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AMERICAN SOCIETY IN THE INDUSTRIAL AGE. Middle-Class Life American middle-class culture took elements of romanticism (the optimism about human potential, the quest for personal improvement, the passion for competition) and tempered them with self-control

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  1. AMERICAN SOCIETY IN THE INDUSTRIAL AGE • Middle-Class Life • American middle-class culture took elements of romanticism (the optimism about human potential, the quest for personal improvement, the passion for competition) and tempered them with self-control • Victorian family relations, however, were not nearly so stiff and formal as often imagined

  2. diaries and letters indicate that many couples experienced sexually fulfilling relationships • middle-class families also began to have fewer children; abstinence accounted for much of the decline in fertility, but the use of contraceptive devices and abortion contributed as well • America’s middle-class comprised professionals, varied groups of shopkeepers, small manufacturers, skilled craftsmen, and established farmers • middle-class family life was defined in terms of tangible goods, thus giving rise to a culture of consumption

  3. Skilled and Unskilled Workers • wage earners, especially in the mining, manufacturing, and transportation sectors, experienced the full impact of industrialization • skilled industrial workers were generally quite well off, but unskilled laborers found it difficult to support a family on their wages alone • large-scale industry decreased contact between employee and employer; relations between them became increasingly impersonal

  4. machines set the pace of work • the costs of capitalization reduced the worker’s opportunity to rise from the ranks of labor to ownership • workers became subject to swings of the business cycle

  5. Working Women • with the shift from cottage industries to a factory system, a growing number of women worked outside of the home • while many women found work in textile mills and sewing trades, at least half of all working women were employed as domestic servants • the Cult of True Womanhood served to open new employment opportunities for women

  6. employers in the retail sector believed women to be more polite, honest, and submissive than male workers • for many of these same reasons, educated middle-class women came to dominate the nursing, elementary education, and secretarial fields • although employment opportunities for women increased during this period, management and entrepreneurial positions remained, for the most part, a male domain

  7. Farmers • long the mainstay of American society, independent farmers found their relative share of the nation’s wealth and their personal status declining • loss of wealth and influence, along with an increasing vulnerability to an economy dominated by industrial trends, fostered periodic waves of radicalism in the nation’s farm belts

  8. while the Grange movements took hold at different times in different places and varied in their impact, they were instrumental in breaking down rural laissez-faire prejudices • farmers in the older, more established regions benefited not only from new technology but from easy access to rapidly expanding urban markets • the frontier farm belts and the Old South proved less able to adapt to new technologies and advances in transportation

  9. Working-Class Family Life • enormous disparities existed in the standard of living among workers engaged in the same line of work during this period • co-workers with the same pay rates often supported their families in dramatically different styles • the factors influencing a working-class family could range from family size to personal spending habits

  10. social workers of the day listed such variables as family health, intelligence, the wife’s household management skills, the family’s commitment to middle-class values, and pure luck

  11. Working-Class Attitudes • surveys conducted among workers during the 1880s and 1890s revealed a broad spectrum of responses regarding their employment circumstances • while some workers expressed contentment with their conditions, others called for the nationalization of the means of production and transportation • despite a general improvement in living standards, the number of bitter strikes revealed the discontent of many workers

  12. this dissatisfaction fell into three broad areas • for some, poverty remained the chief problem; for others, rising aspirations triggered discontent • the discontent of yet another group stemmed from confusion over their situation; the tradition that no one of ability need remain a hired hand died hard, even in the face of contradictory reality • they were drawn to the ideas of a classless society and the community of interest shared by capital and labor, but the gap between the very rich and ordinary citizens was widening

  13. Working Your Way Up • Americans were a mobile people. Geographical mobility often translated into economic and social improvement • nearly one quarter of all manual laborers studied rose into the ranks of the middle class

  14. while such upward progress was primarily the result of economic growth, public education began to provide an additional boost • by the turn of the century, more than 15 million students attended public schools, curricula had expanded, and as many as 36 cities had established vocational high schools

  15. The “New” Immigration • between 1866 and 1915, about 25 million immigrants entered the United States • the demand for labor created by industrial expansion drew immigrants, and steamships made the Atlantic crossing safe and speedy • economic disruption in many European countries, political upheaval, and religious persecution pushed this wave of immigrants to America’s shores

