“The disintegration of American values was reflected in manners and morals that shook American society to the depths.” (Leuchtenburg) The 1920’s was an era in which the Americans showed their independence through actions; learning not to live the same ways that those preceded them had. The ’20s was a cultural and socialistic rebellious attitude, decomposing past American ethics and beliefs.
The most obvious rebellion is shown by the feminine movements during this time. The 1920’s led to a new role for American women, in which females desperately tried to rid themselves of Victorian roles they had played in the past. In an effort to become modern and masculine, the “flapper” led to newly recognized rights for females in the male fields. The flappers showed their rebellion by wearing short skirts that in previous years would have been entirely inappropriate dress for women. Rebellion was also shown by the increased number of females working in public offices, obtaining jobs, attending colleges, and having leading roles in professional careers (events that were practically unheard-of fifty years earlier.) Women professionals increased 50 percent, while married working women increased 30 percent.
With the suffrage movement in 1920, women started out the ’20s with a passion for independence and political and social rights. Women lived by themselves, proving absolute independence from men. They, who had once been thought of as men’s property solely to perform the acts of cleaning and cooking, were revolting against their title of “exclusive possession.” Once the rebellion against stay-at-home wives had started, women who still fulfilled that role felt compelled to apologize that they were not out working alongside men in the job world. (Leuchtenburg) Marriage was also a way to rebel; women who were unhappy in marriages felt that they had the right to divorce their husbands; this act more then doubled between the years of 1914 and 1929. Divorce, once thought to be completely immoral, was becoming quite common. All these factors show that the female race was using the 1920’s to revolt against issues they had previously disagreed with, but never had the courage to address.
The 1920’s brought a breakdown in ethics. Couples went further in publicly showing their affection for each other. Sex was a common discussion topic, not only for women but young girls. Suggestive topics were broadcasted all over the radios, movies, and newspapers. Parties were no longer chaperoned, and parents no longer had knowledge about their daughters’ actions. The fact that individuals during this time were so free with their sexual favors proves the fact that people during this time wanted to show their capability at making decisions for themselves. (Leuchtenburg)
One may argue that the 1920’s was not an era of social and cultural rebellion, and bring up the opinion that the dresses the flappers wore were efforts to save money. (Shannon) This is possible, but in order to feel completely at ease at wearing what would have been considered (only a decade earlier) an outrageous outfit, the women would have had to rebel. One might also say that the reason why there were increased numbers of women attending college was not the fact that they were rebelling to prove their equality with men, but rather because it was the first time they could ever afford such an education. This is untrue; debt was so high in the ’20s that most families would have been unable to afford a college education.
During the 1920’s, the economy grew into a consumer economy, one that revolved around the ability of the citizens to consume products. In order to make it easy for the people to do this, credit was developed. With the innovation of credit, many people became in debt, and consumer debt rose a total of 250 percent. Personal debt rose 2.5 times faster then personal income, and people just didn’t have money to spend it on an education solely for the reason of becoming educated. However, in order to show their equality, women would have been more willing to put a college education on credit.
In conclusion, the Roaring Twenties was a time of serious cultural and social rebellion. People wanted to live their lives they way they chose; they wanted to show their independence and ability to make decisions, and not live by the beliefs of their predecessors.
Courtney from Study Moose
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