During the 1920s, tension arose between a new generation, with liberal and progressive ideas, and a more traditional peer group, who favored conventional values and sentimentalism. This social tension was caused by technological advancements, a revolution in society in the period of and directly following World War I, a revolution of morals and rapid urbanization. The new generation expressed themselves through the music of the times, greater sexual promiscuity, use of technology and advertising, whereas the elder generation manifested intolerance and resistance.
World War I is known as the first “modern” war, because a new kind of warfare was utilized, new technologies were operated, planes fought in combat, and women played a key role in manufacturing and other positions formerly held by men. In the shift from wartime to peacetime, many women were reluctant and rebellious to return to their positions of domesticity, and sought other opportunities. With the passing of the nineteenth amendment in 1920, younger women felt even more liberated, and changed their style of dress, hair and life: skirts became shorter, hair was bobbed, and many women began to smoke. Along with this questioning of traditional values, one can see a steady increase in the divorce rate and a sharp drop in the number of marriages. Religion, in a traditional way of life, was also challenged with new theories such as that of evolution and natural selection, literal interpretation of Scripture, and the incorporation of contemporary trends, such as jazz, into one’s image of heaven.
During this time, American cities grew larger at an alarming rate; the sources of this growing population were immigrants. These newcomers were a significant part of the disharmony that existed between the old and the new in the 1920s, because they presented diversity to a people who were striving become more provincial and who wanted to preserve “Americanism.” It was these groups that the Ku Klux Klan fought to restore power to the “everyday, not highly cultured, not overly intellectualized, but entirely unspoiled and not de-Americanized, average citizen of the old stock.” They yearned for a return to the life that once existed, but was drastically changed through industry, manufacturing, and urbanization.
In not being able to accept the fact that agrarianism was falling second to industry, groups of the “old stock,” such as the Ku Klux Klan, in not accepting any new values augmented the tension that existed through their intolerance and persecution of the “liberals.” The newer generation, on the other hand, manifested their “roar” of the twenties by a different way of dress, in listening to jazz and creating new manias such as the Charleston. These liberals also accepted the technology of the times by purchasing cars and were affected by sensationalist advertising for “toothpastes, socks, tires, cameras, instantaneous hot-water-heaters–.” The older generation viewed them as sexually indiscriminate, and this was true because for the first time premarital sex was advocated, birth control (although illegal) was used with the aid of such people as Sanger, and the rate of marriages dropped.
The Roaring Twenties were an era in which tension emanated between a new generation, with a broad-minded and revisionist disposition, and a more traditional group, who favored conformism, nostalgia and customary values. This social tension was caused by changes in social status in the period of World War I, technological progression, a revolution of morals and rapid urbanization. The new generation expressed themselves through the music of the times, greater sexual promiscuity, use of technology such as the automobile, and advertising, whereas the older generation of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants manifested narrow-mindedness and hardness.