett, had taken the streetcar to his downtown law office. The sky was overcast in a November of unusually high tempera tures in Chicago. Inside, the forty-seven-year-old Wells-Barnett, a wife and mother, lingered at a table that was piled at one end with the...

  12. Progressive Encore? A Postscript
    (pp. 275-286)

    “All progress is experimental,” declared the American essayist John Jay Chapman in 1900. The success of the Progressives’ experiment became clear as the twentieth century unfolded. Their “experiment” persuaded the American people as a whole to reject child labor and to support education for children in all socioeconomic groups. It encouraged the public, in the main, to endorse human and financial services for the disabled and for dependent minors. The Progressives’ work, in addition, showed the public that impoverished elderly Americans ought not to be shunted off to poorhouses but sustained through a work-related contributory retirement program (Social Security). The...

    (pp. 287-288)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 289-348)
    (pp. 349-374)
    (pp. 375-376)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 377-382)