Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

New Morality

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
New Morality

Youth rebellion has long been a fixture of American culture. After the economic boom of WWII, teenage rebellion became an iconic part of American culture. The previous war, WWI, also ended a strong economy, and young people felt emboldened to new ideas. At that time it was the college-age and young professionals who defined the New Morality of the 1920s. How did assumptions about social roles, gender, race, and sexuality change during the 1920s? Let's explore the rise of America's new morality!

A frame from the 1924 Motion Picture The Painted Flapper StudySmarter

From the Film Painted Flipper (1924)/Wikimedia Commons

What was the New Morality?

In the 1920s, young people developed a more open sense of what was acceptable than the previous generation. The new morality grew up around new cultural developments like the founding of Planned Parenthood and the popularity of jazz music. Young White people in big cities danced to Black music in a promiscuous party atmosphere. Total equality was not achieved but barriers between race, gender, and sexuality were starting to erode.

Flappers and Sheiks

Flappers and Sheiks were subcultures that were strongly associated with the New Morality. Flappers were the female and Sheiks the male versions of this new, Jazz-influenced youth culture. These groups reflected the 1920s departure from conservatism.

FLAPPERS
SHEIKS
  • Short hair; short, straight skirts, and heavy make up
  • Smoked and drank with men
  • Sometimes called "Shebas" as a counterpart to "Sheiks"
  • Named after the popular film, The Sheik
  • Wore baggy pants, straw hats, slicked-back hair
  • Trendy young men who enjoyed fast cars and jazz music
  • The term also was applied to dashing movie stars of the late silent film era

Liberalism

While flappers are the most iconic symbol of the new morality, liberalism is the word most often used to describe it. Liberalism in this sense means that people deserve freedom and equality. Freedom and equality were not perfectly realized in the era, but it began a march in that direction.

Judge Magazine Cover Depicting a Flapper/Wikimedia Commons

New Roles for Women

In 1919, the Senate approved the Nineteenth Amendment, which allowed women to vote. At the dawn of the 1920s, women sought to achieve more social equality to match their newfound political equity. Areas like family, career, and sex and long-held rigid roles for women in American society. Women of the new morality had new ideas about what was acceptable in these areas and took control of their own lives.

The Nineteenth Amendment did not happen quickly. The issue had been debated in the Senate for over 40 years! As recently as just 1919, they had voted against women's suffrage. The struggle for political rights wasn't easy and the struggle for more social freedoms would be either.

Contraception and Planned Parenthood

Despite their new political freedom, women were still largely expected to only be wives and mothers. Margaret Sanger launched the organization Planned Parenthood in 1916 to provide women with more information on birth control methods. This greatly increased women's ability to make decisions about their own lives. From increased career focus for women to more permissive ideas of sexuality, this information changed society.

Transmitting this information wasn't always safe and easy though. Many states made it illegal to give out contraceptives or related information except as treatment for a disease. On April 15, 1929, The police raided a birth control clinic in New York City. They even arrested the doctors and nurses. Patients' confidential medical files were taken as evidence.

Women in Professions

In the 1920s, more women started going to college and working outside the home. The practice of an unmarried woman having a job became a normal part of society. Still, equality was not total. Women earned less than men and married women who worked were still viewed negatively, the assumption being that they were only after frivolous spending money.

Continuing Struggle for Women's Rights

As the decade of the 1920s began, it seemed that women's rights were gaining new ground. Ideas like birth control and working outside the home started to become more accepted by society. However, with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, many women felt their struggle was over and left the movement. The wave of progress began to recede and ideas like the Equal Rights Amendment stalled in Congress.

Race and the New Morality

Jazz was a major influence in the 1920s and its culture is the culture of the New Morality. For the first time, White audiences were enthralled by Black music coming out of New Orleans and Chicago, before heading on the New York. The music tied into women's new sense of liberation to dance freely and dress in ways that their parents' generation would have considered to be too provocative.

The Cotton Club in Harlem was a famous Jazz Club that packed in a hip, young audience.

A black and white photograph of the Jazz ensemble Mamie Moffitt and the Jazz Hounds StudySmarter

A Jazz Ensemble in 1923/Wikimedia Commons

Party Culture of the New Morality

With the wild music of Jazz music as a soundtrack, the party culture of the New Morality veered away from what older generations thought was appropriate. New ideas were being explored in regards to sexuality. Even laws were meant to be broken as the younger generation looked for new ways to enjoy themselves.

The automobile also shaped the New Morality. Young people experienced a kind of new independence and autonomy. Fast cars became a part of the fast-living of Jazz party culture.

New Ideas of Sexuality

Academics began to reconsider ideas about sex at the time. Psychologist Sigmund Freud and Physician Havelock Ellis published works stating that sex was a natural part of life and could be enjoyed. College kids outside of their parents' view for the first time held promiscuous parties owning to this new comfortability with sex and increased knowledge of contraception.

