Church History

Research Article

The “Country Life Movement” and the American Churches

Merwin Swansona1

a1 Assistant professor of history in Idaho State University, Pocatello, Idaho.

The progressive movement in the United States was a complex set of reforms during the first decades of the twentieth century. Progressives like Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson focused on the control of the new economic forces in American society by regulating railroad rates or by breaking up large monopolies. Slums, political corruption, and red-light districts troubled the consciences of other progressives such as Jane Addams and Walter Rauschenbusch. These urban progressives believed that an older, rural America produced a sense of community among rural people which mitigated such social problems, and thought that community-oriented settlement houses and churches in the cities could recreate the rural feeling that individuals were a part of their neighborhoods, and urban neighbors then could attack urban problems as a community. Other progressives, such as the anti-vice committees of New York City, wanted laws to recreate the moral standards which social pressures in the old rural communities had maintained informally. The Progressive Era also included a “country life movement” which shared many of its analyses and plans for reform with the urban progressives, but applied them to rural America.