I believe that the following statement the position of all women in the USA had improved by the end of the 1920’s is not true because only a small percentage of women’s lives changed, these were usually the upper or middle class and those who lived in the cities. I intend to prove my beliefs in the following paragraphs by evaluating the different aspects of their life’s, work, home, society and clothing. Work During the First world war a number of women worked for the first time, some of these jobs had previously been done by men.
Even though women proved that they could do these jobs just as well as the men, many lost their jobs when the men returned from war. Two million more women were employed in 1930 than in 1920, this was however an increase of only 1 per cent. Women achieved almost a third of all degrees by 1930, but only 4% of the professors were women. Women still tended to work in the least skilled and lowest paid jobs and men were still paid more than women for doing the same job. Women did not get much help from the government or police either.
The Supreme Court banned laws that set a minimum wage for women workers. Men were still the managers and had the jobs with the best prospects, there were however new jobs for women but they tended to be so called women’s jobs such as librarian’s teachers and nurses. Most women workers still had low paying jobs. In the new radio Industry women were the preferred employees because of their small nimble hands but one of the main reasons why employees were willing to employ women was that they could pay women lower wages than men for performing the same job.
Home On the whole these large middle classes do their own housework with few of the mechanical aids, among 10,000 farm houses only 32% had any running water at all, only 57% used washing machines and only 47% had a carpet sweeper. Women who live on farms and they form the largest group in the USA did a great deal of work besides their labour of caring for their children, washing the clothes, caring for the home and cooking, thousands of women still laboured in the fields.
Men remained the main breadwinners and women cooked cleaned and raised their children, whereas boys continued to play with guns and grew up to head their families, girls played with dolls and looked forward to careers as wives and mothers. Society After the war and during the 1920’s much changed, at least for middle and upper class women. Many taboos disappeared, women started to smoke in public: sales of cigarettes doubled during the decade. It became acceptable for women to drive, and take part in strenuous sport. Women also socialised with men more easily.
Chaperons were abandoned and the pre war waltz gave way to a more daring dance the Charleston. By the mid 1920’s women’s fashions had been transformed. Hemlines shot up. It would have been considered scandalous for a man and unmarried women to meet alone, for whatever reason. It was also socially unacceptable for women to smoke in public before the war, it was illegal in New York. Attitudes towards sex and marriage seemed to be changing a survey in 1920 found that only 31% of the college students questioned had not had sex before marriage compared to 74% of the college students questioned in 1900.
New laws made it easier for women to divorce their husbands in 1900 only 81 out of every 1000 marriages ended in divorce but by 1928 the number of marriages ending in divorce had risen to 166 out of every 1000. It now became acceptable for women to see the new superstars such as “Babe Ruth” at baseball games. There was exciting entertainment at the new cinemas built nationwide where rich and poor, men and women flocked to see Hollywood films featuring stars like Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino.
In the 1920’s middle class women had more free time, partly due to the new domestic labour saving products like vacuum cleaners. If they had a car (as many did ) they were no longer so bound to the home. For thousands of American women in rural areas, the 1920’s did not bring many changes. They continued to play traditional roles within the family . The most significant sign that the roles of women was changing was when in 1920 women had been given the vote entitling them to more political power, this change affected all women nationwide every women had the right to vote despite her status in society.
Clothing Clothes had changed, the tight waisted, ankle length, voluminous dresses of pre war days had been replaced by waistless knee length, lightweight dresses. These gave greater freedom of movement as well as being more daring. Before the war women had been expected to have long hair. After the war short hair became a sign of liberation. Make up became popular and sales boomed, led by advertisements. Flapper was a name given to a liberated urban woman. Few women would have regarded themselves as flappers but the flapper represented an extreme example of the changes that were affecting many women.
They were identified by their short skirts, bobbed hair, powdered knees, bright clothes and lots of make up. Flappers were mainly upper and middle class women from the Northern states. After carefully evaluating the evidence available concerning the way women’s life’s changed in Society, work, clothing and home I believe that it is evident that only a small percentage of women’s lives changed. These were usually the upper or middle class because they were the only ones who could afford the new mod cons e. g. vacuum cleaner resulting in them having more free time in which they could go and see the new entertainment.
Also nearly all upper and middle class women possessed a car compared to a mere 40% working class families meaning that only the upper and middle class were not bound to the home. The position of all women did not improve in the 1920’s because women in rural areas who formed the largest group in the USA did not notice many changes. The only significant change that improved the roles of all women within society was them gaining the vote in 1920, but this led to women losing their unifying cause. A vast majority of women’s life’s stayed the same.
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