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Some observers are comparing the U.S. today to the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th century, a time during which a relatively small number of financiers and entrepreneurs — the so-called Robber Barons — amassed enormous fortunes and the gap between the haves and have-nots became a yawning chasm. The Progressive Movement arose slowly during the last decade of that century and then gained national momentum during the years between Theodore Roosevelt’s ascendancy to the Presidency and the election of Warren G. Harding as President in 1920. A central aim of the Progressive Movement was to address the excesses of the Gilded Age and to bring a greater sense of equity to national life. We are living through a similar period of great income and wealth inequality. The lecture will identify how the Progressives grappled with the issue in their time — for example through establishment women’s suffrage, the graduated income tax, and the direct election of the Senate — and what we can learn from their experience and apply to today’s problems.
Steven Sinding was the director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in London. He had a 20-year career at the U.S. Agency for International Development and served as senior population advisor to the World Bank and later as director of the Population Sciences program at the Rockefeller Foundation. He was clinical professor of public health at Columbia University. Dr. Sinding serves on a number of boards and works as an international consultant.