Social Reforms

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History 203

Social Reforms

The period between 1890 and 1920 was a battlefield for social reforms. Each group was convinced that their ideology was correct and tried to infuse the public with their doctrine. Whether it be the Populists, the Progressives, or even the socialists, each party had great orators to promote their cause. Each citizen sided with the party that he believed would benefit him and his country the most.

In the early 1890's the Populist movement began in Texas. Farmers (which composed the majority of the Populists) were afraid that the recent rise of the Industrial Age would soon put them out of business. The Populists were in favor of publicly-owned railroads, communications, and banking systems because they didn't want the government to be in complete control in any aspect of their lives. They wanted their voice to be heard, so in 1892 they nominated James B. Weaver as their presidential candidate, who received over one million votes. But it was a small voice compared to the powerhouses of the democratic and republican party.

The Populists were also in favor of the free and unlimited coinage of silver. William Jennings Bryan, the icon of the Populists, is known for his "cross of gold" speech in which he declared that that he would not allow the government to "impale on a cross of gold" the common man. This referred to the "gold standard" which stated that every economic aspect was based on the fixed weight of gold. This would later become a big issue during the election of 1896.

The Progressives were formed in the late 19th century. They were groups of reformers, many of them well educated, that worked to improve the social and political problems at that time. Theodore Roosevelt and Jane Addams were the main leaders in the movement which hoped to achieve the practical equality among the citizens. The Progressives sought to regulate child labor, support women’s rights, and protect the public against corrupt business practices. In...
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