Wives of the 1920s

Written by anastasia blackwood
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Wives of the 1920s
The wives of the 1920s devoted the majority of their days to housekeeping. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

The 1920s was a time for change for some women more than others. It's easy to imagine all the women of the era as free-spirited, educated, working and enjoying the same social activities as men, such as smoking and drinking. Unfortunately, that lifestyle was enjoyed mostly by the young, single women of the 1920s. Conditions for 1920s housewives were nearly as restricting as ever.

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Work

The 1920s welcomed many new freedoms for single women, but married women often were still held back by the era's strict beliefs about the gender. The majority of married women worked inside their home as a housewife, with duties such as cleaning the house, caring for children and ensuring that their husbands were taken care of. Of those with working husbands, only 15 per cent of married white women and 30 per cent of married black women found work outside of the home in the 1920s, leaving the majority as housewives.

Fashion

Wives of the 1920s were obligated to be fashionable for their husbands, neighbours and friends, while respecting that their husband's money was being used to purchase their clothes. Wives were expected to be presentable while also being frugal. Women's fashion became much more exciting during the 1920s with the beginning of flowing, short, colourful dresses. Dieting for the purpose of weight-loss became a popular fad in the 1920s when advertising companies began to use incredibly thin women as the ultimate example of beauty.

Social Class

The life of the 1920s wife was mostly the same for all women of the 1920s and was only minutely affected by their social class. During the 1920s, many new household appliances were invented to ease the burden of caring for the home, and upper-class women saw the time required to care for their home decrease by these inventions. Washing machines, dryers and frozen meals all eased the burden of housekeeping. Upper-class women also enjoyed more leisure time due to their ability to hire a nanny. More often than not, the lives of all housewives paralleled each other no matter their social class.

Women's Rights Movements

The 1920s was a time of many breakthroughs for women's rights. Women were allowed to vote and also recognised as equals to men during the 1920s. While the new laws allowed many women to attend college, find jobs and enjoy the right to vote, married women did not see the impact of these changes. Since married women already were set in their lifestyles, it was incredibly rare that they would take on a job, become interested in politics or attend a college. Only the young, single women of the 1920s were affected by the women's rights movements of the time.

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