Progressivism and the Gilded Age in RI



Fidele Uwiragiye, Contributor

The Progressives was a time of social crusades and political reform in the United States. It took place in the 1890s to the 1920s.The Progressive Era was mostly known for women’s rights, income tax, antitrust laws, educational reform and prohibition. In Newport, Rhode Island during 1970 through 1914 Newport earned the distinction of “America’s first resort.” Previously  Newport had been a summer resort for almost three hundred years. During the Gilded and Progressive Era Newport had received a lot of attention in the contemporary press.

Newport during this time was a resort usually for the upper class and wealthy.The Marble House was a main attraction in Newport for many families.The Marble house was a mansion which was unique in all aspects of other mansions in the United States. It was originally built as a summer cottage for Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt.They were royal people during the time and after they divorced the mansion closed for a period of time.Fortunately, the Vanderbilt’s son bought the mansion and added it to the National Register of Historic Places on September 10, 1971. The Marble House still today stays a main attraction in Newport Rhode Island. Newport’s merchants, laborers, and domestic employees depended on the summer tourist industry for their livelihood especially with the Marble house.

Few would know that Newport during the Gilded Age summers would also be host to many important African American political, business, racial, ethical,civic , exc leaders. Men, women, and families of color would travel to Newport from Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington to take place in a important meeting for uninhibited social and cultural interchange.The Gilded Gilded Age Newport also provided employment opportunities for African heritage men and women. This was a time in which African Americans were being discriminated around the world. This was significant because most were coming from the south were not much jobs were being given. If given a job African Americans would use their opportunity to flourish the American Dream. Many African Americans felt very welcomed in Newport Rhode Island.’’If there was a watering place in America where respectable, refined and well-bearing colored ladies and gentlemen have as little reason to feel their color as in Newport.” 

The Progressives Era and Gilded Age in Newport Rhode Island was a significant place. It gave tourism as a resort for the upper class. It gave African Americans more opportunity that they weren’t getting in the south. It gave them more jobs and a better chance in living the American Dream.