The progressive movement was an early twentieth century reform movement seeking to return control of the government to the people, to restore economic opportunities, and to correct injustices in American life. The progressive movement was effective because it improved the political, social, and economic ills of America. Progressives were middle-class city dwellers such as writers, teachers, and scholars. They sought to cure the many social problems caused by industrialization. They had four goals. The first was to protect social welfare. The second was to promote moral improvement. The third was to create economic reform. And the fourth was to foster efficiency. Progressives worked for reform and a change for the better. They succeeded.
First, the progressive movement worked to protect social welfare. There were many urban problems. Movements called the Social Gospel and Settlement Houses, as well as the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and the Salvation Army were developed and they all worked in the cities to help poor immigrants learn the middle class values of hard work. Women reformers such as Florence Kelley was an advocate for improving the lives of women and children. An important positive development for social welfare was the Illinois Factory Act in 1893 which prohibited child labor and limited women's working hours.
Second, the progressive movement worked to promote moral improvement. Reformers believed that morality was the way to help the lives of poor people. Prohibition is the banning of alcohol. Prohibition was a movement which the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) developed. It had 245,000 members by 1911 to be the largest women's group in America's history. Another cause of the WCTU was a women's right to vote. Surely, their most important reform was prohibition which caused moral improvement.