The New Woman 1920s Essay Question

Women's Role In 1920

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In the 1920's women's roles were soon starting to change. After World War One it was called the "Jazz Age", known for new music and dancing styles. It was also known as the "Golden Twenties" or "Roaring Twenties" and everyone seemed to have money. Both single and married women we earning higher- paying jobs. Women were much more than just staying home with their kids and doing house work. They become independent both financially and literally. Women also earned the right to vote in 1920 after the Nineteenth Amendment was adopted. They worked hard for the same or greater equality as men and while all this was going on they also brought out a new style known as the flapper. All this brought them much much closer to their goal.
In the 1920's the term flapper referred to a "new breed" of women. They wore short skirts and dresses which were straight and very loose. The arms were left bare and the waistline was dropped to the hips. By 1927 the length of the skirts had rose just below the knee which when they danced would be shown. The chests appeared to look very small and women would tape themselves to look even smaller. Bras were also sold to make them appear very small. Their hairstyles were cut very short and were known as a bob, another popular style that was later introduced was the "Eaton" or "Shingle". These styles had slicked the hair back and covered the ears with curls. Women started wearing "kiss proof" lipstick in shades of red, their eyes were ringed a dark black color, and their skin was powered to look very pale. One of the big things with the flappers were that they smoked cigarettes through long holders and drank alcohol openly in public now. They also started dating freely and danced all night long very provocatively. Jazz music was rising in population and the flappers brought it out even more. Not all women changed into becoming a flapper, yet the little numbers impacted the 1920's in a huge way.

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Many women just adopted the style for the easy convenience when working. Margaret Sanger, was concerned about women who lacked knowledge of contraception, and then led the battle for birth control. She dealt with legal, religious, and societal barriers but soon made women think about accepting and using birth control. Many states modified divorce laws to protect women's rights. Women attended college and worked, but they still earned less money than men and were excluded from many management positions.
During World War One many women were thought to only serve their country and give it its every need. The American Federation of Labor was not supportive of working women. They did not want women competing for men's jobs. Women took any jobs they could get and earned very low wages. But throughout the 1920's about fifteen percent of normal wage-earning women became professionals. During the 1920s, one in four women over the age of sixteen we a part of the work force. Also in the 1920s the number of women working rose by fifty percent. When women began earning their own money they realized they now had money to spend on extra stuff like clothes. Most of the working women were single and white, yet the percentages of the others, like married or different races, were increasing slowly. A lot of businesses were prejudice against women getting professional jobs. Most hospitals refused to hire female doctors and legal firms refused to hire them as lawyers. Women were still not getting paid near as equally as men and were expected to quit their jobs if they got married or pregnant. As workers they were more influenced by society and realized they the women needed to make a change in their society.
Women's independence soon began to explore in the activeness in society. Soon politics were on the things to accomplish list of many females. Women were developing into political and social activists who worked with the public means to reform what they could to society. They formed many groups and a lot were strictly women to work together on their goals. Working in only female groups also proved to the men they could do it on their own with out any man's help. For seventy-two years women fought for the right to vote and on August 26, 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified and women could vote in all elections. Very few women voted at first . Three reasons why women didn't want to vote was: 1. They had children to look after and it made it to hard to get to the polls to vote. 2. The women's families discouraged them. 3. Some just didn't feel comfortable. But the habit began to develop and more and more women started to vote. Women soon started working together to win political offices. By 1928, there were 145 women in thirty-eight state legislatures. In 1923 the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced to congress, it stated that "men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction." Some reformers opposed the Equal Rights Amendment because it would make the laws requiring special working conditions for women unconstitutional. The Women's Rights Movement also encouraged equality for women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Coffin Mott felt women were treated unfairly and decided to do something about it all. Their motivation to follow through with the actions gave us women the equal rights we were entitled to as American citizens. These three women encouraged lots of other women to be heard and fight for their equality.
Women's roles were constantly changing and have not stopped still to this day. Women's roles today are outside the home and active members in society, and not just their communities. Women's roles have evolved from local to widespread, from producer to consumer, and from homebound to community oriented. Many changes of the women's role in society, economy, and politics can be tracked back to around the 1920's.



