Photograph of Hollywood actresses supporting Warren G. Harding during his presidential campaign, 1920.
Many people believe that the 1920s marked a new era in American history. The decade often is referred to as the "Roaring Twenties." Following World War I, many returning veterans and men and women who had moved from to cities to seek wartime jobs had no desire to return to working in factories or on the farms. They hoped to live a more comfortable life, like the ones that they could see on the movie screens or read about in magazines and newspapers. New social activities promoted a more carefree lifestyle. Couples could enjoy playing miniature golf, participating in dance contests, listening to the radio or the phonograph, and participating in any number of other events. The flappers—women who dressed provocatively, had bobbed hairstyles, went to clubs, smoked, and drank bootleg alcohol—represented this supposedly new and less-inhibited lifestyle.
At first glance, it does appear that lives for all Americans, including women, became more open during the 1920s. Some historians disagree with this conclusion. Many of the same activities attributed to Americans during the 1920s actually predated the decade. Dancehalls existed well before the 1920s. Women drinking and smoking also occurred earlier. Women dressing in a provocative manner happened before the Roaring Twenties. What seems to have made the 1920s so different was that middle-class white men and women were engaging in these activities.
The increasing number of Americans participating in supposedly immoral acts like drinking and smoking caused many people to believe that their fellow citizens had forgotten the importance of religion and morality in everyday life. People seeking a return to a quieter past implemented Prohibition, which ended the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States and its territories. Religious fundamentalists believed that Americans must take the Bible literally and attempted to ban the teaching of evolution in schools. The Ku Klux Klan tried to force immigrants, African Americans, and other people to adopt a traditional Protestant lifestyle. Despite the efforts of these groups to legislate or to enforce morality, the majority of Americans eventually rejected most of their efforts.