The role of American women changed dramatically during the 1920's. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which became law on Aug. 26, 1920, gave women the right to vote in all elections. In addition, many new opportunities for education and careers opened up to women during the decade.
Modern life and social change. Developments of the 1920's broadened the experiences of millions of Americans. The mass movement to cities meant more people could enjoy such activities as movies, plays, and sporting events. Radio broadcasting began on a large scale during the 1920's. It brought news of the world and entertainment into millions of urban and rural homes. The automobile gave people a new way to get around - whether for business, or to see far-off places, or just for fun. Motion-picture theaters became part of almost every city and town during the 1920's. They became known as dream palaces because of their fancy design and the excitement and romance that motion pictures provided for the public. The new role of women also changed society. Many women who found careers outside the homebegan thinking of themselves, more as the equal of men, and less as housewives and mothers.
Change and problems. The modern trends of the 1920's brought about problems as well as benefits.
Many Americans had trouble adjusting to the impersonal, fast-paced life of cities. This disorientation led to a rise in juvenile delinquency, crime, and other antisocial behavior. The complex life in cities also tended to weaken the strong family ties that had always been part of American society.
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, called the prohibition amendment, caused unforeseen problems. It outlawed the sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the United States as of Jan. 16, 1920. Large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens considered prohibition a violation of their rights. They ignored the law and bought liquor provided by underworld gangs. The supplying of illegal liquor, called bootlegging, helped many gangs prosper. In addition, competition for control of Ube-lucrative bootlegging business led to many gang wars.
Roosevelt, recovery, and reform. Early in the Great Depression, Hoover promised that prosperity was "just around the corner." But the depression deepened as the election of 1932 approached. The Republicans slated Hoover for reelection. The Democrats chose Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In his campaign, Roosevelt promised government action to end the Great Depression and reforms to avoid future depressions. The people responded, and Roosevelt won a landslide victory.
Roosevelt's program for recovery and reform was called the New Deal. Its many provisions included public works projects to provide jobs, relief for farmers, aid in manufacturing firms, and the regulation of banks. A solidly Democratic Congress approved almost every measure Roosevelt proposed. Many new government agencies were set up to help fight the depression. The agencies included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), both of which provided jobs; the Farm Credit Administration (FCA), which extended credit to farmers; and the Social Security Board, which developed the social security system.
The New Deal helped relieve the hardship of many Americans. However, hard times dragged on until World War II military spending stimulated the economy.
Roosevelt's efforts to end the depression made him one of the most popular U.S. Presidents. The voters elected him to four terms. No other President won election more than twice. Roosevelt's New Deal was a turning point in American history. It marked the start of a strong government role in the nation's economic affairs that has continued and grown to the present day.
The industrial growth that began in the United States in the early 1800's continued steadily up to and through the Civil War. Still, by the end of the war, the typical American industry was small. Hand labor remained widespread, limiting the production capacity of industry. Most businesses served a small market and lacked the capital needed for business expansion.
After the Civil War, however, American industry changed dramatically. Machines replaced hand labor as the main means of manufacturing, increasing the production capacity of industry tremendously. A new nationwide network of railroads distributed goods far and wide. Inventors developed new products the public wanted, and businesses made the products in large quantities. Investors and bankers supplied the huge amounts of money that business leaders needed to expand their operations. Many big businesses grew up as a result of these and other developments. They included coal mining, petroleum, and railroad companies; and manufacturers and sellers of such products as steel, industrial machinery, automobiles, and clothing.
The industrial growth had major effects on American life. The new business activity centered in cities. As a result, people moved to cities in record numbers, and the cities grew by leaps and bounds. Many Americans amassed huge fortunes from the business boom, but others lived in extreme poverty. The sharp contrast between the rich and the poor and other features of American life stirred widespread discontent. The discontent triggered new reform movements, which - among other things - led to measures to aid the poor and control the size and power of big business.
The industrial growth centered chiefly in the North. The war-torn South lagged behind the rest of the country economically. In the West, frontier life was ending.
America's role in foreign affairs also changed during the late 1800's and early 1900's. The country built up its military strength and became a world power.