Progressive reformers attempted to reshape American society in the late Nineteenth into the Twentieth Centuries. Three distinct areas, the Temperance movement, the Food and Drug Laws and the Child Labor Laws are contrasting but characteristic examples of the struggles, successes and failures that Progressives faced during this period. As with all complex movements consisting of disparate groups with at times contrasting points of view, it is difficult to generalize regarding this attempt at reconstruction. But the Progressives, for better or worse, did have a profound effect upon American society that is still being felt today. McGerr mainly considers the actions of the middle class as no other group “advocated the full range of progressive positions as much as the middle class did” (McGerr, 2005). This was none more the case than within the Temperance movement. The temperance movement had quite a simple aim in mind. It sought to greatly reduce the amount of alcohol consumed, or, as was increasingly its aim, to ban alcohol entirely. The Movement started, at least during this period, with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which established the Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction in many schools and colleges throughout the country. There was a purely rational and calculating method behind this attempt to convince young people of the evils of alcohol. Mary Hunt (the National Superintendent)  stated that people “must first be convinced that alcohol and kindred narcotics are by nature outlaws, before they will outlaw them”. The temperance movement was linked to the overall progressive movement through the fact that many drunken husbands beat their wives and families. Domestic violence was an example of the abuse of women’s rights, and so it was sensible for the progressive movement to support the temperance movement, even if some of the more religious and purely moralistic reasoning behind some temperance advocates were alien to them. The temperance movement was, at least temporarily highly successful. It is linked closely to the eventual passage of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, which banned alcohol within America. The advocacy of “temperance” regarding alcohol had led to the “prohibition” of alcohol just as Hunt had forecast. The temperance movement is an excellent example of how idealism combined with a good degree of shrewd political pragmatism could bring about change. The fact that the 18th Amendment was short-lived and that alcohol consumption was merely drive underground rather than being stopped somewhat dampens any claim for long-lasting success for the movement however. Prohibition also led to the rise of organized crime in many cities, again not exactly on the Progressive agenda. Most of all, the United States consisted of people who mostly did not want to ban alcohol consumption, however they had been temporarily persuaded otherwise. In contrast to the temperance movement, one cause of the progressive movement, that of introducing stricter food and drug laws to the United States, has survived and even expanded into the modern day. As McGerr suggests, a single books such as Upton Sinclair’s exposure of the disgusting, unsanitary practices at Chicago meat-packing plants  led at least in part to the enactment of the “Pure Food and Drug Act” and the “meat Inspection Act” in 1906. These Acts were an example of how the progressive movement could call a purely capitalist system to task and show that at least some degree of government intervention, oversight and even control was needed. A similar situation was seen within the child labor laws, that were brought about after progressives exposed the terrible conditions that even very young children worked in. Exposing these conditions through written descriptions by excellent writers and, most powerfully, through telling photographs of children at work, galvanized public support for changes in the law.  Lewis Hines produced unforgettable pictures of children at work. They were unforgettable because they were so sad, and brought guilt to nearly all Americans who saw them. This element within the Progressive Movement unapologetically used emotion to achieve what McGerr states they were looking for, namely “to change other people; to end class conflict; to control big business”.  The Child Labor laws that were introduced were in part an attempt to alleviate the terrible conditions experienced by many children and also, in the long run, to give them a chance at gaining the education that would allow them to rise above their low origins. Child Labor laws were thus part of the attempt bridge social gaps between the rich and the poor through enabling the poor to rise and by punishing the rich for their more exploitative practices. Essentially, they may be seen as part of the progressive agenda to make everyone middle class. Yet once again there was a very practical element to the method that these groups used. The National Consumers’ League was formed in 1899 and the National Child Labor Committee in 1904, both stemming from the work of the Working Women’s Societies. As with many progressive causes, movement towards actual change was at first slow and met with many failures before it finally succeeded. Federal regulations were declared unconstitutional in 1916, failed to become law in 1924 and initially in 1937. Finally, in 1938 the federal regulation of child labor was gained through the Fair Labor Standards Act. This set a minimum age for employment and set maximum hours that children were to work within federal law. It took more than thirty years since the first societies were initially set up for the movement to succeed. However, child labor laws have been strengthened ever since this time and have now become an unchallenged part of the American landscape. In this sense the Progressive movement was ahead of its time, pushing American to live out its promises to its most vulnerable citizens: children. Once again, pragmatism mixed with idealism succeeded, and unlike the temperance movement, its results were permanent rather than temporary. To conclude, McGerr ends his book by saying that the “basic lesson” is that “reformers should not try too much”. Perhaps this can be adapted to say that reformers should pick their causes carefully and then try as much as possible. Having too broad a range of objectives may be self-defeating. But picking a cause, such as child labor, that most rational human beings would consider the progressives possess the correct ethical stance on, is a way of advancing the agenda successfully.  At times, as is evidenced by the First World War and the defeat for the idea of government regulation that came from it, the progressive movement (as are all political movements) is influenced by matters beyond its control. The best laid plans may well come awry because of unforeseen or unpredictable circumstances. Works Cited McGerr, Michael. A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920. Oxford University Press, London: 2005.