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Usa 1920's Women Changes

By megstiel May 18, 2013 1118 Words
During the 1920’s there were many significant changes for women but majority of the people didn’t support them. Some changes were labour saving devices going on sale and women got the right to vote. Younger women welcomed and supported the changes and acted out with wild ambitious behaviour and dramatic fashion alterations whereas rural women and immigrants stayed traditional. Many women demanded to stay in the workforce after the war ended.

Women stood their ground and entered the workforce permanently but men didn’t like it. When the men had to go and fight in World War I (1917), the only people left to take over the jobs they left behind were the women. So the women stepped up and took over all different kinds of jobs and when the men returned they didn’t want to give them back. With increasing numbers of women entering the work force, it was more difficult for men to find sufficient jobs to provide for their families which made getting by difficult.

Employers supported women entering the workforce because they could pay women lower wages for doing the same job; Most of the job was done by mechanisation so physical strength was not necessary. It was thought men should be paid more because they are generally the ones providing for their wife and children. Despite the unequal pay, in March 1926 women were holding all different kinds of men’s jobs (Source 1 provided). By 1930 there were over 10 million paid women in employment, this was a 25% increase on 1920. Men still didn’t approve of women taking their jobs away from them; they were against this change.

The biggest and most important change for women during the 1920’s was women being given the right to vote. 1848 was the year the woman’s suffrage movement broke out to fight for women’s right to vote. Previously it was thought that women shouldn’t be given the right to vote because it wasn’t within her intellectual competence to make a reasonable judgement in an election. I believe a majority of the people against the change were men due to bias remarks. The 19th amendment was ratified on August 26th, 1920 giving women the right to vote.

Fashion in women was one of the most noticeable changes, this reflected women gradually breaking free of ties that bound th=]em prior to the 20’s. Before the war women had long hair and wore ankle length, relaxed plentiful dresses with a tight waist (Source 2). Whereas after the war some young women acted out as a sign of liberation cutting off their hair, generally into a bob, paired with knee length, light weight attire. These women were referred to as Flappers (Source 3). Old concealing swimsuits were replaced by one-piece figure hugging bathing suits, but these were banned. In Chicago a woman was arrested for wearing the new-fashioned swimwear (Source 4), this provides knowledge of the authority disapproving of fashion changing.

Artificial beauty was the fashion in 1925; Flappers were heavily made up, devilishly scarlet lips with elaborately ringed eyes. This was all but natural looking. According to some middle and working class mothers, the clothing worn by their daughters seemed to have brought them some confidence socially; they were much less modest (Source 5). Typically a Flapper would smoke, party and dance the Charleston late at night with men (Source 6). This demonstrates that younger men were all for the fashion changes along with social changes too.

Dancing was dramatically reversed in pace and many older women did not like this. Slow dances were replaced by fast and mostly sexual dances, which were danced with contact rather than dancing apart. Women had much more free time to themselves due to new domestic labour-saving products such as vacuum cleaners. Most households had a car, so women were no longer tied to the home just looking after the house and the children. Women actually held most of the spending decisions so a lot of things were advertised to be desirable to women rather than men. Unmarried working women had their own money to spend and more access to mobility.

Working class women had far less privileges than Middle class women. In the early 1920’s two researchers conducted a survey in an anonymous small American town (Source 7). The purpose was to find out what kind of home life was available to different classed women. Over 4/5ths of the towns women owned their own house; Out of these homes 99% were wired for electricity and consumption of electricity had gone up 25% in four years. Middle class houses all had a telephone, a car and the housewives needn’t be up before 6am. Whereas only half working class homes had telephones, merely 60% had cars and many housewives had to be up before 6am, even before 5 am.

Time saving technology sales were high because it gave women more time to be free and would save them money. Referring to the same small American town, a tally was made up from five electrical goods shops between May and October 1923 (Source 8). This showed that homes owned vacuum cleaners, washing machines, fridges and irons; Things like this helped ease the burden of housework. As women would be saving money, if they didn’t already own a car they could easily afford to buy one by this time because the price went down since 1909. In 1909 the model T Ford car was selling for $950 but by 1920 they were selling at around $550 due to mass production. Car manufacturers would be grateful for these changes as they were getting plenty of business.

Many rural women stuck with their traditional roles, they didn’t support the changes (Source 9). According to J.T Patterson - Middle class women remained concerned about taking care of their household and their daughters were more likely to be preparing to become a wife and mother rather than taking to the streets against sexual discrimination. Immigrant families stuck to the tradition of having men in charge of the family. The one change that most American women were in support of was the labour-saving devices (Source 10); otherwise they were against.

Support from the people depended on the circumstances of the changes. In my opinion the changes were necessary and good. The fashion and dancing back then was quite modest compared to today so I would love to see the expression on 1920’s elderly people if they saw the girls from 2013. Women today still don’t have equal rights when working but they do have the same opportunities as men. Overall the majority of people did not support the changes in women during the 1920’s.

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