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The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Topic: MemoryTopic: ProgressTopic: PeopleTopic: PowerTopic: Empire
Topic: Empire: Manifest Destiny and Beyond
Toolbox Overview: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Resource Menu: Empire
Text 1. Frederick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American History
Text 2. Stephen Crane, The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky
Text 3. The Future of the Red Man
Text 4. William F. Cody and John M. Burke, Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World
Text 5. The New Frontier, Albert Beveridge and William Jennings Bryan
Text 6. Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life
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Text 7. The White Man's Burden
Text 8. Mark Twain, To the Person Sitting in Darkness, The Dervish and the Offensive Stranger
Text 9. Aguinaldo's Case Against the United States
Text 10. Two Wars, Memorial Day, The Twelve-Inch Gun

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Reading Guide
Theodore Roosevelt, 1903
Roosevelt, 1903
Theodore Roosevelt, "The Strenuous Life," address, 10 April 1899

During this period various critics worried that American society was losing its masculine vigor. Several causes engendered this anguish: the closing of the frontier; the increasing dominance of women's taste in art, literature, and culture in general; and the conflict between domestic values and those of the marketplace. This worry is an implicit theme in Frederick Jackson Turner's essay. How will the American character—and Turner's conception of it is decidedly masculine—maintain its vitality now that the frontier, the source of that vitality, is gone? Jack London contrasts robust masculinity with cerebral intellectuality in "South of the Slot." And Simon Pokagon suggests that white men could use an infusion of hearty Indian blood. In his speech "The Strenuous Life," delivered before a Chicago men's club, Theodore Roosevelt not only addressed this worry but also explored its implications for American foreign policy—the U.S. had just signed the treaty ending the Spanish-American War, and the three-year Philippine-American War had just begun. His language is personal and psychological, his conclusions political and military. 6 pages.

Discussion questions
  1. What is the purpose of Roosevelt's speech?
  2. What is his argument? Is it convincing?
  3. What rhetorical strategies does he use?
  4. How does he make a connection between the personal and the political?
  5. How does he define the strenuous life for women?
  6. How does Roosevelt use the Civil War in his speech?
  7. What is his attitude to business?
  8. How does he justify American intervention in the West Indies and the Philippines?

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  How was the West incorporated into the nation?
  •  How did Americans respond to the nation's changing role in world affairs at this time?
  •  How did issues and concerns at home shape American policies and actions abroad?
  •  How did America project its power beyond its own borders?

Toolbox: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Memory | Progress | People | Power | Empire

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Revised: May 2005