The 1920s sandwiched as they were between the horror of World War 1 and the untold misery of the great depression, remain firmly in peoples mind as the period of prosperity and where life was free and easy owing to modern technological advances in Australia. After the war we achieved a great sense of national pride. This was mainly seen through what we had accomplished as a young country. We survived the depression of the 19th Century, the influenza epidemic, federation and finally the war.
In the 1920s the cities had electricity for the first time, motor cars replaced the old horse and carriage, the odd plane flew overhead, and the role of women radically changed. The greatest change taking place was the way people dressed and behaved which was a break from the traditions of the pre-war era. The great suffering of the war was over and gave way to a new era of materialism and consumerism resulting in people enjoying themselves After WW1 Australians saw the need to expand and grow. This idea can be best described in the words of the Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, Men, Money, Markets.
Australians saw the need to increase the population to stop the traditional fears of Asians (the Yellow Peril) and Bolshevism (Communism). The population increase was for defensive purposes. Another slogan aimed at the great fear of communism was Keep the Reds Out of Australia. So great was the fear of communism that the church had stood against it and said that it was Godless and attacked the principles of democracy. Money, Markets was seen by the improving and expanding of our country infrastructure and also to start using our primary industry to its full potential.
Once the excitement of both the war and influenza epidemic had died down the 1920s was a release of tensions and traditions. Both the employer and the worker had more money and were willing to spend. Through technological advances life was getting much better for most Australians. The use of electricity brought new appliances such as washing machines, fridges, stoves, irons, radios, gramophones and also vacuum cleaners. These while revolutionary were quite expensive. Transport was another major change. Automobiles had increased form 37,000 btw to an incredible 300,000 in the 20s.
Aviation had also been furthered due to brave pioneers such as, Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith, Hinckler, and Flysh and McGuinness who had started Qantas. Another improvement in transport was that of electric trams. This made travel from town to town easier and therefore changed family life. The role of women had changed dramatically in the 1920s. They were now able to, in some degree, express themselves and have a greater say in society. This gravely changed traditions. Australia was once a very male orientated society and women were not held in high regard to make decisions.
However during the war women proved themselves by carrying out the male jobs in factories and ensuring the functioning of the country. They unfortunately did receive less pay than their male counterparts. In 1921 with the induction of Edith Cowan into the parliament women were taken seriously. Her induction onto parliament was great because women were only allowed to vote in 1902. The common trend btw (before the war) was that women took on domestic duties such as teaching, nursing and the domestic duties.
From the 1920s and onward the traditional role was gone and women were seen in all areas of employment. This trend to see women on the workforce was not entirely common and most women kept their roll of wife and mother. Perhaps the biggest break in tradition was that of fashion. Many groups apposed the changes, however did little to stop it. Btw womens fashion was characterized by a lower neckline, a slim waistline which was achieved by wearing ill-fitting and uncomfortable corsets, large hats and a principal of covering up.
In the 1920s people were outraged to see hair cut and bobbed, hems lifted above the knee, faces bearing make-up, long stockings and high heels. Women also started smoking and drinking in public, which was a sin in itself, and also driving! This was shocking to elder people in society. The traditions before the war were thrown out the window and women lived a less restrictive lifestyle. During the 1920s many changes questioned the previous morals and traditions. People who opposed this social change were called wowsers.
These people came from a strong religious background that believed in traditions. They went out of their way to stop the deeming of society. Unable to change womens fashion, they were able to enforce a 6 oclock still. The still prevented alcohol form being sold after 6pm. Entertainment had changed lives and as a result traditions. Australian entertainment was influenced by world trends, mainly America. As the mobility of the population increased so too did their desire for new forms of entertainment, such as going to the flicks on Saturday night at the local flea house.
By the end of the 1920s most suburbs and large country towns boasted one or more theaters. This activity was hugely popular and a part of everyday life. This replaced previous traditions for entertainment. This revolution did not end with picture theatre. The 1920s were the era of jazz, dances and cabarets. Wowsers viewed the dances as immoral and unethical. Also a form of entertainment was sport. Due to the advances in technology, mainly electric trams allowed Australians to move to and from sports grounds and beaches.
The issue of beaches was a heated topic of debate in the 1920s. Btw (before the war) there was very strict laws regarding the beach. Surfing, for the early part of the century, was illegal and the act of going to the beach was to paddle at the edge of the water and the only items of clothes removed was shoes and sox. Just prior to the war there was laws passed to only allow single sex beaches. In the 1920s the wowsers once again was angered because woman and men were bathing in the same beaches. The compromise was that men and women had to wear costumes covering form elbow to knee.
The 1920s were a prosperous era that brought happiness and excitement to the people of Australia. Not only in the last 50 years have we survived through a depression, federation, population increase and the brutal effects of the war, but we had also advanced as a country with a strong sense of pride. The 1920s were a revolutionary part of history. For the people it was a great break in tradition and they were free and enjoying themselves. This break in tradition, while it was good for the country came to an end in October 1929 with the crash of the New York Stockmarket.