Between 1890 and 1920, what were the differences between progressive and populist reformers?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Between 1890 and 1920, there were two major reform efforts in the United States. One was tied to the Populist movement while the other was tied to the Progressive movement.  While the Populists introduced some ideas that were eventually enacted by Progressive reformers, there were some differences between the two movements.  The Populist movement was mainly a movement to help farmers improve their conditions. Farmers were struggling with low crop prices and high debt.  They believed the banks and railroads treated them unfairly.  They wanted financial policies that would increase the money supply and lower interest rates.  Middle class reformers, on the other hand, led the Progressives. Many were professionals and included journalists, teachers, and politicians.  They wanted to reform society for the poor and working classes. They believed unregulated businesses treated workers poorly.  They wanted laws which leveled the playing field for all and which protected the middle and poorer classes of people.  The Progressives were very successful in getting many changes enacted into law. The Populists had much fewer successes in getting new laws or policies passed.  While the goals of the two groups had some similarities, there were some differences that existed between the two reform movements.

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