The Social Structure of the 1920s

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Michael Morelli
06 November 2012

The Roots of the 1920’s Social Life
The Great War was very essential in providing the stepping stones into life during the 1920s as well as maintaining effects on the social atmosphere. In late 1918, the Great War had come to an end with the Allies achieving victory. This war had supposedly been the war to end all wars, and this victory brought confidence back home to the Americans. American troops came home at the end of 1918, and they came home to an America about to experience some of its most prosperous years. With this confidence and energy, Americans led themselves into the 1920s with optimism, activity, and economic growth that lasted through the majority of the era.

The Roaring Twenties, the Golden Twenties, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Jazz Age: all names given to this famous era. America was rich. Wall Street was successful day after day with the stock market soaring. The 1920s was a time where tradition was tried and young men and women defied the traditionalist views. Along with this young and rowdy generation was the Prohibition era. Speakeasies across America were born, and bootlegging became a career for many. Americans would not give up their alcohol to any sort of constitutional amendment creating an active and dangerous lifestyle of Americans during the night time. African-Americans made their mark on society during these times. The Harlem Renaissance brought out true African-American art through different visual arts, novels, dramas, short stories, and poetry. Civil rights were still non-existent for the African-Americans, but many still freely expressed themselves. Some expressed themselves through music, especially jazz. The 1920s brought about the Jazz Age. Big names such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington came to fame during this age of musical expression.

America soared during the 1920s; it’s no wonder the era has been called the Roaring/Golden Twenties. Social life during this time was vastly different than any other era in American history. For instance, the daily life of Americans consisted of things that no other era has dealt with. American economy, the generational war, Prohibition, the Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age all served as cornerstones for shaping American society during the 1920s.

With many different aspects going into shaping the social life of the 1920s, the economy was the basis of it all. Domestic life had changed with the simple inventions and the mass production of different household products that are still used today: vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, the hair dryer, and etcetera. The consumer lifestyle was king during this time, and it was these simple household products that were vastly consumed. The strong economy changed family life: more students in school, kids were involved in more organizations, and, of course, no worry to put food on the table. With the strong economy, the people developed the mentality of living life to its fullest. Edna St. Vincent Millay described the 1920s lifestyle well in her poem “First Fig”: “My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night; but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends, it gives a lovely light!” It was only the wealth of America and its strong economy that Americans were able to “burn the candle at both ends.”

Although the Great War had come to an end, young American men came home to fight another war: a generational war. A generational difference had been formed between the rough and rowdy young generation and the traditionalist generation. Women during the Great War had tasted a bit of freedom being on their own while all of the men were across the ocean. This led to the birth of flappers during the 1920s: women who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, and rebelled against almost any traditional rules. This new revolution would go on to affect far more than just the decade, it would go on to affect the rest of history following the 20s.

The generational gap did not...
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