Monday, April 18, 2011

The Jazz Age

To me the Jazz Age signifies an age of freedom in thought and action. The average young person of today is not bound by the strict conventions which governed the actions of previous generations.

Unidentified Denver Coed, Sunset Magazine, 1926

The lifestyles of young men and women in the 1920s were as shocking to their Victorian-era parents as the 1960s "hippie" generation was to Americans who came of age during World War Two, or as "Generation Next" is to parents who grew up in the 1970s. Each succeeding generation seems to be born to shock its parents, and the children of the twenties were no exception.

In reaction to uncontrollable forces around them – war, science, society – young people everywhere sought answers in places once considered unthinkable, both morally and physically. Ellen Welles Page, a young woman writing in Outlook magazine in 1922, tried to explain why this was:

Most of us, under the present system of modern education, are further advanced and more thoroughly developed mentally, physically, and vocationally than were our parents at our age. … We have learned to take for granted conveniences, and many luxuries, which not so many years ago were as yet undreamed of. [But] the war tore away our spiritual foundations and challenged our faith. We are struggling to regain our equilibrium. … The emotions are frequently in a state of upheaval, struggling with one another for supremacy.

In their attempt to come to terms with their place in this new world, young people began acting out – trying to test their new boundaries with more and more outrageous forms of behavior. Wilder music, faster cars and shorter skirts were just a few symptoms of this strange postwar era called The Jazz Age.

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