The Changes on the Roles of Women in American Society in Frederick Lewis Allen’s Only Yesterday The Revolution in Manners and Morals

The state of mind and actions of the people of the 1920’s changed dramatically

from the years past. In the article “Only Yesterday: The Revolution in Manners and Morals.” By Frederick Lewis Allen, explains how American society was changed. The article explains the roles of women and how it changed in the years following the first World War. Allen describes a number of events that partake in the causation of women’s manners and morals.

Women were known for and expected to act as the guardians of morality. They were superior to men and lived a life of innocence until the right man came into their lives. Beginning in the early 1920’s, this moral code was changed dramatically. Women began to dress more scandalous by wearing their skirts higher and sleeves shorter. Another example of change was that the new form of dancing was considered filthy to stricter adults. Young women were now becoming sexually active at a younger age than before. Before this social change, a girl must never even kiss a boy until she knew that he was the one. Girls also started to sneak out of the house and go on drives at around 4 P.M. Women were getting new opportunities in the world that gave them more freedom than in the past. When speaking about smoking and drinking, Allen states, “Majority of the opinion held that it was morally wrong for them to smoke and could hardly imagine them showing the effects of alcohol.” He comes to later explain that women would smoke and go to the bars just as often as men. There were factors involved when it came to why Americans had changed in their thoughts and behaviors.

People in the United States changed their view on the social aspects of life because of major events that occurred during the 1920’s. Women started to get new opportunities through the right to vote. This caused women to express that they were no

longer insignificant in the U.S. During the war, many jobs opened up and mostly women filled them. Because of this, women could make money and provide for themselves. By being more independent, they can and did whatever they pleased. A big factor that influenced both females and males to be “rebellious” was their view of the war. Most

people did not believe that the United States should have even gone into the war. People were upset and influenced them to be immoral.

Automotive industries were booming in the 1920’s. People were now capable of buying a car at a fairly affordable price. The automobile offered an almost universally available means of escaping temporarily from the supervision of parents. This gave young adults the ability to get away from their parents and do unaccepted activities with either friends or the opposite sex.

This period of time Americans view of science and the social aspects of the world were changing. Sigmund Freud had an unorthodox concept about human that no one had heard until this time. Americans started understanding the basic information about the popularized biology and anthropology. Freud gave the general impression that men and women were merely animals and that the moral codes had no universal validity. The mindset of Americans had changed in the fact that morals should not be as strict as they used to think.

In the article “Only Yesterday: The Revolution in Manners and Morals” the author gives two main ideas. He shows the reader that American society was becoming a little more corrupt. Allen explained the corruption through the increase of automobiles, the different outlook on science, World War 1 and the freedoms that women acquired. In my

opinion, I believe that his perspectives were spot on. He provides arguments in which the

people of America changed their outlook on what was morally accepted.


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