Lower class in the 1920s

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Category: Lower class in the 1920s

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post. Credit: Life Magazine. The middle class did great in the s, says Amity Shlaes. Yeah, right. Until about October that is hint: that's when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Who is Amity Shlaes? Just one example among many: Rauchway noted that Shlaes used an older, out-of-date measure of the unemployment rate, one that just happens to count people who worked for New Deal programs like the W. Rauchway's article is a superb resource for anyone looking to counter New Deal deniers like Shlaes with actual, you know, facts.

But back to Ms. This is inaccurate, Shlaes argues, as is much of the "economic history" presented in Gatsby. She begins by pointing out the supposed historical inaccuracies regarding the stock market presented by Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel. Funny, I never thought of Carraway as an important source for economic history, but that's ok, let's see where Shlaes goes with this :. She's got a point there, right?

But wait a minute. The Roaring Twenties didn't actually begin on January 1, As Shlaes knows well, there was a very real recession which bottomed out in and was caused largely by a post-World War I inflationary spike in prices.

So, in her assault on not a Professor Nick Carraway, Shlaes picked a time when the stock market was high -- i.

The Working Class in the Early 1900s

The reality is that the Dow went up six-fold -- that's percent -- over eight years from its low in to its high point in October So yes, Ms.

Shlaes, even by the summer ofthe market was already off to the races, having gone up significantly from where it stood one year earlier. Given that this is the only economic "fact" in Gatsby that Shlaes challenges, you'd think she'd have been able to do better and Daisy isn't the "heroine" either, by the way.

But Shlaes used the data with a very specific purpose in mind, to get readers drawn to an article with a box-office smash in the title thinking that, hey, maybe everything I've learned about the s is wrong, and that this person has got the truth. But Shlaes' real debate isn't with Nick Carraway, it's with Paul Krugman and, well, most of the economics discipline over whether laissez-faire economics or Keynesian economics is the better approach to achieving long-lasting, sustainable economic growth, and in particular which is the better approach to take after a significant economic crash of the kind experienced in or Shlaes, after the first bit about Gatsbythen cites a litany of statistics about how middle-class and working-class life improved during the s.

By this point, after hoodwinking readers about Gatsby and the stock market, and bolstering her credibility as someone concerned about those in the middle -- and, by highlighting the decline in lynchings and in Klan activity as prosperity continued into the late twenties, maybe even her credibility among the Americans of color that conservatives are desperate to reach -- she delivers the point she's been priming her readers to accept, lock, stock, and barrel.

The larger argument is about conservative economic policy. Shlaes approvingly cites the idea that "if the rich prospered, the rest might do better than before.

The thing is, it's bunk. Economic inequality isn't a problem just because of the growing gap between the rich and the rest by itself, but because massive inequality is the sign of an unhealthy economy, one on the brink of collapse.

Inequality reached a new high on the eve of the Great Depression before falling and remaining relatively constant until the early s, when Ronald Reagan moved our economic policies hard to the right. Inequality then grew again, rapidly, peaking just before the most recent crash, the Great Recession ofone that, like the Great Depression, followed a sustained period of Republican control of the White House and both houses of Congress.The lower class and the masses together constituted the largest sector of rural and urban society--about 75 percent.

The line between the lower class and the masses was fine; it was based more on an increased awareness of the social, economic, and political systems among members of the lower class than on any other criterion. Those at the upper levels of the lower class--organized labor, small farmers, merchants, and some white-collar workers-- were in a transitional stage and possessed some attributes of middle-class status. The lower class was more politically aware than the masses, although the levels of participation were uniformly low.

Feelings of common identity were generally lacking among groups in the lower class, although class consciousness existed within such groups as organized labor and landowning campesinos. Generally, members of the lower class were regularly employed with some degree of security, although they were frequently unskilled and unorganized.

Included in this category were domestic servants, construction workers, taxi drivers, barbers, repairmen, and small shopkeepers. The rural lower class included small independent landholders, called minifundistasand even some day workers, sharecroppers, and tenant farmers, who provided some security for their families. In contrast, the masses were composed of the illiterate and the impoverished who lived on the margin of subsistence and possessed little or no security, skill, or stable employment.

