By Nichols, Christopher M.; Unger, Nancy C
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Additional resources for A Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
Beeby and Brian M. Ingrassia On the more utopian side of things, Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward, 2000–1887 prompted the formation of hundreds of so‐called Nationalist Clubs throughout America (and even a few overseas). Members of these societies worked to make Bellamy’s vision a reality, seeking socialist solutions for the widespread problems of modern American industrial society. Such movements—whether from rural or urban, middle‐ or working‐class origins—presaged the wide variety of self‐consciously “progressive” reforms that would sweep American society between the Depression of 1893 and the end of World War I.
After the economic turbulence of the mid‐1890s, men with roots in old‐line Yankee families turned from conservatism to progressivism in order to reassert control over religion, higher education, and the legal system. In this way, the professional classes restored their former prestige, or status (Hofstadter 1955). In the decade following publication of Age of Reform, discussion of “status anxiety” became de rigueur, spawning studies such as Joseph Gusfield’s Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement, which stressed Protestant reformers’ attempts to assert social control via anti‐alcohol crusades (Gusfield 1963).
For example, in the same year that Wiebe’s book appeared, Allen F. Davis published Spearheads of Reform, an important history of the social settlement movement. Davis kicked off his book with an account of the movement’s origins that went back to 1880s England. Toynbee Hall, typically acknowledged as the first settlement house, was founded in London in 1884. ” His book has some similarities to the work of earlier historians, such as Hofstadter, who stressed the role of professional men who were fighting back against the corruption of urban–industrial society.