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8 Things You Could Finally Do as a Woman in the 20’s That You Probably Already Do Today

Throughout the nineteenth century, women were the primary caretaker of their homes and families--nothing else was acceptable. These were the traditionalists. As the twentieth century rolled around, these antiquated gender roles of women began to change. The Roaring Twenties were a time of great prosperity and change throughout America, and women were no exception. We’ve made a list of the 8 things that were beginning to become socially acceptable for women in the Twenties, that are often quite common among women today.

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1. Drink a Lot of Booze

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World War I had quite a few impacts both at home and abroad—obviously—however, one particular piece of legislation associated with the war was a huge factor in the start of prohibition. In order to save grain for the soldiers fighting abroad, President Wilson instituted a temporary wartime prohibition; and this, coupled with the recent religious revivalism of the 1800s, set the stage for prohibition as it was known in the 1920s. Though the consumption of alcohol was not illegal (only the production, transport and sale) it was certainly not socially appropriate to drink—especially for a young lady! Speakeasies began to pop up in urban areas and cities where the enforcement of prohibition was far looser, and teens took to the streets and went out with their friends and dates. They would drink and dance all night (we’ll cover this one later on!) and they would booze because it was fun and wrong and exciting. This began to turn the tables of the roles of women, and has made it so acceptable that it’s completely commonplace today! Cheers to that!

2. Dating / Via

The 1920s was a pivotal time for women regarding social scenes and dating circles. With the introduction of the automobile and new found independence, women were able to venture out of their small hometowns and transition to life in the city. In addition to this, the automobile also opened the door to unchaperoned dates. With this newly found transportation, couples could travel outside of the house to public dates in places like dance halls or movie theaters instead of meeting in their homes. These excursions established the dating system that we all know and love today. Although Tinder was not an option yet for women of the 1920s, with more independence and freedom to date, the process of marriage was prolonged for a period while women were able to explore their choices before settling down.

3. Crank Up the Music! / Via

You know when your grandmother curses at a parked Honda Civic for blasting vulgar music, when it’s really just a radio edit of a Drake song? Well, this is how everyone older than you would have felt during the 20s when they heard that “new jazz music” playing in a speakeasy. I’m not here to give you a music theory lesson, but essentially jazz broke the traditional “rules” of musicality, because it allowed the soloist to improvise over the structure of the song itself. This ironically parallels to the teens who would fight the structure of society and go out to the clubs and dance and drink to jazz. It was considered dirty music, and there were equally “dirty” dances that went along with these new songs—the Money Glide, Turkey Trot and the Charleston—to name a few. I don’t know about you, but I want to meet whoever thought these dances were bad because they clearly weren’t at my high school prom. So essentially, this jazz music of the 1920s was equivalent to what’s on the radio today, and since it was considered wrong, teens finally took advantage of their newfound independence and went against their parents will just to be rebellious. A lady before this would only dance to classical music in an “appropriate fashion,” but now they could drink and dance with whoever they wanted wearing a skirt that went to the knee--oh my!

4. Kick Back and Relax / Via

Imagine having to wash every.. single.. shirt…. BY HAND. Well luckily if you were a housewife in the 20s you finally didn’t have to because this was the time for appliances. Prior to breaking the mold occupationally, a woman’s duty was to cook and clean for the household, but with the rise of consumer culture came the increase of machinery you probably can’t imagine living without. I’m talking toasters, microwaves, ovens, washing machines, dryers, irons, vacuums, refrigerators and more. Thank the 20s because it was the beginning of all things household items and it's the reason chores can get done in minutes instead hours. This was life changing because with all of these appliances now doing most of the work for them, women could finally kick back and relax.

5. Flaunt What Ya Got! / Via

Flappers were free spirited urban, single working middle class women who were no longer embarrassed to explore their sexualities thus beginning the era of slutshaming. Before the roaring twenties, a woman’s body was not to be seen. Women wore corsets and floor length gowns that covered every inch of skin. Women were wearing dresses above the knee that actually accentuated their curves and rocked short hair. The discovery that women had boobs, a butt and collarbones was truly shocking! Flappers would go out on the town after a long day of work no different to twentysomethings today hitting up the clubs. Flappers attended jazz clubs while dancing to the Charleston and traditionalists were horrified. How dare they dance hand to hand to Jazz!? Today, babies are having babies and teens grind to artists rapping about sex, drugs, and alcohol. In either era, parental units would not be too happy about it.

6. Do You Have a Light? / Via

In the early twentieth, smoking became the new “cool” thing to do. Obviously we know today that lung cancer is not that “cool”. Prior to the 1900s only men smoked, and women smoking was a sign of rebellion. Here I thought running away from home to become a Youtube star was a sign of rebellion. Smoking was advertised to women in the 1920s as a method to suppressing their appetites and with “revealing” clothing becoming more popularized, women needed to be #skinny. Women smoking cigarettes was looked down upon almost as much as smoking is looked down upon today. Today, having a cigarette in your mouth means you are literally trying to kill yourself and women smoking cigarettes in the 20s meant you were toward social suicide #relatable.

7. Work Your Ass Off / Via

You know your dream job of becoming a doctor, lawyer, or police officer? Yeah. . . wouldn’t exist before the twenties. Maybe you wouldn't have been able to pursue your dream in law just yet, but at least it was the beginning of breaking the mold. Before World War I, a woman’s job was to be a housewife and absolutely nothing else. During the war, though, death tolls of men were rising so women were called in to take on outer sphere jobs to help them out. What was considered a man’s job suddenly became fit for a woman. Just to name a few, women worked as railroad guards, police officers, firefighters, clerks and factories workers. Factories primarily worked by women created 80% of the weapons for the war. They worked their asses off because they finally had a chance to outside of the household.

8. Make Your Voice Heard / Via

Prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 only men could cast their vote to decide who represented everyone in government (crazy right?!). But thanks to the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and the early suffrage movement, women were finally able to vote in elections. But unsurprisingly, this did not happen overnight. Due to continuous civil disobedience and protests several states invited women to vote in elections between 1910 and 1918. Well behaved women seldom make history, right? With this new, and well deserved right, women now had the power to voice their opinion and elect representatives that served their best interest. So if you (hopefully) received your “I Voted” sticker in this year's election, you can thank the women of the 20th century.

Creators: Hilary Besson, Annie O'Donnell, Erica Poon, Kevin Quinn

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