The Decade of the Roaring Twenties
Several factors were aligning themselves to welcome economic prosperity and independence, especially for women. World War I ended with thousands of Vets returning, women who were working found they had their own income, skirts were raising, hair was cut and bobbed, corsets discarded, dancing, music filled the air, manufacturing was booming, mass marketing was on radios and a welcome time for fun seemed to be contagious.
The 1918 flu epidemic that had crippled us was under control. Women won the right to vote in 1920. Jazz and dancing were welcome and liberating. Louis Armstrong called the Father of Jazz bellowed out one of his famous songs, Aint Misbehaving Along with Armstrong was Duke Ellington, King Oliver, and Ella Fitzgerald.
The automobile was being mass-produced and originally in 1908, the cost was $850. but now it cost $290. and affordable for the public. Prohibition gave rise to the Mafia and crime with bootleg booze and speakeasies.
America's wealth more than doubled between 1920-1929. All of a sudden consumers had purchasing power and consumer goods were plentiful. and credit was easy to use. Maybe too easy.
The Flapper Craze
No one really knows how the term FLAPPER came into play. Some thought to come from the British slang for prostitutes or perhaps a term for a young bird whose wings weren't quite ready or flight. Regardless, the name stuck. These young Flappers had a devil-may-care attitude and revealed in it.
The first Flapper is believed to be Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F.Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald became famous after his book, The Other Side of Paradise. He later authored The Great Gatsby, using Zelda as his heroine. He became even more popular when he wrote articles for Flappers and Philosophers and became an expert on Flappers. He strongly promoted jazz in all his writings.
Flappers made their clothing, hairstyles, and make-up significant for their persona and were the first independent women.
Not Everyone Prospered During the Roaring Twenties
Those that didn't prosper included farmers, middle-class citizens, African Americans, and immigrants. Farmers had borrowed money to purchase more land, but prohibition dropped barley production by 90%. Small banks were closing, and they were unable to borrow any more money. In 1924alone, 600,000 lost their farms.
African Americans in the south were mostly sharecroppers, but between prices falling and the boll weevil devastation of crops, they began to migrate north. But the jobs available to them, if any, were low paying, and the only available living was in the ghettos, and racism was rampant. Their struggles continued as they tried to support their families.
And then suddenly, the Great Depression struck!. The stock market crashed, and it would be remembered as the worst depression in American history. Jobs dried up, banks collapsed, thousands in bread lines and, credit dried up.
Indirectly, overproduction and under-consumer consumption crippled the economy.
Although the stock market did rebound within ten years, it would be twenty-five years before the economy recovered.
Will history repeat itself? No one knows for certain, and we can only hope lessons were learned from the ROARING TWENTIES. Geoffrey Chaucer is quoted from one of his poems "All good things must come to an end." This saying was later used in the U.S. about 1680.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 21, 2021:
Thank you for sharing these interesting highlights of American history, Fran. I didn’t study much about the history of the United States in school, but I’m glad to learn about it now..
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on March 20, 2021:
Rosina, thanks for your visit. A beginning of independence for women.
Rosina S Khan on March 19, 2021:
I loved to read about the Roaring Twenties. Mass automobile, music and fashion were great during this time. Overall a fun read. Thanks for sharing, Fran.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 19, 2021:
Great article and well researched.
Reminds me of my history lessons. Seems so natural, to look back due to the present circumstances, created because of the World wide Pandemic. Who knows, history may be repeating itself.
Thank you for sharing.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 19, 2021:
This is a terrific article, Fran. I always love seeing the dance and the clothing of the roaring twenties. I really enjoyed this read.