The years between the two World Wars were decades of contrasts. The Roaring Twenties are remembered as years of prosperity and frivolity that were ended abruptly by the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Republican-dominated, pro-business politics of the 1920s gave way to the Democratic activism of the New Deal. But for women there was continuity to these years, as their ability to effect change in political, cultural, and economic arenas of life began to gain strength.
Radio, movies, and mass advertising took the country by storm, and for the first time women were recognized as prime consumers. This "new woman" could legally vote on the same basis as men everywhere in the United States. She wore clothes that scandalized her grandparents but were far more comfortable than anything her mother ever wore. She was being elected to public office, was leading peace movements, and demanded better health care for women and children. And in the 1930s she found in Eleanor Roosevelt a role model who was recognized internationally as a leading influence in American policy. American women felt a freedom never imagined by earlier generations.
But some women did not share in this emancipation. Black women, Jewish women, Native American women--they found many of the newly opened doors slammed shut for them. They labored as clerical workers, domestic servants, farm or factory workers, not for self-fulfillment or liberation, but because their paychecks were needed to put food on the table. Even in the prosperous days of the flapper, some women faced a daily battle for survival.
From Ballots to Breadlines takes American women from the euphoria of the 1920s to the sober reality of the 1930s. As they began to vote and bring home wages, a woman's role began to change, and with it the traditional image of the American family.
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From Kirkus Reviews:
Sarah Jane Deutsch is associate professor of history at clark University, where she was awarded the Oliver and Dorothy Hayden Junior Faculty Fellowship for excellence in research and teaching. She is the author of No Separate Refuge: Culture, Class, and Gender on an Anglo-Hispanic Frontier in the American Southwest, 1880-1940, which won the Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities from the Council of Graduate Schools.
Another excellent entry in the 11-volume Young Oxford History of Women in the United States. Deutsch, associate professor of history at Clark University and a Rhodes scholar, puts her impeccable credentials to good use in a lively synthesis of the interacting social, political, and economic forces that reshaped women's roles between the world wars. For middle-class whites, the '20s offered a chance to explore new freedoms offered by the ballot (though few were elected to office), expanding work opportunities (though ``women's jobs'' and ingrained paternalism kept their remuneration relatively low), and labor-saving devices (though a concomitant rise in housekeeping standards left them working harder than ever). For most minority women, restricted to menial labor, their economic trials in the '20s presaged their more fortunate sisters' struggles in the '30s. Deutsch uses a wealth of telling incidents and details to illuminate trends and paradoxes, contrasting experiences of different groups and showing how--whether by striving for individuality, championing the family, or protesting inequities--women's self images were evolving in an era when even New Deal public policies failed to reconcile the conflicting demands of work and family responsibilities. Cogent, well organized, and fascinating. The many b&w archival illustrations are well chosen but occasionally reproduced too small to be effective. Chronology; further reading (including sources); index. Also newly available: Michael Goldberg's Breaking New Ground: American Women 1800-1848 (ISBN: 0-19-508202-8). (Nonfiction. 12+) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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