The Gospel of Progressivism: Moral Reform and Labor War in Colorado, 1900–1930

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The Gospel of Progressivism: Moral Reform and Labor War in Colorado, 1900–1930
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The Gospel of Progressivism: Moral Reform and Labor War in Colorado, 1900–1930
Laird, Pamela
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Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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The Gospel of Progressivism: Moral Reform and Labor War in Colorado, 1900 | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 11:43:17 AM] Home The Gospel of Progressivism: Moral Reform and Labor War in Colorado, 1900The Gospel of Progressivism: Moral Reform and Labor War in Colorado, 1900Submitted by jainlayconley on 4-5-2011 03:57 PMAuthor: R. Todd Laugen Publishing: Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2010. Black and white images, endnotes, index. vii + 231 pages. 6 x 9. $65.00 hardcover. Reviewer: Pamela Laird Reviewer Affiliation: University of Colorado Denver We can ask no more of a study of state politics than what R. Todd Laugen provides in The Gospel of Progressivism: Moral Reform and Labor War in Colorado, 1900 Laugens insightfully conceived, deeply researched, skillfully written, and heavily illustrated volume splendidly balances the local and the national. We learn what was special about Colorados political experience a century ago as well as how that experience fit into the national context, both shaped by it and even influencing it. Moreover, Laugen weaves powerful cultural factorsespecially religion, gender, and classthrough his political analyses, thereby enriching and deepening his story. Another balance that Laugen achieves is that between political ideas, political movements, and political people. If the multifaceted story that he offers has a hero, it was Judge Ben Lindsey, who rightfully earned a national reputation for his advocacy on behalf of children and their mothers. He appears frequently in these pages, including the story of how Colorados conservatives drove him out of the state in the late 1920s. To Laugens credit, he astutely blends Lindseys downfall into the larger narrative to explain that the conservatives victory was more complicated than Evil attacking Good. That is, there was no single good but, rather, unstable alliances between good people that weakened over time because those who saw needs for reform did not always agree on either the ends or the means. For instance, during the 1920s, differences arose between women of diverse classes and ethnicities regarding sexual mores, and Lindseys own opinions increasingly exacerbated those fissures instead of closing them. One of Laugens most innovative and valuable contributions is his explanation for the disturbing rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado in the 1920s as a paradoxical consequence of Progressivisms character here. His argument that KKK leaders cynically exploited Progressive language and even some of its institutions in their rise to power raises the question of whether some of what still ails Colorado might be traced to their successes. Laugen wisely refrains from taking on this matter here, but I could not help wondering. Why, for instance, does Colorado currently rotate with the poorest states between the 48th and 49th rungs of support for higher education and other programs, such as childhood immunization? Can it be a legacy of the Klans demagogic anti-government crusades that based their initial legitimacy on Progressive efforts against government corruption? Colorados history illustrates that the old saw that religion makes a good man better and a bad man EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanNow, thats wrong! Some of these Japanese are citizens of the United States. Colorado Gov. Ralph Carrs response to Executive Order 9066 forcing Japanese into internment camps during WWII.


The Gospel of Progressivism: Moral Reform and Labor War in Colorado, 1900 | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 11:43:17 AM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us worse applies to political movements, as well. On the one hand, much of the energy and many of the principles of Progressive advocacy came from Protestant churches. Yet, Laugen explains that the link between Protestant morality and reform unexpectedly helped the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado achieve political successes in ways that eastern cities, with their greater ethnic and religious diversity, did not experience (187). For instance, in the 1924 electoral campaign, the Klan roundly defeated Robert La Follettes presidential efforts in Colorado by flogging religious and ethnic appeals at the expense of class and labor interests. Similarly, Colorados Progressives had consistently urged a combination of morality-based governance and fiscal restraint; the Klan turned that language against Progressive programs that helped women and children. The Klan also cynically manipulated reformist rhetoric and governance procedures, such as the direct primary, to destroy Progressive agencies and to pack remaining or new agencies with their own loyalists. Flagrant cronyism reigned under their watch, demolishing many reforms that womens groups and advocates like Lindsey had supported. The rhetoric of morality and efficiency flourished, while the spirit of honest government and compassion waned. Non-Coloradans too often hold the misconception that this was until recently a rural state, dominated by mountains, yeoman farmers, and cowboys. In contrast, Laugens Colorado reflects only industrial and urban Colorado. The politics of mines and smelters, packing houses and transportation, urban citizens and urban institutions dominate, while the politics of agrarian Colorado appear rarely. Yet, given how disproportionately influential rural districts are now, it seems unlikely that they were less so a century ago. Even on the subject of debates over establishing home rule for Denver, which required revising the state constitution, we hear only the voices of urban constituencies. A lively periodization debate among American historians is asking whether the Progressive Era deserves its designation. Laugen shows that here in Colorado the title was well deservedtruly a reforming rose between corrupt thorns. Political history would not have lost its appeal to so many historians had it always been instilled with the richness of cultural factors that Laugen brings to bear. He and other scholars now looking at electoral politics through various cultural lenses will surely draw our interest back to the wielding of power through governmental institutions. Politics has never looked more intriguing than in The Gospel of Progressivism Reviewer Info: Pamela Lairds publications include Pull: Networking and Success since Benjamin Franklin which won the 2006 Hagley Prize, and Advertising Progress: American Business and the Rise of Consumer Marketing She has guest edited issues of the British journal Business History and the Organization of American Historys Magazine of History She also co-edits the University of Pennsylvania book series American Business, Politics, and Society She is a past president of the Business History Conference and has received the Williamson Prize for Achievement in Business History, as well as several awards for service and achievement within the University of Colorado. Add new comment