The dawn of the twentieth century witnessed changes in almost every aspect of the day-today lives of women, from the domestic sphere to the public. The women's movement, with its emphasis on advocacy of equal rights, newly formed women's organizations, and the rise of a new generation of female artists, photographers, and professionals, transformed the traditional patriarchal social structure across the globe. Followed closely by the advent of World War I, these social shifts, which had been set in motion at the beginning of the century, developed further as women were propelled into the workforce, exposing them to previously male-dominated professional and political situations. By the midpoint of the twentieth century, women's activities and concerns had been recognized as a significant element of the literary, scientific, and cultural landscape of several countries, marking a revolutionary change in the social and domestic roles of women.

The end of the nineteenth century saw tremendous growth in the suffrage movement in England and the United States, with women struggling to attain political equality. The suffragists—who were often militant in their expressions of protest—presented a sometimes stark contrast to the feminine ideal of the era, which portrayed women as delicate, demure, and silent, confined to a domestic world that cocooned them from the harsh realities of the world. Despite many challenges English and American women eventually won the right to vote, in part due to the changed perception of women's abilities following World War I. As men were called to war, companies that had previously limited employment in better-paying jobs to white males found themselves opening their doors to white women and women and men of color. Racial and gender tensions escalated during this time, and many jobs were in fact permanently redefined as "women's work," including teaching, nursing, secretarial work, and telephone operations. As well as functioning in the workforce, women actively participated in the political and cultural life of England and the United States. The early decades of the twentieth century, often referred to as the Progressive Era, saw the emergence of a new image of women in society which had undergone a marked transformation from the demure, frail, female stereotype of the late Victorian Era. The women of the Progressive Era, according to Sarah Jane Deutsch, were portrayed as "women with short hair and short skirts … kicking up their legs and kicking off a century of social restrictions." Progressive women smoked, danced in public, held jobs, and generally did most things that nineteenth-century women were barred from doing. However, Deutsch asserts that this image of the 1920s "flapper" was restricted to certain portions of the population, namely white, young, and middle-class communities. Women elsewhere, particularly women from other ethnic backgrounds, such as African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanics, lived much differently, struggling in their new roles as mothers and professionals. The number of women who worked outside the home in the 1920s rose almost 50 percent throughout the decade. While women still constituted a small number of the professional population, they were slowly increasing their participation in more significant occupations, including law, social work, engineering, and medicine.

The presence of a large class of young working women after World War I was reflected in what had become a major cultural force—the film industry. Nevertheless, films of the era continued to reinforce outdated stereotypes about women's place in society. While early cinematic storylines often featured poor women finding success and contentment through marriage to rich men, the films of the 1920s depicted young, feisty working women who, like their predecessors, could attain true happiness only by marrying their bosses. Such plotlines helped many to cope with the growing fear that the domestic and family structure of society was being eroded by the emergence of the new, independent woman. Rarely did depictions of women in mass media, including film, radio, and theater, convey the true circumstances of working women. Instead, audiences were presented with images of flappers or visions of glorified motherhood and marriage.

Women in the early twentieth century were perhaps most active and influential as writers and artists. The advent of the new century did witness a change in the style and content of women's writing, as well as an increase in the depiction of feminine images and themes in literature. Male authors such as D. H. Lawrence and W. D. Howells explored issues pertaining to sexuality and the newly redefined sexual politics between men and women. Women authors such as Dorothy Richardson, May Sinclair, and Katherine Mansfield focused on topics pertinent to women, bringing attention to the myriad difficulties they faced redefining their identities in a changing world. Other major women writers of the period included Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Edith Wharton. In the arena of art, the early twentieth century provided growing opportunities for women to exhibit their work. In 1914, for example, the National Academy of Design first allowed women to attend anatomy lectures, thus providing them with a chance to study draftsmanship and develop drawing skills in a formal setting. Such artists as Emerson Baum and photographers like Alfred Steiglitz helped promote exhibitions of women's art, including the works of Imogen Cunningham and Georgia O'Keefe. Many female artists—among them Dorothea Lange and Claire Leighton—used their talents to highlight the social realities of their times, and some of the most powerful images of this period, including stirring portrayals of coal miners and farmers, were produced by these women.

By the mid-twentieth century, women throughout the Western world had completely redefined their roles in almost every social, political, and cultural sphere. While the fight for equal rights and recognition for women would continue into the 1950s and beyond, the first major steps towards such changes began at the advent of the twentieth century, with women writers, photographers, artists, activists, and workers blazing a new trail for generations of women to follow.

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