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Early 20th Century: 1900 - 1940

  1. Early 20th Century Politics
  2. Early 20th Century Economic Development
  3. World War I
  4. The Great Depression

Early 20th Century Politics

As Kansas entered the 20th century, its citizens were confronted with conflicting political ideas. The Republican party in Kansas was divided between conservative Republicans and Progressives. The Progressive movement wanted to reform government and make it fairer and more accountable to the people. Among the reforms advocated by Progressives were consumer protection laws, child labor laws, juvenile courts, women's right to vote and direct primary elections.

Teddy Roosevelt, a progressive Republican, was gaining popularity on the national political scene, and his influence was felt in Kansas. Roosevelt came to Kansas twice in 1900 and made 31 speeches. He won 66% of the Kansas vote when he ran for President in 1904. The Progressives in Kansas ran Edward Hoch, editor of the Marion Record, as their candidate for Governor in 1904. Hoch defeated William Stanley, the governor at the turn of century, who was considered a moderate-conservative Republican in the Republican primary, and then won the general election by a large margin and served as Governor from 1904 to 1909. Another Progressive, Walter Stubbs, was elected as Governor in 1909. Perhaps the most famous Progressive was William Allen White, the editorial writer for the Emporia Gazette. White was known nationally for many of his controversial editorials.

In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt split with the Republican party to form the Progressive Party. The split in the Republican party between the moderate-conservatives and the Progressives allowed Democrats to gain politically and Woodrow Wilson was elected President in the 1912 election. The split was also felt in Kansas politics and George Hodges, a Democrat from Olathe, defeated Republican Arthur Capper for Governor in 1913.

Conflict was not limited to party politics in the early part of the century. Although alcohol sales had been banned in Kansas by an amendment to the state's Constitution in 1880, the law was generally ignored. In the late 1890s, the women's temperance movement, led by Carrie Nation, became active in shutting down bars and saloons that sold alcohol. She began her career of saloon smashing in Wichita and continued her efforts throughout central and southeast Kansas during 1900 and 1901. The women's suffrage movement in Kansas had campaigned for the right to vote since the beginning of statehood, and in 1912 they gained full voting privileges. 

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A carload of women suffragettes campaigning in Lawrence in the early 1900's (Photo courtesy of the Kansas State Historical Society)

The southeastern part of the state was a hotbed of left-wing political activity during the early 1900s. The Appeal to Reason, a socialist newspaper, was published in Girard by E. Julius Haldeman and circulated nationally. Other reformers included the Nonpartisan League, which began mostly as small wheat farmers protesting the grain marketing business. They asked for state ownership of terminal elevators, flour mills and packing plants, as well as hail insurance on crops. Many were treated badly and labeled as socialists and communists.

In health issues, Dr. Samuel Crumbine became one of the nation's leaders in public health and safety. He was appointed secretary of the Kansas Board of Public Health in 1904 and directed campaigns to eliminate practices that led to the spread of communicable diseases. He led efforts to use disposable drinking cups and paper towels in public places and to install screens on windows to prevent flies from entering houses.

Additional Resources

bulletRead more about Dr. Samuel Crumbine.

Study Guide Questions

  1. What reforms did the Progressives want in government?
  2. How did the Progressive movement influence politics in Kansas?
  3. What successes did the women's temperance and suffrage movements have in Kansas during this time?
  4. What other political and social movements occurred in Kansas during this time?
  5. Who was Dr. Samuel Crumbine what contributions did he make to public health?

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