Urban problems were addressed by professional social workers who operated settlement houses as a means to protect and improve the prospects of the poor.
However, efforts to place limitations on child labor were routinely thwarted by the courts.
Many historians argue that the rising, popular expectations of federal authority during this era foreshadowed the large and activist role government would assume during the Great Depression and after World War II.
The typical progressive reformer was young, college-educated, and middle-class.
Progressive reformers began to shed Victorian ideas about society, including some of the trappings of Social Darwinism.
They understood society as an organic whole, a system with interrelated parts, rather than as a set of individuals and one-to-one relationships.
Other progressive reforms followed in the form of a conservation movement, railroad legislation, and food and drug laws.
The progressive spirit also was evident in new amendments added to the Constitution (text), which provided for a new means to elect senators, protect society through prohibition and extend suffrage to women.
The Progressive Movement was an effort to cure many of the ills of American society that had developed during the great spurt of industrial growth in the last quarter of the 19th century.
The frontier had been tamed, great cities and businesses developed, and an overseas empire established, but not all citizens shared in the new wealth, prestige, and optimism.