This is a good question. It is first important to know who Francis Townsend was. Francis E. Townsend was born on January 13, 1867 and lived until September 1, 1960. He was a medical doctor, but he was most famous for this financial work during the Great Depression. During this difficult economic time, he proposed a revolving pension plan and it was called by his name, the Townsend Plan. His plan suggested that people over 60 should get a 200 dollar pension. Moreover, this was supposed to be financed by a Federal tax on commercial transaction. He gained a lot of supporters on a national level and this made the U.S. government aware of the importance. These followers were Townsendites.
His plan was not ultimately adopted, but he forced president Roosevelt to create his own social security act. Roosevelt's was not as generous as the Townsend plan, but at least the government was proactive in this area.