The term progressive has been around since before the industrial revolution.
The Progressive Era, starting in the 1890s, saw rising support for civil liberties and the working class and a growing distaste toward the laissez-faire economics of the time. This was happening across the world, from Europe to South America, in all industrializing nations.
Progressivism continued growing into the 1900s; around this time ideas like women’s suffrage, ending government corruption, increasing education, and protecting the environment became areas of focus for the movement.
In the 21st century it has come to represent supporters of racial equality and rights for minorities as well as the centuries old idea that there should be regulations on the free market to mitigate economic inequality. Other progressive issues are health care reform, increasing the minimum wage, strong environmental protections, and income equality.