Drinking and the New Morality

Alcohol was illegal at the time due to prohibition. Criminal enterprises flourished by bootlegging and importing alcohol under the noses of law enforcement. Speakeasies became tied to culture. Beyond just dance and fashion, women were now drinking and engaging with the men in ways that their parents' generation had not. The New Morality did not just disregard social codes, but also legal ones.

Speakeasy:

A speakeasy was a bar that illegally sold alcohol during prohibition. They were also known as a Blind Pig or a Blind Tiger.

The Lost Generation

The works of the Lost Generation showcase the New Morality. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is one of the most popular depictions of this new world of flappers, parties, and illegal activity. The disillusionment brought on by World War I contrasted with the material excess of the strong 1920s economy to inform their works. The works of these writers and artists are among the most well-known representations of the era and the view of the times they presented is the lens through which most modern audiences understand the time period.

Those Left Out of the New Morality

The New Morality may have defined the popular image of the 1920s but it was primarily restricted to the middle and upper classes of the North East and West coast. The Democratic Party of the time controlled the South. They supported prohibition and segregation. Democrats were less in favor of women's suffrage. The Party's popularity in the region didn't just enforce more traditional ideas but showed that those conservative ideas themselves were popular in the region. For much of America, the New Morality had little impact on them.

Fundamentalism

While the New Morality was changing the lifestyles of the coastal upper and middle classes, there was a strong religious objection to new ideas. In Tennessee, the Scope Money Trial was a famous example of fundamentalist resistance. Teaching evolution in school strongly upset Fundamentalists, who believed in literal interpretations of the Bible. The New Morality didn't have one specific form of conflict that was as iconic as the Scope Money Trial, but on a larger scale, it was a part of the same cultural shift.

A Summary of the New Morality Rise

The social uproar of the 1920s was strongly heard in the cities, where bigger urban concentrations gave place to cultural fusion and freedom. It impacted art, music, fashion, literature, and philosophy. The new artistic expressions gained popularity, like cinema and jazz. The lost generation found itself freer in this new morality.

New Morality - Key takeaways

  • Ideas about race, gender, and sexuality were challenged during the 1920s.
  • Primarily existed among the middle and upper classes of the Northeast and West coasts.
  • Often described as "liberalism," meaning that people deserve freedom and equality.
  • The flapper is the symbol of the New Morality.
  • A culture of parties and jazz music went with the new openness.

Frequently Asked Questions about New Morality

The New Morality glorified freedom and equality. 

The new morality gave women social gains to match the political gains of the Nineteenth Amendment. 

The New Morality existed mostly for the coastal middle and upper classes. The South, where things like fundamentalism and the Democratic Party were popular, remained largely untouched by its changes.

Individuals were freer to enjoy things that had previously been considered taboo such as sex, drinking and cigarettes–for women.  

Women had more control over starting families and life outside the home.  

Final New Morality Quiz

Question

What area did flappers generally come from? 

Show answer

Answer

Northern urban areas

Show question

Question

What were two activities that were societally unacceptable for women? 

Show answer

Answer

Smoking & Drinking

Show question

Question

Laws were implemented in several states that regulated what type of clothing? 

Show answer

Answer

Bathing Suits

Show question

Question

Flappers helped fuel the economy by participating in what movement? 

Show answer

Answer

Consumerism 

Show question

Question

What major event led to the disintegration of the flapper? 

Show answer

Answer

The Great Depression of the 1930s 

Show question

Question

The flapper embraced what style of fashion? 

Show answer

Answer

Revealing clothing, with short hems and low-cut necklines. 

Show question

Question

Why were flappers considered to be the first generation of independent women? 

Show answer

Answer

Flappers did not adhere to domestic responsibilities

Show question

Question

Where did flappers generally get jobs? 

Show answer

Answer

Offices as Clerks 

Show question

Question

What important right did women win at the beginning of the 1920s? 

Show answer

Answer

The right to vote

Show question

Question

From what WWI belief/ideology did flappers originate from? 

Show answer

Answer

Due to the loss of life in World War I, many adopted the belief that life was short and should be lived to the fullest. Also, an entire group of women had lost possible marriage prospects with the number of young men lost to the war. 

Show question

Question

What word is usually used to describe New Morality?

Show answer

Answer

Liberalism

Show question

Question

What kind of music was the New Morality related to?


Show answer

Answer

Jazz

Show question

Question

What is often considered the symbol of the New Morality?

Show answer

Answer

Flapper

Show question

Question

Where was New Morality most present?

Show answer

Answer

The coasts

Show question

Question

What did the New Morality express?


Show answer

Answer

Freedom and equality 

Show question

Question

What group embraced the New Morality?


Show answer

Answer

Middle and Upper class youth

Show question

Question

What was the male counterpart to flappers?

Show answer

Answer

Sheiks

Show question

Question

Information about what was a part of spreading New Morality?

Show answer

Answer

Contraception 

Show question

Question

What gave young people a new level of independence and privacy that aided New Morality?


Show answer

Answer

Automobiles 

Show question

Question

Women gained freedom in what area from New Morality?

Show answer

Answer

Social

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the New Morality quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.