How did the Farmers' Revolt during the latter part of the Gilded Age set the stage for the Progressive Movement?
The Gilded Era was a period of rapid economic expansion and industrialization in America. The Era ushered in migration of people from Europe to America, because of the improving economy and job availability. Pay rates for skilled workers was higher in America as compared to Europe. The period also saw extensive growth in agriculture: the value and number of farms grew exponentially. The growth of farming was, however, met with considerable challenges. The farmers were suffering financially because of a series of drops in world prices for their commodities. The farmers were also being affected by a surplus of middlemen, monopoly with regards to railway transport and exorbitant warehousing. Due to their plight, the farmers protested. Their protest formed part of the basis for the progressive movement which was aimed at removing some of the impediments that affected American society. The farmers’ struggle with regards to wealth distribution and better management of the agricultural sector was among the important drivers of the progressive movement.
The Farmers' Revolt is often referred to as the populist movement. It set the stage for the Progressive Movement by advancing the idea that the big businesses needed to be reined in.
During the Farmers' Revolt, farmers criticized big businesses (like banks and railroads) for using their size to abuse the "little guy." The Progressives would later (in the early 1900s) pick this narrative up and expand on it. They would look at ways that the big businesses were exploiting not just farmers but also workers and the environment. The Progressives, then, picked up on the anti-big business message of the Populists and expanded it during the Progressive Era.