1920’s Society


Women’s Changing Roles

·       Though the ‘flapper’ represented only a tiny portion of American women – as a symbol it had a powerful impact on fashion & manners – a break from the past

·       Flappers: shorter dresses (hemlines rose from 6 inches above the ground to the knee or even higher

·       Dresses and blouses became more simpler in design

·       Bobbed or short hair cuts – tight fitting hats (cloche)

·       Woman began drinking & smoking in public (cigarette production doubled)

·       Woman moved into the work force – offices, sales, service, -- generally single women got the jobs

·       Because women usually quit when they became pregnant, employers did not train them for higher positions

·       Only 35 percent of the women voted & Jeannette Rankin of Montana was elected to the House (1st woman to serve in congress)


Cities & Suburbs

·       6 million moved from rural areas to cities

·       Industry & factories bring job opportunities

·       Immigration quotas limit immigrant labor, so employers looked to Canada & Mexico to fill low-paying jobs (countries of the Americas did not face quotas)

·       As cities built transportation systems (trolleys & rail cars) the suburbs grew

·       With the introduction of the auto – electric trolleys and such were abandoned and replaced by busses


American Heroes

·       Changing morals caused some to hunger for the good ole days – people saw smoking, drinking and revealing clothing as immoral – newspapers sensationalized crime – so people turned to heroes who had virtues of the days before the war

·       Examples: Charles Lindbergh (New York to Paris for 25 thousand dollar prize) the trip took 33 and a half hours – no sleep, Amelia Earhart, flew across the Atlantic alone, flew from Hawaii to California, and attempted to fly around the world – she disappeared – also, sports heroes surfaced, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, and so on.


Mass Media

·       Movies, Newspapers, Radio, and Jazz

·       Movies: approximately 90 million Americans went to shows each week (125 million people in the country)

·       Movies silent until 1927 (Jazz Singer w/Al Jolson was first talkie)

·       Newspapers provided gossip about the stars & heroes – though the independent newspapers were being bought out or going out of business (Hearst buying them in chains) – newspapers created a mass medium where people received their information, creating a common culture

·       Radio – first for profit station KDKA in Pittsburgh was an experiment – response was so great they broadcast regularly (20,000 radios in 1920 – home made)

·       NBC linked individual stations together to form networks – again creating common culture

·       Jazz – began in New Orleans in the early 1900’s – radio listeners were exposed and jazz became a nationwide fad, appealing to the younger people who loved to dance, 2/3 of all radio time was devoted to jazz – hence the JAZZ AGE – Harlem had 500 jazz clubs


Return to History Box

site & service provided by