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The Roaring Twenties are remembered as years of prosperity and frivolity that ended abruptly with the Great Depression of the 1930s. But for women there was continuity to these years, as their ability to effect change in political, cultural, and economic arenas began to gain strength. These "new women" listened to radio, starred in movies, and reigned as consumers. They could legally vote on the same basis as men everywhere in the U.S. They wore clothes that scandalized their grandparents but were far more comfortable than anything their mothers ever wore. In Eleanor Roosevelt, they found a model recognized internationally as a leading influence on American policy. But not all women shared equally in this emancipation. Black women, Jewish women, Native American women, poor women, immigrant women--they found many of the newly opened doors slammed shut for them. Even in the prosperous days of the flapper, some women faced a daily battle for survival. Meet educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, anthropologists Margaret Mead and Zora Neale Hurston, tennis champion Helen Wills, Harlem Renaissance writer Jessie Fauset, blues singers Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, Olympic medalist Babe Didrikson, lawyers, psychologists, labor leaders, farmworkers, housewives, and the host of women who shaped these decades.
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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. She lives in Worcester, Massachusetts.
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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