The Changing Roles of Women in the 1920s
In the 1920s, women were becoming more independent. This could be seen in all walks of life. Changes could be seen in their home lives, as well as in the choices available to them in fashion, employment and politics. Women went from being second class citizens – and almost being the property of men – to having the right to vote ("Winning the Vote: A History of Voting Rights." Winning the Vote: A History of Voting Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.).
There were many influences behind these changes including shifts that resulted from the role women played during World War I. Before the war, women held nursing and secretarial jobs and were servants and seamstresses as well. During the war, many men went off to fight. As a result, women went to work in the factories, supporting the war effort. Many of these women never left the work force though the nature of their jobs changed. The list of jobs available to women also began to expand. Some women went to work in the fashion and garment industries, held jobs as typists and teachers while some continued to work as secretaries and nurses as they had before the war. Once the men returned, women decided they enjoyed having the freedoms a job brought. The benefits of employment included having their own money without relying on their husbands. They were more independent and their self esteem was higher ("Gender and Consumerism." Gender Forum: Flapper Girls: Feminism and Consumer Society in the 1920s.
Nap. nod Web. 31 Mar. 2015.). By 1929, 10.6 million women were employed. This was a 25% increase over prewar figures (Onion, Rebecca. "Vintage Infographics: Where Women Worked in 1920." N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.).
Another effect the war had on women was on their lives at home. Even though the employment rate had increased, it was still typical for a woman to stop working when she was married. It was not considered desirable to have to work and still care for a family. Women who were intent on pursuing careers mostly stayed single. As women became more independent, the divorce rate increased. They realized they did not have to tolerate husbands who drank or who harmed them or their children. No longer did they have to stay in bad or abusive marriages. In the 1920s, annual marriage rates were approximately 99 per 1,000 single women.
Another important change was that women gained new found social freedoms. The Women’s Christian Temperance Movement had a big influence on bringing about Prohibition ("Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)." Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.). They believed that Prohibition would protect families. Men were coming home intoxicated and were harming other men, as well as women and children. They hoped Prohibition would decrease the amount of spousal and child abuse. This was one of the first times a group of women had organized to support a cause they believed in. ("Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)." Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.) Even though this movement had
initially championed Prohibition, the women changed their opinion once they saw the damage it had caused to the society as a whole. They recognized that it had resulted in an increase in organized crime and the united to bring an end to Prohibition. Nonetheless, this represented an important example of women getting together and having a voice, as well as influencing the law. Another change during the 1920s occurred in the world of fashion and behavior and is well represented by the flapper. The flapper image was of a
young woman who could be seen dancing,
or drinking at a jazz club. She wore skirts with a shorter hemline (right below the knee); she wore more makeup and frequently had a bob haircut . She smoked a cigarette through a long holder and openly drank alcohol – ...
Bibliography: Great Gatsby
. New York, NY: Scribner, 1996. Pg. 43. Print.
. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
6. Onion, Rebecca. "Vintage Infographics: Where Women Worked in
1920." N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
. N.p., n.d. Web. 31
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