Why did Populist leader Mary E. Lease urge farmers "to raise less corn and more hell?"
First, it should be noted that some scholars believe that Lease did not coin this expression, rather adopting it from a newspaper editor. In any case, Lease was a lifelong advocate for social justice causes, focusing in particular on woman suffrage. But in the 1890s, she was a major figure in the Populist movement, railing in particular against the power of Wall Street and the entrenched financial interests on the East coast that, she argued, had bent the nation's economic policy in their favor. "Wall Street," she claimed, "owns the country." In speeches throughout her home state of Kansas in 1890, she pushed for the formation of a "People's Party" out of the more diffuse Farmer's Alliance. This statement, a rather catchy slogan, was typical of Lease's position that farmers needed to become politically active and aware in order to defend their interests.