What was it like for women in the 1920s?

One of the more enduring images of the 1920s is that of the flapper, a young woman with short hair, wearing a knee-length dress, rolled-up stockings, and unbuttoned rain boots that flapped (hence the name) when she walked.

With a new look came new viewpoints and values in American culture, including a more open attitude toward premarital sex. Margaret Sanger, who had first promoted birth control before World War I as a means of sparing poor women from unwanted pregnancies, argued that the diaphragm gave women more sexual freedom. The new woman's mystique was exemplified by the heroines of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels This Side of Paradise and film stars such as Gloria Swanson.

But the flapper represented only a small percentage of American women; for the overwhelming majority, life did not change that much. The sharp increase in the number of women in the labor force during World War I ended abruptly with the armistice. Female employment grew slowly in the 1920s, mostly in occupations traditionally identified with women — office and social work, teaching, nursing, and apparel manufacturing — and women who worked were usually single, divorced, or widowed. Even with more women in the workplace, no progress was made in this era on issues such as job discrimination or equal pay.