What Reforms Did the Populists Support?

The People's Party, or Populists, as they were known, advocated for a wide array of progressive causes from the free coinage of silver to statehood for the District of Columbia and women's suffrage. Their platform was considered radical and bitterly opposed by Republicans and Democrats alike.

The Populists formed in response to the economic crisis of the 1880s. The movement began by calling for reform of industrial and farm policy, political reform to limit corruption, and an end to the gold standard, which many farmers in the South and the Great Plains saw as acting to their economic disadvantage. Eventually, the movement entered national politics, running candidates for Congress and the presidency. The national platform of the People's Party expanded on its local concerns for farmers and small businessmen but added issues of national import such as statehood for the territories and currency issues. The party's 1896 candidate for president, William Jennings Bryan, also gained the Democratic endorsement for the presidency and turned the election into a referendum on the free coinage of silver. On the national level, the movement remained silent about a number of causes that remained popular among the Populist chapters in the western territories such as voting rights for women.