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How did American Culture and Attitude Change in the 1920's?

The 1920's were a time of great social change characterized by apparent prosperity, new ideas, and personal freedom. Known as the "roaring twenties" America was reacting to the depression of the World War. It was like a giant party. New technology, new ideas and great change. Yet under the surface the same conservative values still flourished. The economic boom of the era was short-lived, but most of the social changes were lasting.


What were some of the manners and moral changes that occurred?

1. America's population generally shifted from rural areas to more urban ones.

More than half of the nations population now lived in cities and towns.

2. Urban communities life was now unquestionably lively and stimulating. There were many things to see-museums, art exhibits, plays, athletic events, trade expositions, and the like.

3. New ideas in science were examined and often accepted. Of course this was the case in the cities more so than in the small towns. In small town America most people remained relevtivley conservative. (See Scopes Monkey Trial) People now tended to be judged on their accomplishments rather than on their social background.

As life in the United States began to undergo changes, many felt the gnawing insecurity associated with change. The heroic person who could face the trials of competition or the dangers of the unknown became larger than life. The hero had come up against the strongest adversaries and won. For people living in uncertain times, the hero was proof that a brave and strong-willed man or woman could win out over fears of the unknown or the impossible.

What qualities seem to have been idolized in the 1920's?

1. Writers Speak for the twenties

A. F. Scott Fitzgerald published This Side Of Paradise and The Great Gatsby. He won instant acclaim as the spokesman for the twenties generation. In these novels and others, he described the confusion and tragedy caused by a frantic search for material success.

B. Ernest Hemingway expressed disgust with prewar codes of behavior and the glorification of war. He also developed a clear, straightforward prose that set a new, tough, "hard-boiled" literary style

2. Sport Heroes

A. Babe Ruth - Perhaps the greatest baseball player who ever lived. He led the Yankees to seven world series and his record for Home Runs (Total and in a season - 60) stood for years. Ruth was a media icon and fan favorite.

B. Harold Edward "Red" Grange - College football hero, this running back drew tens of thousands to watch him play and helped popularize college football.

C. Jack Dempsey - One of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. Lost a dramatic title match to Gene Tunney.

D. Bill Tilden and Helen Wills--Tennis champions who epitomized grace and poise. These star athletes helped popularize the sport of tennis.

E. Johnny Weismuller - Olympic gold medal winning swimmer who later starred in Hollywood as Tarzan Lord of the Jungle.


3. Other important Heros

A. Charles A. Lindbergh--He flew a nonstop flight from New York to Paris in thirty-three and a half hours. He was the man who epitomized heroism in the twenties. Lindbergh became a world and national hero who charcaterized courage and doing the impossible.

B. Louis Armstrong--a trumpeter who played the first jazz heard north of Mason-Dixon line.

C. W. E. B. Du Bois--founder of the NAACP and worked hard to improve the lives of blacks in America.

How Did the Role of Women Change in the 1920's?

During World War 1, women served their country in almost every possible capacity. They took jobs in steel foundries, chemical plants, and munitions factories. Many went overseas as nurses in the newly created Army Corps of Nurses. Their experiences away from home and traditional women's work gave them a strong moral argument for the right to vote. The many tactics of the women and the shameful way they were treated finally forced Congress to deal with the issue. President Wilson, finally declared himself in favor of woman suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified on August 26th 1920.

Many women's styles changed as well. The popular hair style of the time was for women's hair to be cut short into a bob. These modern women were known as "flappers."

Between 1910 and 1930 the proportion of women in the labor force remained at about 20 percent. However, there was a notable change in the kinds of work that some women did. The number of female cooks, dress makers, household servants, and farmhands dropped. The number of women doctors, bankers, lawyers, police and probation officer, social workers, and hairdressers rose.

For all the changes in status during the twenties, it was still generally accepted-even by most women-that "woman's place is in the home." Men should earn more than women, it was thought, because usually they supported wives and children. Women workers generally were single. In some states, women teachers who married lost their jobs.

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