The New Wave of Women in the 1920s

Women are capable of so much greatness. Held back from being able to attain their full rights legally as well as sociality for hundreds of years, women’s potential was unfairly marginalized. During the 1920s a new wave of woman were taking charge their independence and the futures they wanted to hold for themselves. The early 20th century was a turning point for women that brought new jobs, technology, voting rights as well as a surge of new culture.

World War I was a strong point for women’s emergence into a largely dominated male society. With men off in the war, women had to step into roles that previously were not available. In all social classes women were stepping in and taking charge. Upper class women were founders of organizations as volunteers during this time of war. With their safety net of not having to worry about incoming cash flow, they were able to devote time and money in these areas. Middle and lower class women were involved in these organizations as well as other efforts such as drives. In other areas, women directly took their husbands jobs in stores, markets, and common services. During the 1920s all social classes of women were contributing to war time needs.

A new surge of machines and technology was brought with World War I. Many women now taking the roles of their husband’s jobs, women were out of the home and in the working world. With this brought the emergence of new technology and machines like the vacuum, ready to wear clothes, and other home appliances like the electric refrigerator. This allowed the for the elimination of tedious and time consuming workloads that were being previously dispensed. Workflow created ample amounts of consumerism in American life. The advertising audience opened to a new target market, women.  Many women now working in professional jobs as well as managing the household were more present than ever in a once predominantly male society. Mass advertising focused on women of the 1920s as they were taking charge of the majority of consumerism in The United States.

The 19th Amendment finally granted freedom for women in political matters. This granted the rights of voting to apply to women. For the first time, women could vote and have their voices heard. Women’s suffrage was being put to a close after hundreds of years of  protesting that women had spent fighting for. Seen to stay at home, silenced, fragile, emotional dolls the new wave of women in the twenties was breaking the standard away from secluded home and family life. Instead, women were getting involved in politics when they were previously expected to focus on the house and the duties of being a mother. Women in the 1920s were breaking the standard for what it meant to be a woman in the United States, creating a powerful and strong surge of women speaking and uniting their minds.

With the new strength and wave of women’s rights in the 1920s, women were leading their own lives with more independence. Although it carried a stigma, divorce in their era was becoming easier to reach during this time. The stigma behind divorce was still a barrier that made women question themselves to break from abusive relationships especially with the limited resources compared to today. To achieve a full legal divorce, the partners would have to prove and have evidence of acts to file of like adultery or wrongdoing. The complications that came with merely gathering evidence were one of the many facts that proved to make it difficult for women to prove during this time. Divorce during the 1920s was filled with complicated decisions for women of wanting to get out of unhealthy relationships but the stigma and the few resources left afterwards were limiting.

Shifting away from the constraints of prior culture, The Harlem Renaissance brought new ideas of how to live life. Harlem in the heart of New York City was a fueling center for poets, artist, and writers to converse and develop their ideas. There was a movement that exploded with social life of dancing flappers and the iconic lifestyle of women taking charge of their interests.

The flapper was an icon of this era in the 1920s. Seen from traditional generations as “unlady like”, women were dressing and representing themselves in a new light. Breaking from the constrictive clothing of the past, shorter hemlines were taken to skirts. Women were even beginning to wear pants and cutting their hair short. Seen as more sexually free, the change from conservative style was a radical change that terrified traditional elders.

Often seen as less than capable, women were proving the world wrong during the 1920s. The roar of women was stronger than ever and it finally felt like people were listening. The new wave of women’s strength was upon and there was no settling or turning back. The 1920s brought so much change for the independence of women, redefining what it meant to be a woman.

Mary-Ward Freydberg 

Works Cited

Barton C. Hacker, “Women and Military Institutions in Early Modern Europe: A Reconnaissance,” Signs6, no. 4 (Summer 1981): 644.

Editors, History.com. “19th Amendment.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 5 Mar. 2010,

Editors, History.com. “Harlem Renaissance.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009, www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/harlem-renaissance.

Editors, History.com. “The Roaring Twenties History.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 14 Apr. 2010, www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/roaring-twenties-history.

Kimberly Jenson, “Volunteers, Auxiliaries, and Women’s Mobilization: The First World War and Beyond (1914–1939),” in A Companion to Women’s Military History, ed. Barton C. Hacker and

Margaret Vining (Boston: Brill, 2012), 215.

“Marriage & Divorce in the 1920s.” Lee Strauss, 16 July 2018, www.leestraussbooks.com/divorce-marriage-in-the-1920s/.