The 1920's: Era of Social and Cultural Rebellion?
Americans have never been shy about attaching labels to their history,
and frequently they do so to characterize particular years or decades in
their distant or recent past. It is doubtful, however, that any period in our
nation's history has received as many catchy appellations as has the
decade of the 1920's... "the Jazz Age," "the Roaring Twenties," "the dry
decade," "the prosperity decade," "the age of normalcy," "and simply the
New Era"...(page 198)
In the second edition of Taking Sides: Reconstruction to the Present,
William E. Leuchtenburg, a history professor, and David A. Shannon, an author,
address their positions on how the 1920's received as much attention as it did
and why it was tagged with such specific classifications, as noted in the quote
above. Leuchtenburg argues that the twenties was an era labeled for its
secularized growth of American society, "the demands by newly enfranchised
women for economic equality and sexual liberation, and the hedonistic mood in
the country, which produced a youth rebellion against the symbols of the
Victorian authority"(page 198).
Shannon, however, does not support the popular
notion that the second decade of the century was one praised because of the
"'flapper,' 'saxophone,' 'bathtub gin,' 'and speakeasies'"(page 210). Using facts
and statistics produced by the developed economy, Shannon further explains
that the twenties were labeled by such "shallow" classifications, because of the
boasting from the press during and following the decade.
Leuchtenburg's "The Revolution in Morals," illustrates the 1920's as an
era of dramatic change which would not only influence the future of America,
but set a standardized profile of Americans to the rest of the world. He proclaims
that Americans, especially the newer generation, had lost their reverence for
religion. Thus, society had...