  16. prior to the 1880s, the bulk of America’s newcomers were western and northern Europeans • beginning in the 1880s, the sources of immigration shifted from northern and western to southern and eastern Europe

  17. New Immigrants Face New Nativism • linguistic, religious, and cultural factors, along with the physical appearance of these new immigrants, convinced many Americans that these new arrivals would not assimilate into mainstream society • old stock American workers, in addition to their existing prejudices, worried that these new immigrants undermined their job security • the majority of these “new immigrants” settled into ethnic enclaves

  18. political nativists, social Darwinists, and pseudo-scientists found the flow of immigrants alarming • labor leaders feared competition for jobs. Employers were not disturbed by the influx of workers, but many became alarmed by the supposed radicalism of the immigrants • there were some efforts to limit immigration, but substantial immigration controls were not enacted until after World War I

  19. The Expanding City and Its Problems • proponents of immigration restriction made much of crowded ethnic enclaves in cities • immigrants were drawn to cities by the jobs created by expanding industry, as were native-born Americans • industrialization alone did not account for the growth of the cities; urban centers served as commercial and transportation hubs • by the end of the century, however, the expansion of industry had become the chief cause of urban growth

  20. immigrants made up a steadily increasing proportion of the urban population • few had the resources to acquire land and farm implements • as the concentration progressed, eastern cities developed ethnic neighborhoods • these neighborhoods helped preserve traditional cultures • many native-born citizens resented the newcomers and accused them of resisting Americanization

  21. Teeming Tenements • rapid rate of city growth severely taxed, and in many cases overwhelmed, local infrastructures • problems of sewage and garbage disposal, fire protection, law enforcement, and availability of potable water supplies often reached crisis stage • overcrowding and substandard housing led to epidemics, crime, juvenile delinquency, and, at times, to the disintegration of family life • efforts to enact new building codes and to design new modes of urban housing effected little real improvement • slums bred crime; more affluent fled to suburbs

  22. The Cities Modernize • eventually the problems confronting the nation’s cities began to yield to solutions • technology contributed some of the answers • development of electric trolley lines not only allowed a city to expand outward but also eliminated much of the organic pollution of horsepower • improvements in street paving and electric lighting enhanced urban life

  23. new materials and new architectural design allowed cities to grow upward • despite these technical aids and the actions of urban reformers, the lot of the cities’ poorest denizens remained much the same

  24. Leisure Activities: More Fun and Games • the concentration of people in the burgeoning cities fostered many kinds of social, intellectual, and artistic activity impossible to maintain in rural areas • in addition to the museums and concert halls of the upper classes, city life also spawned vaudeville, burlesque houses, and the workingman’s saloon

  25. family activities could center around parks and amusement parks reached by trolley • bicycling, golf, and tennis gained popularity • cities provided the concentrations of population necessary to maintain spectator sports such as boxing, baseball, football, and basketball

  26. Christianity’s Conscience and the Social Gospel • the traditional conservative attitudes of many churches and their leaders offered little practical help to urban slum dwellers • many residents of the poorer districts were Roman Catholic; and, while the Church distributed aid to the poor, it remained unconcerned with the social causes of poverty • urban evangelists such as Dwight L. Moody urged slum dwellers to cast aside their sinful ways

  27. however, they, too, paid little attention to the causes of urban poverty and vice • a few nontraditional, primarily Protestant, clergymen began to preach a “Social Gospel” that focused on improving the living conditions of the poor, rather than on purely spiritual matters • the most influential of these was Washington Gladden

  28. The Settlement Houses • the Social Gospel movement was, for the most part, inspirational • a number of concerned people founded community centers known as settlement houses • the settlement house, constructed in the poorer districts and run by upper- and middle-class volunteers (most of whom were women), provided guidance, educational services, and legal advice to their clientele

  29. the volunteers not only provided lessons in home economics and English but also lobbied local and state governments for tenement housing laws and the construction of schools • the overall goal was to improve the plight of the disadvantaged while aiding them in assimilating into mainstream society

  30. Civilization and Its Discontents • those Americans fortunate enough to be spared the more unpleasant disruptions of industrial development by wealth, social status, or geographic isolation remained uncritical of their civilization • however, blacks, many immigrants, the poor, and a growing segment of reformers found much to lament in American society • many were troubled by the increasing gap between rich and poor • others worried that crass materialism would overwhelm traditional and spiritual values

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