Women's History in the U.S.: The New Woman

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The outbreak of World War I resulted in more than mere casualties. As men left their jobs to go into the service, women were needed to "step up to the plate." For the first time, women were called upon to fill factory assembly line positions. With the war' conclusion in 1918, the United States emerged strong and prosperous. Women had aided in this accomplishment, and they began to embody the new era's lighthearted attitude. The end of World War I eased American's into a spirit of hope and newness. The year 1919 also proved a landmark in women's history in the United States. It was in this year that Congress approved the Nineteenth Amendment, which forbade discrimination against voters according to their sex. (Funk and Wagnall's A new era, characterized by greater freedoms, had begun for American women. "The New Woman" was carefree, bare-armed, and often appalling to the older generation.

Style in the 1920s reflected drastic changes in the perception of what was "proper." In the previous Victorian era, the style for women resembled that of an hourglass. Twenty-five pound restricting corsets were used to create this shape. The 1920s shape was strikingly different, defined by straight lines and flat chests. The formerly used corsets restricted breathing and limited the woman to domestic affairs. The flapper of the 1920s was corsetless, bare-armed, short skirted and did away with her Victorian style hair by "bobbing," or cutting it. She was emerging from the confinement of the home. (Deutsch)

Women in the 1920s viewed themselves as "pals" to their male friends and husbands. They wanted to be out in the world with them rather than confined to the home. They wanted freedom from past restrictions. It was in the 1920s that it became fashionable for women to frequent the nightclubs, drink at speakeasies, shimmy to the jazz music, and smoke cigarettes in public. Zelda Fitzgerald described it perfectly, "I think a woman gets more happiness out of...
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