Crane and Roosevelt: The Social Environment to Reform


Cambri Spear

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

USU Student Showcase

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Faculty Mentor

Evelyn Funda


The Progressive Era prompted significant social and political reform in New York City's slums, and well as controversy over the best way to reform. Stephen Crane's 1893 novella Maggie: A Girl of the Streets epitomizes the reform mindset of the period. Maggie portrays an immigrant girl who is seduced and ruined by an Irish bar owner. Consequentially, her family disowns her, and she dies as a prostitute. In Maggie Crane depicts the social environment that constrains the socioeconomic opportunities of immigrants in the tenements. The novella not only depicts the need for reform, but also Crane's frustration with reformers who overlook the individual, the "Maggies," in an attempt to aid "the other half." In 1896 Theodore Roosevelt, the newly-instated police commissioner, came in contact with Crane through literary circles. Though Roosevelt attempted to restructure the police department, which had been corrupted by Tammany Hall, Crane remained frustrated with the behavior and management of the police force, writing about their misbehavior in several news articles. When Crane voluntarily defended Dora Clark, a known prostitute, in court for being wrongfully arrested, Roosevelt severed all ties with the novelist, later claiming him to be a man of bad moral character. In my presentation, I will analyze Crane's reactions to Roosevelt's management of the police force, as well as their reform philosophies, which include differing definitions of "moral obligation."

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