Gilded Age Politics: Political Culture
3. Gender and Race
Public sphere: politics and the participation in the democratic process took place in the public
sphere. Public sphere equated with manhood and whiteness, women and blacks had limited
access to the Public Sphere.
Cross-racial alliances: “readjusters” argued that political rights could be extended to black
males in the public sphere without eliminating racial barriers in the private sphere. Dems argued
that black political power and sexual power went hand in hand, wanted to protect “white
Ida B. Wells and the Anti-lynching Movement: Lynching is associated with re-imposition of
white supremacy in the South after the Civil War. Wells described lynching as a problem of race
and gender and insisted that mob violence had more to do with economics and the shifting
social structure of the South than “mythical” black attacks on white women.
3. Gender and Race: Women’s Activism
The National Woman Suffrage Association: Founded in 1869 by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
and Susan B. Anthony. It was first independent woman’s rights organization in US. NWSA
worked to secure women’s enfranchisement through federal constitutional amendment.
Women’s Clubs: devoted themselves to civic usefulness not racial equality; endorsed an end
to child labor by supporting eight-hour work day and helped to pass pure food and drug
Temperance: women marched on taverns and saloons with bibles in their hands and singing
hymns, refused to leave until the proprietors signed a pledge to quit selling liquor. More than
10,000 women marched in more than 450 cities and towns.
-allowed to speak on these things because involved private sphere
Presidential and Congressional Politics
1. Corruption: Spoils system was driving force in party politics at all levels of government.
Many politicians bought and sold by big business. No standard of ethical behavior. A
small but determined group of reformers championed a new ethic that would stop
politicians from getting rich from public office and constitutional amendment calling for
the direct election of senators but they faced stiff competition from politicians on the take
and tons of corporate money.
2. Republican Bosses: Republican Party remained divided into factions led by strong
party bosses who boasted that they could make or break any candidate. Stalwarts (Conservatives who were against Civil Service reform), Half-Breeds (Moderates who
were for C.S. reform) and MugWumps (Radicals who wanted to reform everything).
3. Election of 1880: Republican James Garfield and Stalwart V.P. Chester A. Arthur won
the election. Garfield swamped with requests for civil service. Garfield assassinated by
Stalwart job seeker Charles Guiteau in the Summer of 1880. Arthur becomes president.
4. Civil Service Reform: - assassination led the process to condemn Republican
factionalism, Attacks on the spoils system increased.
*Pendelton Civil Service Act: (1883) established a permanent Civil Service
Commission and brought some fourteen thousand jobs under a merit system
that required examinations for office and made it impossible to remove
jobholders for political reasons. Did not end corruption.
Railroads, Trusts, and the Federal Government
1. State Regulation: The Patrons of Husbandry, or the Grange, spearheaded the
Midwestern states’ efforts to regulate the railroads. The Grange got its members elected
to state office in the 1870s and 80s, helped push through state legislation regulating the
2. Interstate Commerce Commission: Supreme Court proved hostile to state efforts to
regulate the railroads. Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Act (1887) and
created the nation’s first federal regulatory agency. Never strong enough to pose much
of a threat to the railroads.
3. Sherman Anitrust Act: Congress passed Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. It outlawed pools
and trusts and ruled that business could no longer enter into agreements to restrict
competition; did not restrict huge holding companies such as Standard Oil. Too weak
On the surface the Gilded Age was pretty and inviting, but at its core it was ugly and restrictive!!!
Promise of Gilded Age: Economic Opportunity, Social Mobility, Political Voice and Black
Reality of Gilded Age: Limited Economic Opportunity, Labor Exploitation, Political Corruption
and Jim Crow.
The Gilded Age: Industrialization and Urbanization Industrial Revolution
Transition from hand production to machines, and from wood and other biofuels to coal.
Adoption of new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes. Increased use of water
and steam power. Work moves from the home to the factory.
In 1870, 52% of America’s workforce was engaged in some type of agricultural endeavor and by
1880, agriculture work was surpassed by those engaged in industry, service or administration.
By 1890, 2/3 of Americans worked for wages. By 1913, the US produced a third of the world’s
entire industrial output.
