The Gilded Age was a time of excess, corruption, greed, and selfishness. The most obvious faults of this era were a lack of compassion, and empathy for other human beings. Masses of unskilled immigrants had entered the country and the resulting lack of employment and subsequent reduced living standards brought about terrible urban squalor.
The reaction to this situation became known as "The Progressive Era". By 1890, many journalists started to write about the awful urban poverty, filth, political corruption, and child labor issues. These journalists became known as "Muckrakers".
The Progressives wanted to clean up the cities, insure reasonable living conditions, and promote efficiency in factories and businesses. Philanthropy was to take the place of gilded age excess and selfishness.
In politics, Progressives wanted suffrage for women (the right to vote), and prohibition of alcoholic beverages. They also wanted to break up political machines, and eliminate corruption in the police forces.
The most famous novel to come out of this era was Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Sinclair's book exposed the terrible working conditions experienced by laborers in America's factories.
The Progressives introduced the idea that governments could help solve social problems and perhaps improve people's lives.
South America is southwest of Europe.