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Women in the 1920's


Women in the 1920's: The varied roles of Women in the 1920s.

Definition and Summary of the Women in the 1920's
Summary and definition:
The role of women in society had taken a massive leap forward In 1920 when all women were given the right to vote. The roles of American Women in the 1920s  varied considerably between the 'New Woman', the Traditionalists and the older generation. The 'New Woman', including the young Flappers, embraced new fashions, personal freedom and new ideas that challenged the traditional role of women.

The Traditionalists feared that the ' New Morality' of the era was threatening family values and the conventional role of women in the home. The lives of Black American Women in the 1920s were also subject to change due to the influence of the Harlem Renaissance and the change from rural to urban life in the cities.

Whatever their views, beliefs and situations, women in the 1920s were all effected by the rise of Consumerism in America and were influenced by mass advertising campaigns via magazines, newspapers, the radio and the movies. The Roaring Twenties heralded a period of prosperity for many and access to electricity provided American women with the power required to run new labor saving appliances and enjoy the new inventions and innovations of the period.

Women in the 1920s Facts for kids: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Famous Women in the 1920s.

What were the roles of Women in the 1920s?
The roles of Women in the 1920s varied considerably. The majority of women remained in the traditional role of housewife. However, the number of working women increased by 25% as a result of the work they had undertaken during WW1. Roles of 1920's women in the workplace included factory workers, secretaries, salesclerks and telephone operators. The number of women attending college rose to 10% of the population by the end of the 1920's.

Who were famous Women in the 1920s? Famous  Women in the 1920s included movie stars such as Marlene Dietrich, Mary Pickford, Theda Bara and Gloria Swanson. Celebrities such as Zelda Fitzgerald, fashion designers such as Coco Chanel, writers such as Edith Wharton and Dorothy Parker, artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and ground breakers and intellectuals such as Margaret Mead and Florence Sabin

Who were famous African American Women in the 1920s? Famous African American Women in the 1920s included Josephine Baker, Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Adelaide Hall, Ma Rainey and Lena Horne.

Facts about Women in the 1920's
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Women in the 1920's.

The 19th Amendment: The 19th Amendment was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919 and was ratified on August 18, 1920 and the Women's Suffrage Clause gave the right of women to vote. For facts about the women who worked so hard to achieve this refer to Women's suffrage

Impact of WW1: The attitude and role of women changed during WW1, as many women took on the jobs of men. The influence and expectations of women, and their roles in society, increased during the 1920's.

The 'New Women': The 'New Women' of the 1920's had been given the right to vote, were able to obtain college degrees, learned to drive and went to work.

The Roaring Twenties: The end of WW1 ushered in a new era in which people with money wanted to enjoy themselves - it was called The Roaring Twenties (1920-1929). The events of WW1 had left many young women disillusioned and led them to question traditional morality and values which resulted in the rebellious behavior of the Flappers.

Flappers: The Flappers of the 1920's represented Modernism and typified the clash of values and the changing status of women of the new era.  The free-spirited Flappers flouted convention, cut their hair, listened to jazz and scandalized the older generation. The independent, exuberant and unconventional attitudes of the Flappers challenged the traditional ideas by wearing short skirts, bobbed hairstyles, make-up and cosmetics. Flappers began drinking and smoking in public and became sexually liberated during the 1920's.

Fashion: Most women in the 1920s, not just the young Flappers, abandoned traditional, restrictive women's clothes, such as long dresses and tight corsets, to free themselves of the shackles of the Victorian era. For comprehensive facts refer to 1920's Fashion for Women

Hairstyles: The long hair, traditionally worn by women, was cut into a 'Bob'. These modern, short hairstyles symbolized the independent and modern women of the 1920's. There were several different bob hairstyles including the 'Dutch boy' bob, the 'Marcel wave', the Castle Bob, the Eton Crop and the 'Shingle' bob.

The Jazz Age: The Jazz Age expressed the unconventional ideas and lifestyles of the 1920's. The term was coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of the Great Gatsby,  to describe the flamboyant "anything goes" era. The Jazz Age is associated with modernism, exuberance, sophistication, consumerism, decadence and the introduction of jazz music. For additional facts refer to the Jazz Age.

Jazz Music: Jazz music developed in the speakeasy cellars in the cities of New York and Chicago combining elements of Blues, Ragtime and Dixie music. Jazz music was characterized by improvisation and syncopation and introduced during the Harlem Renaissance. Jazz music was introduced to Americans due to the introduction of large-scale radio broadcasts in 1922 and by the end of the 1920's became mainstream. Jazz music led to the creation of new dance styles in the 1920's.

Dance: Jazz music inspired new, crazy, flamboyant dance moves. New dances evolved, which were eagerly learnt by the young women and Flappers of the era. The new, exuberant dance moves required considerable freedom of movement and this influenced the convenient, less constricted fashion of women in the 1920's. The names of the dances included the Charleston, the Black Bottom, the Shimmy, the Turkey trot, the Cake walk, the Bunny hop and the Lindy Hop.

