The “modern” 1920s

The Progressive Era had come to an end by the 1920s as the “new era” also known as the “roaring twenties” began. Innovation had led to new products on the market, technological advances that included the invention of radio, and efficient production which made the automobile affordable for most middle-class Americans (Locke, 2019). Consumerism was thriving and marketing was learning to target segments in order to sell the new products. The 1920s brought about the end of making ethical and moral choices for many and the culture changed to one that was more self-serving and worried about pleasing themselves vs everyone else.

Women of the 1920s were fighting for equal rights still, becoming the first generation of “independent” women. They pushed limits, pushed passed barriers, and were carefree. The “independent” woman was often seen in clothing that was comfortable and provided room to move, rather than ankle-length skirts and corsets. They were liberated, they participated in “men’s activities” such as driving, smoking, and drinking alcohol. Women became a major part of the workforce, becoming receptionists or nurses for middle-class women, or factory workers for lower-class women. While women were present in the workforce, men were still in higher-paid positions and paid more for the same positions.

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In the Cartoon by E.J. Pace (1924), “The Descent of Modernism” it shows the easily influenced traditionalist as a Christian at the top of the stairs and depicts each subsequent step down as a progression into Atheism. As the man proceeds down the stairs, there are several subtle changes, he goes from being a young Christian man, presumably a businessman, to a middle-aged man who no longer believes in Christianity, to a mature man who has now taken off his formal tie and now has a retort, likely full of some kind of liquor or moonshine stepping into the lowest platform of Atheism. I believe this is an accurate depiction of how traditionalists viewed the new generation of open-minded younger adults.

Page’s article details the issues a woman faced in the 1920s. Many people disagreed with how the “flappers” acted as they believed that women should continue to be more traditional. She states that she realizes that her life is drastically different from that of her elders or other traditional women. Ellen Page believed they did not realize how she felt and or understand that she simply wanted to be seen as an equal. In this time period, women were far more educated than those of other periods and Page argues that it takes a lot of knowledge and intuition to be a successful flapper. She says that one must be clever, energetic, and be self-aware in order to be successful. Page pleaded with her parents and others to “help them put their knowledge the best advantage” and to stop criticizing them and try to understand them (1922). She goes on to describe how all people have dreams and aspirations, they want to achieve their goals; there’s no difference between the generations in this aspect. She believes that the bonds between families need to stay strong but that there must be a mutual agreement between the two in order to form trust within the generations.



Locke, J., Wright, B. (2019). The American Yawp: A Massively Open U.S. History Textbook. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Pace, E.J., (1924). “The Descent of the Modernists”, first appearing in the book Seven Questions in Dispute by William Jennings Bryan, 1924, New York: Fleming H. Revell Company.

Page, Ellen Welles.(1922). “A Flappers Appeal To Parents.” Outlook magazine. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)

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