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How Far Do You Agree With The View That America Was A Land Of Opportunity During The 1920s?"

1732 words - 7 pages

"How far do you agree with the view that America was a land of opportunity during the 1920s?"

Explain your answer using sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and your own knowledge.

(40 marks)

The 1920s are widely known as the 'Boom Era', or the 'Roaring Twenties' and a "decade of lively economic growth" (Source 3), due to the sheer economic success and advancement, and the emergence of the motor car, Hollywood, consumerism and materialism. However, there were many Americans whom this period of prosperity did not benefit, meaning that although America was a land of opportunity, this did not necessary spread to every citizen.

In the 1920s, America became the "World's first ...view middle of the document...

Not only did the increased employment help male industrial workers, but women also benefited from economic boom in the 1920s, claiming new jobs as "secretaries and telephonists" (3). Women also received the right to vote in 1920, marking the beginning of greater feminist rights and freedoms throughout the decade. As stated in Source 3, "women's fashion reflected the change in women's political and economic status", and the feeling of greater freedom in the 1920s, with the emergence of the 'Flapper girl', with shorter skirts, make-up, and the revolutionary 'one hour dress', designed for working women who could make their own clothes cheaper and more efficiently. By 1930, the percentage of women in the work force had risen from 23% in 1920 to 27%. However, although more opportunities for unqualified women opened up, the first generation of college-educated women could only find opportunities in nurturing 'women's professions' such as nursing, teaching, social work and, within medicine, paediatrics. Furthermore, equality in the work place still needed much improvement, as in 1920, while male factory workers on federal contracts earned 40 cents an hour, women only earned 25 cents, illustrating the discrimination of women in the work force.

Although the 1920s economic boom created opportunities for many groups of people, such as industrial workers and women, there were many social groups and areas who missed out. African-Americans were treated as "second class citizens" (3) across America, receiving only the lowest paid work. During the 1920s, there was a great migration of 1.3 million black Americans from Southern states to Northern cities, seeking to escape from southern segregation and the Jim Crow Laws, which had seen black Americans reduced to little more than second class labourers. This migration led to a 40% increase in the Northern black population, meaning although there were opportunities for low paid, unskilled labourers such as most African-Americans, there was so much competition that many still struggled to find employment. Black Americans also faced WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) intolerance, in particular, with the re-emergence of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915. As Source 3 explains, "the new KKK was not only anti-African American, but also anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic".

In contrast, the birth of Hollywood glamour and show business created a wealth of opportunity and new leisure activities. Hollywood became "the centre of national and world attention as the home of film stars" (3) such as Charlie Chaplin and Rudolf Valentino- stars of the 'silent screen'. The development of the film industry led to an increase in cinema-goers, and by 1928, there were "17,000 cinemas in the USA" (4). Cinemas gave ordinary Americans opportunities not only to admire celebrities, and be entertained, but also offered the chance for people to "forget their troubles for a few hours" (4), and it became a "national habit" (5). As Source 4...

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