Harlem Renaissance: The Harlem Renaissance not only inspired musicians and singers but also writers, poets and artists. The period of WW1 had been a time of great upheaval for African American women who left their rural homes and life styles for boisterous, urban city life in cities such as New York and Chicago. The Harlem Renaissance was a flowering of pride in African American culture embracing literary, musical and visual arts. African American women gained fame as writers, poets, artists and singers during this era. For additional facts and info refer to the Harlem Renaissance.

Consumerism: American Consumerism increased during the Roaring Twenties due to technical advances and innovative ideas and inventions. Consumerism encouraged the attainment of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts

Labor Saving Devices: New labor saving appliances and devices became available to women in the 1920's such as new cookers, electric irons, refrigerators, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners and gave women more time for leisure. Luxury items such as radios and phonographs also became available.

Mass advertising: Mass advertising and clever marketing techniques via the 1920's radio and newspapers saw a massive increase in sales via easy consumer credit. Americans were persuaded to buy all types of products from coffee to cosmetic products. Advertisers preyed on the fears and anxieties of women or promoted the benefits of the products such as convenience, fashion and style. Americans who were once "thrifty and prudent" bought  expensive goods on credit.

Divorce: Divorce was made easier in the 1920's. Women in the 1920's were not content just to stay at home and put up with bad husbands and the number of divorces doubled in America

List of Famous African America Women - Poets: Famous female poets included Georgia Douglas Johnson, Gwendolyn Brooks, Angelina Weld Grimké and Gwendolyn B. Bennett.

List of Famous African America Women - Artists: Famous female artists included Lois Mailou Jones, Laura Wheeler Waring, Charles Alston, Meta Fuller, and Augusta Savage.

List of Famous African America Women - Writers and Authors: Famous female writers and authors included ‎Zora Neale Hurston, Dorothy West, Nella Larsen, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Gwendolyn B. Bennett and Georgia Douglas Johnson.

List of Famous African America Women - Singers: Famous female singers and entertainers included ‎Ella Fitzgerald, Adelaide Hall, Lottie Gee, Ethel Waters, Edith Wilson, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday and Lena Horne.

List of Famous American Women Artists: Famous white female artists included Georgia O'Keeffe, Emily Burling Waite, Fern Coppedge, Pauline Bliss Williams, Ella Wood, Anne Ryan, Bessie Wessel, Genevieve Goth Graf, Gertrude Nason, Juliana Force and Jennie Lewis.

List of Famous American Women Poets, Writers and Authors: Famous white female poets, writers and authors included Léonie Adams, Olivia Ward Bush, Hilda Doolittle, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Zelda Fitzgerald, Ethel Romig Fuller, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Helene Johnson, Muna Lee, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore, Ruth Moore, Lorine Niedecker, Mary Oppen, Dorothy Parker, Laura Riding, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Anne Spencer, Leonora Speyer, Gertrude Stein, Sara Teasdale, Viola S. Wendt, Edith Wharton, Charlotte Wilder and Marya Zaturenska

College: The number of women attending college rose to 10 per cent of the population by the end of the 1920's. Other famous American women in the 1920's made significant contributions to law, science and medicine. Some entered successful careers in sports, politics and industry.

Marie Luhring: Henry Ford and the Model T automobile changed America. Between 1909 -1927 15 million Model T cars had been sold. Women learned how to drive which gave them a strong sense of freedom and independence. In 1920 Marie Luhring became the first woman in America to become an automotive engineer in America.

Edith Wharton: Edith Wharton became the first woman in America to win the Pulitzer Prize for
her novel The Age of Innocence.

Margaret Sanger: In 1921 Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League aiming to improve the lives of women and families.

Nellie Taylor Ross: In 1925 Nellie Taylor Ross was elected the 14th Governor of Wyoming.

Florence Sabin: Medical research conducted by Florence Sabin led to a dramatic drop in death rates from tuberculosis.

Margaret Mead: In 1928 Margaret Mead, one of the first woman anthropologists, published
Coming of Age in Samoa describing life in a Pacific island culture.

Rebecca Felton: In 1922 Rebecca Felton was sworn in as the first woman to serve in the United States Senate.

Phoebe Omlie: Phoebe Omlie was an American aviation pioneer and became the first, licensed pilot in 1927.

Amelia Earhart: Amelia Earhart was another American aviation pioneer and she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic ocean in 1932

Genevieve R. Cline: In 1928 Genevieve R. Cline was the first woman appointed as a United States federal judge

Gertrude Ederle: Gertrude Ederle was an American competition swimmer and Olympic champion. In 1926 became the first woman to swim across the English Channel.

Mary Pickford: Mary Pickford became a powerful women in the Hollywood Movie industry as a co-founder of the United Artists movie studio with Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and Douglas Fairbanks. Refer to Hollywood in the 1920s

Zelda Fitzgerald: Zelda Fitzgerald was an American novelist, the wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, and was a highly influential figure in the 1920's and symbolized the flapper spirit.

US American History
1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition

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