They established an important legacy that’s treasured by
California Masons today: To encourage assimilation of immigrants into American society (and away from the influence of
bosses), progressives promoted free, quality public education
for all children. The progressive movement dovetailed even
more closely with Freemasonry when Grand Master Charles
A. Adams committed California Masons to supporting public
schools, beginning in 1920 with Public Schools Week. His program continued in the years that followed, and many have said
that Masons were the pioneers and catalyst for quality California
public education for many decades to follow.
Why would Freemasons be behind these reforms? Masons recognize that independence is possible only when one has the
skills to make his own decisions, which Freemasonry symbolizes through the study of the liberal arts and sciences. California
Freemasons promote this value through their support of universal, free education for our children.
Masonry teaches the importance of harmony, especially with
opponents, and searches to find ways to avoid partisanship that
can impede progress. The progressive movement attempted
to address these problems by changing the rules by which we
appoint our leadership, and giving the people more opportunities to voice their opinion.
As we grapple with very similar issues in today’s
California – the quality of our public schools, immigration
concerns, and tax laws – we can find lessons in these past
efforts. Equality of opportunity, an educated citizenry and the
avoidance of partisanship are Masonic values that are just as
important to the success of society today as they were during
the progressive movement of the last century.
One of the progressives’ greatest accomplishments was introducing ways for
the public to have a stronger voice than
industrial concerns or a single, influential person. The initiative, referendum,
and recall procedures, and our practice of
non-partisan judiciary appointments are
examples of this. Progressives also strengthened the direct primary law, obtained voter
approval of women’s right to vote, initiated the direct election of United States
senators, and sought to regulate monopolies
through antitrust laws that promoted fair
competition for the benefit of consumers.
To ensure government operations were run
honestly and efficiently, a state civil service commission was established to select
and retain government workers based on
ability, rather than political connections.
They strengthened and expanded the state’s
regulatory agencies by making them independent of the groups being regulated and
staffed them with honest, disinterested, and
California progressives sought scientific, medical, and engineering solutions
to address the perceived ills of society. To
protect workers, they established an effective state labor commissioner and made a
number of labor improvements, including
adopting eight-hour work days for women,
establishing child labor laws and workers’ compensation insurance, setting a
minimum wage, and initiating an industrial
welfare commission to address sweat shops.