Ah, the “roaring” 1920s. It was the age of excess and prosperity with flappers and booming jazz a la The Great Gatsby. It was the beginning of our celebrity-obsessed society with notable stars like Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the animated Mickey Mouse character coming to prominence by the end of the decade.
Here, I take a look at several of the important events that occurred in American politics between 1920 and 1929. This is the first in an ongoing series that will provide brief overviews of notable decades in U.S. political history.
The Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment
Ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provided women with equal voting rights to men. This achievement was a hard-won result of the women’s suffrage movement, which began in the 1830s led by abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.
The Commencement of Calvin Coolidge’s Quiet Presidency
On August 3, 1923, after the sudden death of President Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge became the 30th president of the United States. He was nicknamed “Silent Cal” for his laid-back demeanor and policies that favored stability, respectability, and limited government spending.
The Anything But Quiet Collapse of the Stock Market
Could Coolidge’s laid-back presidency have prompted the Great Depression? The Economist writes that “many blame [Coolidge’s] laissez-faire approach for prompting the Wall Street crash of 1929.” By 1928, though, a new presidential candidate, Herbert Hoover, had set his sights on the Oval Office. On the campaign trail, Hoover boasted, "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land... we shall soon, with the help of God, be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation."
But Hoover’s optimism was no match for the stock market crash that occurred months after he assumed the presidency. On October 29, 1929, a day that historians call “Black Tuesday,” Wall Street investors lost billions of dollars and so began the downward spiral into the 10 years-long Great Depression.