American lower class

They included Indians and blacks as well as many other dark-skinned persons. They resided on the sociopolitical periphery of the society and maintained their traditional way of life; most of their energies were consumed in the struggle for survival.

lower class in the 1920s

Although the masses possessed some political potential and some awareness of the political system, they lacked an effective, evaluative understanding of it as well as sufficient class cohesion to articulate their desires.

At the top of the lower-class hierarchy and merging into the middle class were the regularly employed industrial workers. Often distinguished from white-collar employees only by their blue-collar occupations, unionized factory workers received relatively high wages and were protected by labor legislation.

They were better organized than other employed members of the lower class and were sometimes able to exert a degree of pressure on employers and political parties to obtain their demands.

In general, they were conservative politically and opposed government initiatives to change the status quo. This conservatism existed because, despite their stability relative to other members of the lower class, their status in the society was fairly tenuous, resting solely on maintenance of their occupation. Loss of job would seriously impair a factory worker's ability to maintain his status. Social life in the lower class was less structured and more informal than in the middle and upper classes.

There was less restraint and concern with the rigid standards of behavior that regulated the social activities of those higher on the social scale. Participation in religious activities, particularly celebrations of saints' days and festivals, was an important part of social life, as were spontaneous neighborhood and family gatherings.

The rapid growth of the urban sector since the s resulted primarily from the influx of migrants from the countryside. Agricultural workers continued to leave the rural areas and come to the towns and cities, hoping to improve their way of life. Most were uneducated--at best barely literate--and unskilled, two attributes that considerably limited their prospects for employment and their ability to adjust to urban life. Consequently, there was a high rate of unemployment and underemployment in this migrant population, particularly among the men.

Women often found jobs as domestic servants or cooks, but the continued flood of unskilled labor into the cities made it increasingly difficult for men to find even the most menial jobs. Movement to the city did little to change the relative social status or way of life of most migrants, who merely exchanged rural unemployment and poverty for the same conditions in an urban environment.

Many became residents of the shantytowns that surrounded the larger cities. Housing in a lower-class barrio was frequently no more than a shack without running water and often without electricity, not too different from what the migrant had left behind.Early 20th century American labor and working-class history is a subfield of American social history that focuses attention on the complex lives of working people in a rapidly changing global political and economic system.

Once focused closely on institutional dynamics in the workplace and electoral politics, labor history has expanded and refined its approach to include questions about the families, communities, identities, and cultures workers have developed over time.

Particularly important are the ways that workers both defined and were defined by differences of race, gender, ethnicity, class, and place. Individual workers and organized groups of working Americans both transformed and were transformed by the main struggles of the industrial era, including conflicts over the place of former slaves and their descendants in the United States, mass immigration and migrations, technological change, new management and business models, the development of a consumer economy, the rise of a more active federal government, and the evolution of popular culture.

The period between and saw a crucial transition in the labor and working-class history of the United States. At its outset, Americans were working many more hours a day than the eight for which they had fought hard in the late 19th century. On average, Americans labored fifty-four to sixty-three hours per week in dangerous working conditions approximately 35, workers died in accidents annually at the turn of the century. Byhalf of all Americans lived in growing urban neighborhoods, and for many of them chronic unemployment, poverty, and deep social divides had become a regular part of life.

Workers had little power in either the Democratic or Republican party. The ranks of organized labor were shrinking in the years before the economy began to recover in Dreams of a more democratic alternative to wage labor and corporate-dominated capitalism had been all but destroyed.

Workers struggled to find their place in an emerging consumer-oriented culture that assumed everyone ought to strive for the often unattainable, and not necessarily desirable, marks of middle-class respectability. Yet American labor emerged from World War II with the main sectors of the industrial economy organized, with greater earning potential than any previous generation of American workers, and with unprecedented power as an organized interest group that could appeal to the federal government to promote its welfare.

The labor and working-class history of the United States between andthen, is the story of how working-class individuals, families, and communities—members of an extremely diverse American working class—managed to carve out positions of political, economic, and cultural influence, even as they remained divided among themselves, dependent upon corporate power, and increasingly invested in a individualistic, competitive, acquisitive culture.

