America 1920-1973 - women pre and post WW1


Women pre-WW1

Before World War one, women were very conservative. They wore ankle length skirts, could not vote, needed a chaperone if they wanted to go out and had limited employment opportunites - mostly they would stay at home to manage the household and look after the children. Furthermore, it was deemed "unladylike" for women to smoke or drink in public and divorce was very rare.

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Women post-WW1

After World War one and especially during the 1920s women became less conservative. Since everyone was needed for the war effort, more women began working in jobs in factories for ammunitions and other machinary that could be used in the lend-lease program. This meant that by 1929 there were 10 million women in jobs ( 24% more than in 1920). In addition, the 19th ammendment - passed in 1920 - meant that women now had the vote. 

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In urban areas in the north, younger women began to wear more daring clothes, drink in public and went out with men without a chaperone - they were known as flappers. Flappers stereotypically wore shorter dresses than before, had short hair, wore mak-up, openly danced and kissed men in public, went to dances without a chaperone, listened to controversial music, wore bright clothes, went to speakeasies and cinemas, exposed their legs/ankles, smoked/drank in public, wore revealing dresses and owned and drove cars amongst other things

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Opposition to Flappers

Although many women in urban cities embraced the flapper movement there was still some oppostition to flappers by certain groups of people:

  • Religious societies and traditionalists in rural areas disapproved
  • Anti-flirt league criticised the lifestyle of the flappers and the bathing suits they wore on public beaches (they felt they were too exposing)
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