|dc.description.abstract||The 1920s proved to be a remarkable period in American history. It was also a period of contradictions. On the one hand, America’s manufacturing industry boomed, and the country enjoyed the kind of prosperity that made it the envy of the rest of Europe.
On the other hand, the affluence of a significant number of Americans was in stark contrast to the poverty of millions of others. Moreover, the razzamatazz that fascinated the rest of the world hid a deeply divided society.
America’s history of immigration had created a country full of prejudice, discrimination, racism, and an almost fanatical fear of political extremism that was thinly disguised by the glamorous façade. The 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote in all elections, was a major step in freeing half the American population. During the early 20th century, thousands of women conducted hundreds of campaigns to gain the rights to vote. Finally the time for women had come.
The 1920s was a challenging time for American women. Women were expected to raise children, keep house, provide emotional support for their husbands, and in myriad ways, contribute to American society. However, during the twenties, those demands came to seem less and less compatible.
Particularly for middle-class women, roles evolved in ways that often left women feeling pulled in two or more directions at once. Sometimes, women of the 1920s responded to the competing demands by rebelling against authority. Middle-class women had plenty of outlets for their energy. They could focus their time, energy, and resources on the common good, trying to improve the lot of all women.
Nevertheless, many exciting and glamorous distractions offered themselves to the New Woman. She could attend to her appearance by poring over the latest clothing styles. She could spend evenings at parties and movies. She could follow the latest sensational stories about celebrities in the newspapers and movie magazines.
The New Woman who chose to combine domesticity with a career had to experiment with new ways to manage her time and energy to meet the demands of being a wife, mother, and working woman. Substantial number of women took up the challenge of a career or job outside the home. Sometimes, women persevered to overcome barriers and gained admission to professions such as law and medicine. Others took up jobs such as work in textile mills that were readily offered to women.
Even though the 1920s offered new employment opportunities in industries previously closed to women, often the women who took these jobs found themselves exploited. No matter what her social standing, race or level of education, the New Woman found the 1920s a time of uncertainty. For the poor, being a New Woman meant new burdens, not opportunities.||eng