American history is colorful, but the 1920s stand out as one of the most exciting decades of the 20th century. During the 10 years between 1920 and 1930, women earned the right to vote, great advances in technology were made and the country enjoyed a time of relative prosperity. The "roaring twenties" swept into the family home as well, challenging traditional gender roles and improving children's education.
Father Knew Best
Men and women married for love and affection in the 1920s, which was almost unheard of 20 years before at the turn of the century. Married couples were much more likely to be openly affectionate with each other. But as the economy strengthened and more and more middle-class fathers gained respectable careers, they began to psychologically draw apart from their families. Many fathers embraced the role of the breadwinner and spent more and more time away from the home. Father knew best when it came to discipline and was still technically the head of the household, but mother was the primary caregiver of the children and ran the house.
More Than A Mother
Women earned the right to vote during this decade, and more of them also began working outside of the home for the first time. Young women gained more freedom and rebelled in minor ways, including how they dressed and spoke. Gender roles started to blur. No longer was it a given that the mother would be around the house all of the time, and it was no longer assumed that women did not have the skills necessary to make it in the workforce. Still, the majority of families in the 1920s consisted of a father who was the wage earner and a mother whose job it was to stay home and take care of the house and children.
Children Were Children
Before the 1920s, children were viewed somewhat as little adults. Many did not attend school, but rather stayed home to help work on the farm or around the house. During the 1920s, education reform greatly improved public schooling for children, and education became much more valued. School attendance was mandated for the first time. In addition, children were no longer seen as little adults, but instead were looked at as the future of the country. Home life centered a lot on the children: what they were learning in school and how parents could protect them from the evils of the world.
Gizmos and Gadgets
The nation's wealth doubled during the 1920s, which meant that middle and upper class families had more disposable income than ever before. Department stores carried a wide array of goods, from clothing to radios, which became extremely popular. Families would gather around radios each night to listen to news and other programs. Young people started to go to movies. Homes were equipped with washing machines and vacuum cleaners, making household chores much easier. Cars became more affordable -- one in every five families owned one by the end of the decade, according to History.com -- which not only allowed men to commute to work, but brought families together as they began to take family vacations.
- History.com: The Roaring Twenties
- Memorial Hall Museum Online: Family Life 1880-1920
- Memorial Hall Museum Online: Gender Roles -- A New American Workforce
- Digital History: Does the American Family Have a History? Family Images and Realities
- Memorial Hall Museum Online: Getting Things -- The New Consumer
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images