Roaring ’20s

The Roaring ’20s: 1920-1929 

By Chelsea Mageland


Many women went through a transformation in the 1920’s.

“In the 1920s, a new woman was born. She smoked, drank, danced, and voted. She cut her hair, wore make-up, and went to petting parties. She was giddy and took risks. She was a flapper.” – Jennifer Rosenberg (2011)

This unofficial flapper dictionary calls a “petting party” a “social event devoted to hugging.”  You may find many “Snugglepups” present at these social gatherings (Hartung, 1922).

This picture was taken from


This picture was taken from


The pictures above illustrate the change in women’s fashion from the early 1900’s to the 1920’s, which also reflected the change in women’s attitudes that occured leading up to this decade.  On the left you have a woman from the early 1900s:  her stlye is very conservative, Victorian-like, and covers most of her body.  She carries herself in a more formal and disciplined manner.  The picture on the right shows women from the 1920s.  Their attire is much more revealing and flashy from their their individualized hats, their shorter, sleeveless dresses, down to their strap-on heals.  They are expressing emotion, and their body language is less formal and more expressive.  Although it appears that they are posing, it is in a way that shows an attitude that is embracing life and rebelling from the previous ideals of how women should carry themselves.  This especially applies to their less conservative views about sex.





“Prohibition is better than no liquor at all.” – Will Rogers (Hirschfeld, 2006).

The Volstead Act, which officially started the prohibition of alcohol movement in the United States, went into affect January 16, 1920 (Hirschfeld, 2006).  People adjusted to this restriction by attending speakeasies, which were social gatherings that supplied illegal alcohol, located in apartment basements, or small bars with painted windows.  Within a few years, 32,000 people in New York City were drinking alcohol illegally, thanks to these speakeasies.  Joints and camouflaged drugstores were similar to speakeasies, in that they made alcohol accessible to people affected by the Prohibition Act (Cherrington, 1920). to Another thing being controlled during this time was birth control, although many people, especially women, tried to initiate its use (Tone, 1996).  Some people did not agree with this, hence it being illegal in some parts of the country.  This movement partly began because of the sexual tendencies that were occurring during this time, especially by the young women in cities and especially feminists.  Sexual freedom was something that women wanted, and feminists during this time practiced what feminists from the World War I era believed in: women being free to engage in sexual behavior without being punished; to have and express sexual freedom (Tone, 1996).

Sigmund Freud

This picture was taken from

Freud was well known for including sex into his theories.  In 1923, he published his work, The Ego and the Id (Thornton, 2010).  He stresses the importance of sexual drive, infantile sexuality, and sexual energy (also known as libido).   He would say that our sexual experiences as children affect what our personality will be like as adults.  The “id” is the part of the mind that is driven by the “instinctual sexual drives which require satisfaction” (Thornton, 2010).  More information on this subject matter can be found here.  It does not surprise me that Freud’s theories which are so surrounded by sexuality are during the time period in which the Victorian Era is ending and there is a “rebirth” in women’s attitudes and much of societies’ attitudes toward sexuality.



Cherrington E. H. (1920).  The evolution of prohibition in the United States of America.  Retrieved from

Hartung, E.  (1922).  The Flapper’s Dictionary.  Retrieved from

Hirschfeld, A., & Kahn G. (2006).  The speakeasies of 1932.  Retrieved from

Thornton, S. P. (2010).  Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).  Retrieved from

Rosenberg, J. (2011). Flappers in the Roaring Twenties.  Retrieved from

Those Dancing Flappers.  Retrieved from

Tone, A.  (1996).  Controlling reproduction: an American history.  Retrieved from,+Andrea.+1996.+%E2%80%9CContraceptive+Consumers:+Gender+and+the+Political+Economy+of+Birth+Control+in+the+1930s.%E2%80%9D+Journal+of+Social+History+29.+485-506.&source=bl&ots=Sb5qYq07fR&sig=w72uabS8ZsDJGGz2O2zpcXVzOJE&hl=en&ei=lnfTTrWnLsLosQLWiKXbDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=illegal&f=false

One Response to “Roaring ’20s”

  1. […] the time of Virginia Woolf.  Especially in the 1920’s and the emergence of the “flapper,” a women’s sexuality was more apparent than ever.  This was a scary occurrence for many and threatened everything that […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.