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Period 1



The Problem

The gap between the poor and the wealthy in the late 1800s and early 1900s was huge. Successful business leaders such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie were making vast amounts of wealth through the Standard Oil Company and the U.S. Steel Company. However, the workers for those businesses got little to no pay. While rich business leaders were living in large mansions with ornate decorations, the poor working classes were living in crowded, disease thriving tenements. This point in the United States’ history became known as “The Gilded Age”, because the wealth of high society masked the problems and corruption of the lower working class.

The Solutions

Movements to narrow the income gap began to spring up everywhere. Alcohol was believed to be a main cause of the problems in lower society. Groups such as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League campaigned against bars and drinking. Another thing people believed to be the source of the problem was the lack of education children were getting. In 1899, the New York Board of Education recommended increasing public education. The City of New York passed a law requiring all students between the ages of eight and twelve to attend school all of the time the public schools were in session from October to June. This form of education led many people to believe that free public education was a necessary establishment and was quite practical. By 1920, all of the states in the U.S. had passed compulsory public education laws. In the late 1800s settlement houses, which provided education and help to the working class, spread rapidly across the U.S. The Settlement House Movement, led largely in part by Jane Addams began, and gave millions of the working class a better place to live. In 1913 congress passed the Sixteenth Amendment to the constitution giving the federal government the power to tax income. This amendment took some of the wealthy's income and used it to help the poor. All of these solutions working together helped reform America and the working class.

The Images

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A crowded New York City tenement during the late 1800s






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A poster for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union shows women smashing away the evils of alcohol







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Jane Addams, a major leader of the Settlement House Movement












The Primary Sources

"As the law stands, all children between the ages of eight and twelve are required to attend school all of the time the public schools are in session from October to June. From twelve to fourteen, children may go to work provided they attend school eighty days during the school year. This latter provision is in conflict with the factory and other laws regulating child labor, which forbid the employment of children under fourteen years of age. In my judgment, the Board of Education of The City of New York should take the lead in this matter and secure legislation to make the compulsory school age extend from six to fourteen."
The New York Board of Education

"Hull House, which was Chicago's first Settlement, was established in September, 1889. It represented no association, but was opened by two women, backed by many friends, in the belief that the mere foothold of a house, easily accessible, ample in space, hospitable and tolerant in spirit, situated in the midst of the large foreign colonies which so easily isolate themselves in American cities, would be in itself a serviceable thing for Chicago."
Jane Addams

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration. "
The Sixteenth Amendment

The Citations

"The Noble Experiments." American History. ABC-CLIO Schools Subscription Web Sites. 21 February 2007 http://www.americanhistory.abc-clio.com/lessons/topics/topicdisplay.aspx?conceptid=53&subconceptid=2&fulltext=education+reform&nav=rlist

"Woman's Christian Temperance Union." American History. ABC-CLIO Schools Subscription Web Sites. 21 February 2007 http://www.americanhistory.abc-clio.com/lessons/topics/topicdisplay.aspx?relateddisplay=true&highlightid=2&entryid=253626&topic=2&conceptid=53&nav=rlist

"Jane Addams" American History. ABC-CLIO Schools Subscription Web Sites. 21 February 2007
http://www.americanhistory.abc-clio.com/lessons/topics/topicdisplay.aspx?conceptid=53&highlightid=2&nav=rlist&entryid=245370&categorytypeid=1&relateddisplay=true