Keywords: labor and working-class historylabor movementtrade unionsclassProgressive EraWorld War IWorld War IIradicalismcapitalismrace and ethnic relationslegal historypolitical historyNew Deal. American trade unionists entered the 20th century battered by a series of savage defeats which, bybrought the end of an era when millions of Americans had joined mass movements seeking alternatives to corporate-dominated, wage-labor capitalism.

In the eyes of the law, Americans generally—with the exception of married white women—had a responsibility to work, but their sole right at work was the right to quit.

The 1920s in Britain

Great changes were taking place, yet Americans generally believed that even more change was needed if the republic were to survive and thrive in the industrial era. In the workplace as much as in surrounding communities, Americans feared the implications of this new era of global economic expansion. Political and ideological violence may have been rare, but when violence broke out, it both stigmatized and divided labor groups, even as it brought swift reactions from local police, private detective firms, and state and federal officials.

The labor violence and economic upheavals of the late 19th century had been horrific enough to convince many powerful Americans that reform was necessary. InRepublican president William McKinley, who would be assassinated in by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz, appointed the United States Industrial Commission to study the causes of labor violence.

At the same time, a broad group of largely middle-class and elite Americans, soon to be known as Progressives, set out to document and then ameliorate the worst forms of corruption in the economy and politics, and to soften the edges of the new industrial system by making workplaces, consumer products, and neighborhoods safer and healthier.

There was no single Progressive Era social movement; rather, reformers sought everything from antitrust legislation, shorter working hours, and safer workplaces to bans on child labor, protective legislation for female workers, and reforms that would clean up manufacturing and the political process. These top-down reform efforts—efforts that emphasized the need for greater efficiency and order in the economy and at the workplace—would be deeply ambiguous for workers.

But they reflected an important move away from the commitments to Social Darwinism and laissez-faire principles that had defined the Gilded Age. Progressive reform itself could become a form of social control. For most workers, the greatest fears derived from the accelerating changes at the workplace that were well underway by the turn of the century.

There were benefits as production skyrocketed across the economy. Whereas the pick miner in a coal shaft produced 2. Simultaneously, the kinds of occupations Americans held and their experiences at work changed dramatically, not always for the worse.There were considerable social changes in the s, brought about largely by economic prosperity and increasing urbanisation see Urbanisation and modernity.

In particular, the status of women and black people shifted significantly. Education was a factor in social change, as between and the number of high school students doubled. Alumni were encouraged to continue their connection with college. Fitzgerald himself at Princeton from remained a reader of the Princeton Alumni Weekly magazine throughout his life.

He was reading this when he suffered his final heart attack in In the East, clustered in and around the city of New York, we see a range of social strata:.

Leisure was increasingly a concern of the newly prosperous social groups in the s. The working day was gradually shortening and many jobs were not as physically demanding as the hard labour required of farm and factory work. The activities and purchases of Tom, Daisy and Jordan, as well as the lavish parties held by Gatsby, are typical examples of the behaviour of this social group. Sinceslavery had been outlawed in America, yet black people still struggled in the s under a burden of systemic discrimination and inequality.

An attitude of white superiority remained, with white people dominating the economic boom period and being keen to assert their power over black people. Racial segregation was widespread and injustices were commonplace. In the first chapter of The Great GatsbyTom Buchanan expresses some of these ideas when he warns of a threat to his Nordic racial supremacy. However, the s saw some shifts in power.

Black literature also came to prominence and there were the beginnings of a movement towards black pride and racial integration. Radio, newspapers, magazines and cinema were vehicles for mass culture, while the development of mail-order catalogues enabled the rural communities to buy the same products - and aspire to the same lifestyle - as city-dwellers. Mass communication enabled sports and their star players to become nationally important, such as:.

These, with the addition of college sports, became financially lucrative concerns, which then stimulated associated industries, particularly gambling. Magazines such as Good Housekeeping included articles on etiquette and ways to maintain and increase social status. This magazine stated its mission was:. Fitzgerald wrote stories for magazines, such as the Saturday Evening Postthe most popular weekly magazine of this period.

