US Histoty Essay Sample: 19th-century Housing Reforms. Strengths and Weaknesses of Progressivism.

Published: 2019-10-24
US Histoty Essay Sample: 19th-century Housing Reforms. Strengths and Weaknesses of Progressivism.
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  History United States Society
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1261 words
11 min read

19th-century housing reforms and the housing blight

The current housing landscape is riddled with a host of problems. The majority of governments worldwide have not been able to meet the housing demands of the populace, there being a shortage of housing. The urban cities are characterized by skyscrapers and outstanding landmarks, with some of its dwellers, mostly the middle and upper class, leading lavish lifestyles. The poor are however not that lucky to enjoy the luxuries enjoyed by their middle and upper-class counterparts. They are instead forced to live in harsh and forbidding conditions in slum dwellings which are characterized by pollution, poverty, diseases and drainage problems. Such are the disparities that exist in urban settlements, some living in abundance while others are living in sheer lack ("Introduction :: U.S. History", 2016).

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In the mid-nineteenth century, there was increased emphasis on individual behavior, spiritual development and the importance of home life, which led to a moral environmentalist approach to the plight of the urban poor. The belief that the environment influences an individuals behavior led to the development of alternative environment capable of nurturing and improving an individuals behavior. As a result of this, housing reforms sprung up in the 1840s that championed for the construction of better housing for the urban poor, improvement of sanitation levels and the regulation of tenements. These improvements in the urban centers have attracted many admirers who are interested in having a piece of the lavish lifestyles in these cities. However, only a minority few can enjoy this class. The majority of the poor urban dwellers are forced to live in slums and deplorable conditions wrought with crime and poor sanitation. The housing reforms that were meant to improve the standards of living in the urban centers, in turn, contributed to deplorable living conditions in slum dwellings.

Strengths and weaknesses of progressivism

The industrial revolution brought about new changes in the American society during the last era of the 19th century. Despite these sweeping changes, the ruling class did not put adequate effort or align themselves with these changes taking place in the society. The populists as well as the urban reformers had already established themselves and brought to the surface the need for reforms in the society. The America of the 1900 was totally different from the America of the 1850s, yet the ruling class still adopted the same old strategies in solving problems of the new age. The populists, in a bid to effect change, went to the extent of trying to overthrow the government. The failure of the populists would, however, be leveraged on by the progressives who were educated urban and middle-class reform-minded men and women ("Progressivism Sweeps the Nation", 2016).

Progressivism was more of a movement as opposed to a political party. No official progressive party had been in existence up to 1912, but the progressivism fever had swept all across the nation. Presidents Roosevelt, Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, were all progressives who, together with their fellow counterparts, believed that the citizens and the government had the power to rectify abuse of power caused by the free market and nature. Progressivism produced impressive results: the plight of workers was addressed, conservation of natural resources was enforced, citizens could now voice their concerns with regards to policies adopted by the ruling class, and the needs of the urban poor living in deplorable conditions were addressed.

On the other hand, progressivism brought with it a set of negative consequences. With the rapid industrial development and the expansion of the economy, social ills began to crop up. Migration to the urban centers and the unchecked population growth meant that housing became a problem, forcing people to live in deplorable conditions.

War and attitude change among women and minorities in the American society

Prior to world war Two, the womens role was perceived to be revolving around the house, basically being entrusted with all household chores. In the typical perfect American family, the father would do all kinds of works to fend for his family while the mother stayed at home to bring up the children and attend to household chores. Women could, however, perform other duties outside their perceived household chores, though they were not much appreciated by the society. The onset of world war Two was however transformed this state of conditions. The war affected all American citizens in different unique ways. Thousands of soldiers were either killed or wounded, whereas some were missing, never to be found.

Though minority groups participated in world War Two, the US military had no intention of enlisting their services neither in domestic nor military operations of the world war. Black participation in World War 2 was limited and was considered insignificant. In the navy, black soldiers would only be allowed to serve as mess men or stewards. No black man would be allowed to serve in the Marine Corps or the US air force during World War 2. Numerous protests by black newspapers such as the Chicago Defender coupled with a shortage of soldiers in the battle field led the army not only to enlist the services of black soldiers but of women as well. A total of 215,000 women were recruited into the army, performing jobs that were traditionally considered to be for men ("The Underside of Urban Life", 2016).

The effect of this was that there was a shift in perceived roles played by the different genders; women could perform roles that were traditionally considered to be mens domain. Some men would be left at home to look after the children when their women were in the war. Minorities, on the other hand, felt that they were less left out in fighting for the freedom of their country. It was one of the ways to end racism.

Roe v. wade

In this case, Roe, a pregnant woman, filed a suit challenging that Texas abortion laws were not constitutional. These laws made it illegal to abort except on medical grounds to save the life of the mother. The defendant in the case was the district attorney Wade. The ruling of the district court was that Texas abortion laws were void and infringed on 9th and 14th amendments of the plaintiffs. Doe, one of the plaintiffs, appealed against the ruling of the district court at the Supreme Court. The Court upheld the ruling of the district court.

The court held that the decision of whether to abort or not during the first trimester of pregnancy should be left to the womans doctor. During the second trimester, states may impose their abortion regulations to safeguard the mothers health. During the third trimester, states may impose or even prohibit abortion so as to safeguard lives, except in cases where the mothers life is in danger ("Roe v. Wade Case Brief", 2016).

Roe v. Wade raises an important ethical dilemma in the abortion debacle: is the mothers life more important than the babys? The decision to legalize abortion when the mothers life is in danger is, however, justifiable. In cases where the mother has other children to take care of, abortion would be the only sensible option.


Introduction:: U.S. History. (2016). Retrieved 23 August 2016, from

Progressivism Sweeps the Nation []. (2016). Retrieved 23 August 2016, from

Roe v. Wade a Case Brief Summary. (2016). Retrieved 23 August 2016, from

The Underside of Urban Life []. (2016). Retrieved 23 August 2016, from

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