If you think of the 1800s as America’s childhood, you could compare the 1900s to its tempestuous teenage years. The 1900s in the United States covered so many events and changes that it would take pages and pages just to summarize them all. Each decade of the 1900’s contributed its own stamp on fashion, technology and politics and has a particular flavor or style associated with it. Instead of trying to document everything, we have provided a brief summary of some of the major highlights from the 1900s.
In the early 1900s, gas-powered automobiles became available for sale. While it took until the middle of the century for cars to capture a central place in everyday life, this development had far-reaching implications, including new road surfaces, parking places replacing hitching posts, the creation of auto sales positions, repair and filling stations, and radical transformations in mobility.
World War I:
(also known as WWI, the First World War, the Great War and the War to End All Wars) This global conflict took place from 1914 to 1918 between the Allied Powers (led by France, Russia, the British Empire, and later, Italy and the United States), and the Central Powers (led by Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire). The causes for the war included many factors, including arms races, economics, trade barriers, and ethnic and political rivalries. The assassination of an archduke in Austria-Hungary served as the spark that ignited it all. Fighting occurred mainly in Europe, on and under the sea and — for the first time — from the air. More than nine million soldiers and millions of civilians died before the Allied forces defeated the Central Powers.
“One of the most colorful decades in history,” the 1920s saw the return of soldiers from WWI, economic prosperity, the advent of radio as the medium of the masses, the new face of women, the dawn of jazz and the introduction of many new consumer goods. The decade ended on a sad note with the stock market crash on Black Tuesday followed by the period of the Great Depression.
This economic downturn began in the U.S. in October 1929 and continued through most of the 1930s, spreading its financial devastation throughout the world. Historians and scholars disagree about the causes of the Great Depression, but all of them generally include factors such as inexact balances between supply and demand, public panic in response to monetary supplies and the role of the government in free markets. In the early 1930s, President Roosevelt proposed a restructuring of the economy to avoid prolonging the current depression and prevent another in the future. He designed his New Deal programs to stimulate demand and provide work and relief for the impoverished through increased government spending.
World War II:
This worldwide collision between the Allied Powers and the Axis Powers took place from 1939 to 1945 and involved more than 70 countries, spanning the globe with its naval, aerial and ground-based combat. More than 62 million people lost their lives, making it the deadliest conflict in human history. The immediate cause for the war occurred when Germany’s Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, but the direct impetus for the United States’ involvement came with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December of 1941. The political, sociological, and economic repercussions of the war persist today.
Civil Rights Movement:
The Civil Rights Movement in the United States refers to noted events and reform movements initiated between 1954 and 1968 with the intention of abolishing public and private acts of racial discrimination and racism against African Americans, particularly in the southern states. Its supporters relied on mass mobilization, nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience. Among the notable Americans who nurtured the Civil Rights Movement we find Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. Some of the key events that occurred during this movement, include the 1954 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court finding segregation in schools unconstitutional, the Montgomery Bus Boycotts protesting the segregation of blacks and whites on public transportation, the march on Washington, D.C., and the assassination of Martin Luther King, the most famous leader of the American civil rights movement, as well as a political activist and Baptist minister.
We can define feminism as a collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies that seek to establish the liberation of women from their subordination to men. In other words, feminism pursues social, political and economic equality for women. Some of the issues feminists tackled during the 1900s include unequal pay for equal work, exclusion from influential positions, and innumerable specific legal restrictions denying women equal opportunities in American life. In the 1960s the National Organization of Women (NOW) became the preeminent reform organization for women and campaigned heavily for abortion rights.
Technology transformed the world during the 1900s. Among the technological milestones reached during the last century we count such events as the progression from a computer that filled a room to a computer that filled a lap, the automobile, the emergence of air travel, electricity, movies, radio, GPS technology and much more.