Why The Gilded Age?

I have loved writing for my blog Saints, Sisters, and Sluts, and will continue to do so, but not everything that interests me fits in there. I have become increasingly interested in the late 19th and early 20th century. Mainly the period from the end of the Civil War to around 1920. I wanted a place to write about things other than women’s history, so this is it. I won’t promise that I’ll stay strictly within the boundaries, but it seems that the Gilded Age was in many ways about testing and moving beyond boundaries, so I’ll be flexible.

Why the Gilded Age?

Between the Civil War and the World War I, the United States went from being a torn and bleeding country to being a world power. So many things happened and so many things changed. The transcontinental railroad was finished; the Panama Canal was finished by the US when the French had failed; women made their voices heard in a big way demanding education, the vote, and temperance. Electricity in homes became a reality along with the telephone and cars. It seemed like the sky was the limit and the population was exploding with immigrants wanting to take advantage of the opportunities that the country had to offer.

Everything seemed new and exciting. But there is another side to this time period. Mark Twain named the age when he wrote a novel about it, “The Gilded Age,” not the Golden Age where everything is prospering and happy, but the Gilded Age, beautiful until you look more closely. Life wasn’t grand for everyone. The industrial explosion brought working conditions that were brutal, very long days, 6 – 7 days a week, pitiful wages, and child labor. Labor Unions arose to speak for the worker; corruption was rampant in government; and there were no controls on industry. And of course, there was the western expansion and the brutal toll it took on the Native Americans. “Manifest Destiny” and Money talked.

This was a time of contrasts and I think that is one reason why it intrigues me. We have very wealthy men, settlement houses, muckrakers, western pioneers, socialists, anarchists, society mavens, and the list goes on. There is certainly nothing boring about this period of our history. There are also some similarities to the time we live in now. Join me as I explore.

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