-rise of the city (steel built city, railroads brought in people)
- industrialization and urbanization went hand and hand
This Rise of the City
A. The Urban Expansion
1. Urbanization: US grew up in the country and then moved to the city. Between 1870 and
1900, eleven million people moved into cities. Industrial jobs in the city.
2. Immigration: Geographic mobility was a large reason for massive immigration. More
than 25 million immigrants came to the US between 1850 and 1920.
- Two distinct waves: Before 1880, the majority of immigrants came from northern
and western Europe; English, Germans , Irish and Scandinavians (Old
Immigrants); After 1880, the majority came from southern and eastern Europe:
Italians, Hungarians, Eastern European Jews, Turks, Armenians, Poles,
Russians and other Slavic peoples (New Immigrants)
B. Racism and the Cry for Immigration Restriction
1. Divisions of Labor and Racial Distinctions: Ethnic diversity and racism played a role in
dividing workers into two groups: skilled workers (Old Immigrants) and unskilled workers
(New Immigrants). Each wave of newcomer was deemed inferior to established
residents. Social Darwinism decreed that whites stood at the top of the social ladder; meant that new immigrants had to Americanize and assimilate in order to become
2. Backlash against “new” Immigrants: many americans saw new immigrants as
uneducated, backward, and uncouth. Pushed for immigration restriction
3. African American Migrants: Racism relegated Blacks to poor jobs and substandard living
conditions. Segregation by law in the South, Segregation by custom in the North.
4. Chinese Immigrants: mainly on the West Cost. Shunned and viewed as scapegoats of
the changing economy and economic downturn of the 1870s by disgruntled workers.
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882: first time a U.S. law excluded an immigrant group on
the basis of race
-racism was not just a southern problem; racist beliefs throughout the country
C. The Social Geography of the City
1. The New Look of the City: mass transit transformed the walking city. The further from
the central business district, the better the neighborhood. “Cool Green Rim” (single
family homes, lawns, gardens, trees, had to pay fare to get to work)
- Social Segregation: the separation of the rich and poor, of white and non-white,
of new immigrant and old immigrant by neighborhood. Caused formation of
distinct ethnic neighborhoods (china town, little Italy, etc).
2. How the Other Half Lives: Jacob Riis documented the poverty, crowding, dirt and
disease that constituted the daily reality of New York City’s immigrant poor in his 1890
book How the Other Half Lives. Opened eyes of his readers to the conditions in the city’s
slums and the growing chasm between the rich and poor.
3. In the Ghetto: middle-class and Elites lived in the “cool green rim.” The immigrant poor
lived in unhealthy, unsafe, overcrowded tenements. Middle-class and upper-class homes
were centers of consumption, working-class home was the center of production.
- Named for the shape of their floor plans (the buildings were as wide as their lots
at the front and back, but narrower in the middle).
- Replaced older tenement buildings after 1867 New York Tenement law - While the dumbbell tenements were supposed to be more healthy than their
predecessors (which often filled their entire lots)
How one experienced the city depended on ethnicity, race and class.
At Work in Industrial America
A. Skilled and Unskilled workers
1. Common Laborers: unskilled. Human machines who used their brawn, not
expected to use their brains. Stood at the bottom of the country’s economic
ladder. Came from most recent immigrant groups.
2. Skilled Craftsmen: had a particular skill; used brain and brawn; wielded a
certain amount of power. Not particularly steady work.
3. Mechanization: employers attempted to limit workers’ control by replacing
people with machines, breaking down skilled work into smaller, unskilled tasks
which could be performed by unskilled laborers who wielded less power and
could be paid less.
B. The Family Economy: Women and Children
1. Family Economy: most working-class families, whether native-born or
immigrant, lived or near poverty. A families’ economic survival depended on the
contributions of all family members, regardless of age or sex.
2. Child Labor: in 1900 children ages 10 to 15 constituted more than 18% of the
industrial labor force. Some worked to help support their family, others were
homeless orphans who supported themselves.
3. Working Wives: in the 19 Century, the numbe