Were 1920's America an era of social and cultural rebellion or was it the result of mere exaggeration of the press?

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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...