This publication included many short stories and serialised fiction suited to popular tastes, but also carried advertisements, letters, advice and articles, all of which propagated mass culture. Higher wages and more readily available credit enabled consumers to purchase more goods, and this supported the growth of manufacturing industries. Chain stores and department stores developed throughout the s, with Sears, Woolworths, Kruger and other companies extending their business.

The growth of mass-produced goods saw the development of advertising to support it, a field in which Fitzgerald himself briefly worked. By the s, with increased prosperity, advertising was a boom industry. Prior to this, advertising had somewhat dubious associations, especially being associated with the trade in medicines. Now it increasingly improved its own image. In it was even endorsed in a speech by President Calvin Coolidge:.

There was a shift in emphasis. Rather than responding to a practical or utilitarian need, s advertising copy and images were intended to create a desire for personal pleasure and satisfaction. Advertising in magazines such as Good Housekeepingon the radio, in the cinema and on large signs as with the Eyes of Doctor T.Please enter the email address that you use to login to TeenInk.

One cannot deny that money keeps our modern society in motion. This ideology was especially evident in the s, during the massive economic downturn of the Great Depression. During this time, money was a privilege to hold.

The impacts of the Great Depression were numerous and affected the world population tremendously. The American population, specifically the lower class, were directly affected by the repercussions that came from the Depression.

lower class in the 1920s

According to multiple credible sources, the Great Depression had detrimental impacts on the lives of the lower class. To begin, the Great Depression forced the people already in the lower class, under the poverty line which caused the population many troubles. The repercussions of this caused a greater increase in the percentage of the American population below the poverty line, not to mention the many forms of reliefs and the many organizations concocted by the government as a retaliation against this economic tragedy.

The lower-class during this time-period was already living from paycheck to paycheck, but to lose over a fifth of what they were barely surviving on is more than enough to push these individuals under the poverty line. These lower-class families must now rely on the limited relief packages that are a product of a country whose domestic production is decreasing exponentially. It is quite evident that the Great Depression induced an economically inefficient country which is driving itself down.

The county of Moose Jaw is located in a very rural area with the primary occupation being low-income farmers. These already monetarily deprived citizens had just enough to live on before the disaster that was the Great Depression. Whether it be directly impacted by the American government or indirectly by the fallout from the Great Depression, financial insecurity was prominent in the lower-class during the s. Due to the Great Depression, the American unemployment rate was at its highest of all time.

During this time the fight for a job, any job, was intense and was highly discriminatory. Vanessa Bush wrote an intelligent review of the nonfiction novel To Ask for an Equal Chance: African Americans in the Great Depression which effectively shows the reader the discriminatory actions of the few employers that were still in business during this time of an economic catastrophe.

As stated in the quote, the unemployment rate for blacks was more than double that of whites. The lower class had a much more difficult time searching for a job, any job since many companies preferred higher-class, better-off employees, since the company did not want responsibility for those employees under the poverty line.

The left out lower-class made up the majority of the increasing unemployment rate, which negatively impacted the lives of those affected.What was it like to live in the s? The First World War had ended in victory, peace had returned and with it, prosperity. For some the war had proved to be very profitable. Manufacturers and suppliers of goods needed for the war effort had prospered throughout the war years and become very rich.

Nightclubs, jazz clubs and cocktail bars flourished in the cities. This generation had largely missed the war, being too young to fight, and perhaps there was a sense of guilt that they had escaped the horrors of war. Perhaps they felt a need to enjoy life to the full, because so many other young lives had been lost on the battlefields of Flanders.

Both authors politely poke fun at the socialites and upper classes, but their novels give a good idea of the heady days of the s. The experiences during the War influenced British society, particularly women. During the war, many women had been employed in the factoriesgiving them a wage and therefore a certain degree of independence.

Women over 30 had been given the vote inand by this had been extended to all women over the age of Women felt more confident and empowered, and this new independence was reflected in the new fashions. Hair was shorter, dresses were shorter, and women started to smoke, drink and drive motorcars. Girl Power s-style had arrived! For married women and their children, life was pretty much the same post-war as pre-war. Pregnant women normally gave birth at home and in a middle-class home, a live-in nurse was often engaged for the two weeks prior and for a month after the birth.

