Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Roaring 20s

What to do you know about the 1920s? Did you know that the women featured above were part of a movement? They were part of the Women's Christian Temperance Union that was formed in the late 1800s to confront the lawlessness that surrounded saloons. They campaigned through the Bible Belt in the mid-west  and finally in 1919 they were able to get the 18th Amendment ratified outlawing alcohol in the United States.

Did you also know that Prohibition played into the fears of white Anglo-Saxon Americans? Oh yes, they believed that the European immigrants had too many social issues including consumption of alcohol. These new immigrants were held in contempt and with suspicion. Racism at that time included both African Americans and immigrants. African Americans were saddled with segregation laws that were prevalent in both the North and South. Chicago was no exception and tensions rose among the working class blacks and whites as they competed for the same jobs. Immigrants tossed into the mix fared no better.

Women were finally seen as a political force when on the heels of the 18th Amendment they got the 19th Amendment ratified in 1920 giving them the right to vote. However their prime roles were in society and in the home. They were paid less than men and their opportunities were slim. Well brought up young ladies still required a chaperon when out on a date. All women were dependent on first their fathers and then their husbands.

Flappers grew out of young women who were trying to break the mold. They shortened their hair and raised their hemlines. They even took to painting their faces. The counterpart to flappers were known as Flaming Youth. Both were decadent partiers who demanded access to liquors that were accessible to the well connected, thus increasing the demand for liquor.

Speakeasies flourished. Those were the hidden clubs that still served liquor in violation of the 18th Amendment. The next post will deal more with speakeasies and the crime that grew out of them. 

Imagine what it would have been like to live in that time.


  1. Being a black woman, I know I would have had a hard time. Even though I am still am probably making less than my white male counterpart, at least I can swim in the same pool, don't have to use the back door entrance, and if I am denied a room because of my race, I will probably get a settlement when I sue. Life might not be the best when it comes to equality, but I would not trade it to live in the "good old days".

  2. I fully understand that. There have been so many improvements since that time. Not just for blacks, but for women in general. I'm not sure I would want to go back either. I am setting the stage for a book from that era.