Roaring Twenties

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Hollywood Actresses Supporting Warren G. Harding.jpg
Photograph of Hollywood actresses supporting Warren G. Harding during his presidential campaign, 1920.

Many people believe that the 1920s marked a new era in United States history. The decade often is referred to as the "Roaring Twenties" due to the supposedly new and less-inhibited lifestyle that many people embraced in this period.

Following World War I, many returning veterans, as well as many men and women who had moved to cities to seek wartime jobs, had no desire to return to working in factories or on farms. They hoped to live a more comfortable life, like the ones portrayed in the movies, magazines, and newspapers of the day. A myriad of new social activities promoted a more carefree lifestyle. People could enjoy playing miniature golf, participating in dance contests, listening to the radio or the phonograph, and participating in any number of other events. The Flappers, women who dressed provocatively by the standards of the time, had bobbed hairstyles, went to clubs, smoked, and drank bootleg liquor, redefined gender roles for women and became icons for the decade.

At first glance, it does appear that lives for all Americans, including women, became more open during the 1920s; however, some historians disagree with this conclusion. Many of the activities that have come to define the 1920s actually predate the decade. Dance halls existed well before the 1920s. Women drinking, smoking, and dressing in a provocative manner were all phenomena that occurred prior to the Roaring Twenties. What seems to have made the decade different was that the liberalization of societal norms, coming on at the end of the Victorian Era, allowed these activities to finally be socially acceptable for middle-class white men and women to engage in.

Not everyone was happy with the changing times, however. The increasing number of people participating in supposedly immoral acts like drinking and smoking caused many people in the United States to believe that their fellow citizens had forgotten the importance of religion and morality in everyday life. The ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 marked the beginning of Prohibition in the United States, ending the legal manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the country until it was repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933. Religious fundamentalists, believing that Americans must take the Bible literally, attempted to ban the teaching of evolution in schools. Despite the efforts of these groups to legislate or enforce their respective views on morality, most of their efforts were rejected by the majority of people in the U.S.

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