For working class women there was no such luxury as a home help, and there was certainly no paternity leave for the husband! Families were on average smaller in the s than during the Victorian era, with families of 3 or 4 children most common. Whip-and-top and skipping were popular pastimes. Carrot tops, turnip tops and wooden tops were whipped up and down the streets and pavements as there was little traffic. In the Education Act raised the school leaving age to State primary education was now free for all children and started at age 5; even the youngest children were expected to attend for the full day from 9am to 4.

In the country, pupils at some schools were still practising writing with a tray of sand and a stick, progressing to a slate and chalk as they became more proficient. Classes were large, learning was by rote and books were shared between groups of pupils, as books and paper were expensive.

Nature study, sewing, woodwork, country dancing and traditional folk songs were also taught. By the mid s the post-war period of prosperity was well and truly over. The re-introduction of the Gold Standard by Winston Churchill in kept interest rates high and meant UK exports were expensive.

Coal reserves had been depleted during the War and Britain was now importing more coal than it was mining. Poverty amongst the unemployed contrasted strikingly with the affluence of the middle and upper classes. By the mid s unemployment had risen to over 2 million.

lower class in the 1920s

This lead in turn to the Great Strike of see picture below and, following the US Wall Street crash ofthe beginning of the Great Depression of the s. Thomas Edward T. January marks the the 90th anniversary of Somerset-born politician and social activist Margaret Bondfield becoming the first woman minister in the UK parliament in Related articles. The World of the Edwardian Child. Lawrence of Arabia. Max Woosnam.

Next article. Margaret Bondfield History of Britain January marks the the 90th anniversary of Somerset-born politician and social activist Margaret Bondfield becoming the first woman minister in the UK parliament in We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.Much has been written about s fashion, and for good reason. It is easily one of the most influential, creative and unique epochs in modern fashion history. Advertisement After World War I, the fashion landscape shifted like tectonic plates.

Once reserved for aristocrats and the affluent, high fashion had taken a noticeably more attainable turn, allowing middle class men and women in on the fun. Some luxurious textiles were finally affordable, making it possible for fashionable items to be created at home.

In the s it was still quite common for clothes to be handmade. Designers and homemakers alike were throwing caution to the wind, trying daring new styles just to see what they could get away with. Many women who lived in rural areas wore nearly the same as their mothers. There were very different types of people converging at once in the s from many different walks of life.

Some were desperate for change, others wanted nothing to do with it. The most stunning thing you will notice about s fashion is the shape of the silhouette. It is strikingly straight and flat. While most fashions accentuate the figure in some way or another, it almost seemed like, at times, any shape other than straight was a big no-no. This straight shape is a very distinct element of s style.

Before we dive into all of the pictures we have below, what are some basic elements of the s wardrobe? Advertisement What type of hats did women wear in the s? There several styles seen, some styled almost like bonnets, while others were very close fitting, called Felt Helmets.

Many hats were adorned with silk roses, ribbons, buckles, pins, feathers and more. Some had a ribbon loop on the side, others were velvet with gold lace trim.

The style variations were endless. A very chic and youthful looking hat could be close-fitting with a fashionable pieced crown pulled softly to the back. The narrow off-the-face brim was finished with rows of stitching.

The smart ostrich fancy on the side was of two shades and finished with grosgrain ribbon. Other styles might feature a high crown fashioned of velvet with an off-the-face flange that was outlined with dainty plush flowers.

The band and flange facing was made of silk satin. Larger hats were better at making the wearer the center of attention. The crown was effectively trimmed with tubular stitching and the semi-poke brim faced with taffeta. It was a hat so spectacular it had to be seen to be truly appreciated. The designer had used the velvet flower and grosgrain ribbon as well as band and bow ends. Hats like these were featured quite prominently in exclusive New York fashion shops, costing twice as much as most other hats.

For the most part, men wore black, blue or some shade of brown. This lack of variety makes sense; it was not common for men at the time to be wildly flamboyant. Coats were usually made of somewhat subdued colors, browns and dark blues, and were often covered with large buttons. Furs and fur trimming was wildly popular. Just about any animal imaginable was available to line the inside of a coat or to serve as a warm collar. Depending on the budget, a woman would generally choose between wool velour and fur.

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