I just read a very interesting article by Thomas C. Leonard, Protecting Family and Race: The Progressive Case for Regulating Women's Work, which appeared in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in July 2005. If you're at all interested in Progressive Era economists' and reformers' attitudes toward working women, this article is a must read. More generally, Leonard, in this and other pieces, notes that many Progressive Era reformers supported "protective" labor legislation even though they knew that it would lead to unemployment, especially among women, immigrants, and African-Americans. Rather than being disturbed by this side effect of the legislation, many reformers argued that the disemployment caused to these groups was a social benefit, because it prevented "inferior" workers who were willing to accept low wages because of their low consumption from driving down wages for a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male workers, who needed higher wages to support themselves and their families. This article can be usefully read in conjunction with my Michigan Law Review review essay, Lochner's Feminist Legacy.
UPDATE: Contrary to the tenor of the discussion in the comments, the point of this post has nothing to do with modern debates over labor regulation, much less "progressive" (small p) politics in general. I don't happen to believe that modern liberals are direct descendants of Progressive era reformers; if they were, for example, in law, Griswold, Roe, and Lawrence and Brown (!), for that matter, would have all come out the other way. But there is a tendency, reflected in posts from both sides in the comments, to read the current political spectrum backwards into a very different era, to assume that 1910s "Progressives" were more or less the same as modern "progressives." The overall Progressive ideology of the early 20th century was one that is basically defunct today, yet we still often see historical events through a Progressive lens. In my own area of academic interest, the Progressive era critiques of the Supreme Court's pre-New Deal jurisprudence still dominate many discussions of legal. Yet, for example, does anyone nowadays actually bemoan the demise of the National Industrial Recovery Act in the Schechter case?