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2.3.5 The rise of modern America after ww1

The role of American women changed dramatically during the 1920's. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which became law on Aug. 26,1920, gave women the right to vote in all elections. In addition, many new opportunities for education and careers opened up to women during the decade.

The decade following World War I brought sweeping changes. The economy entered a period of spectacular, though uneven, growth. The booming economy and fast-paced life of the decade gave it the nickname of the Roaring Twenties. The mass movement to cities meant more people could enjoy such activities as films, plays, and sporting events. Radio broadcasting began on a large scale. Cinemas be­came part of almost every city and town. The car gave people a new means of mo­bility. The cost of cars continued to drop and sales soared. In just 10 years between 1920 and 1930, the number of cars registered in the United States almost tripled, growing from about 8 million to 23 million.

The new role of women also changed society. Many women who found careers outside the home began thinking of themselves more as the equal of men, and less as housewives and mothers.

The modern trends of the 1920's brought about problems as well as benefits. Many Americans had trouble adjusting to the impersonal, fast-paced life of cities. This disorientation led to a rise in juvenile delinquency, crime, and other antisocial behaviour.

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, called the Prohibition Amendment, caused unforeseen problems. It outlawed the sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the United States as of Jan. 16, 1920. Many otherwise law-abiding citizens considered prohibition a violation of their rights. They ignored the law and bought alcohol provided by underworld gangsters. The gangster culture, especially in Chicago and New York, was a major problem for sev­eral years.

Perhaps the most notorious of the prohibition-era gangsters was Al Capone left

The Ku Khix Klan had almost died out, but a new Klan gained a large follow­ing during the 1920's. The new Klan had easy answers for Americans who were troubled by modern problems. It blamed the problems on "outsiders," including blacks, Jews, Roman Catholics, foreigners, and political radicals.

During the 1920's, the American economy soared to spectacular heights. War­time government restrictions on business ended. Conservatives gained control of the federal government and adopted policies that aided big business. But in spite of its growth and apparent strength, the economy was on shaky ground. Only one segment of the economy, manufacturing, prospered. Business executives grew rich, but farmers and labourers became worse off. Finally, in 1929, wild financial specu­lation led to a stock market crash. This triggered the worst and longest depression in America's history, still known as the Great Depression.

The United States suffered through the Great Depression for more than 10 years. At the height of the depression in 1933, about 13 million Americans were out of work, and many others had only part-time jobs. Farm income declined so sharply that more than 750,000 farmers lost their land. The Dust Bowl, the result of a terrible drought on the western Great Plains, also wiped out many farmers. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their life savings as a result of the bank failures.

Throughout the depression, many Americans went hungry. People stood in "bread lines" and went to "sou p kitchens" to get food provided by charities. Often, two or more families lived crowded together in a small apart­ment. Some homeless people built shacks of tin and scraps of wood on waste ground.

Franklin Roosevelt's efforts to end the depression made him one of the most popular U.S. presidents. The voters elected him to four terms. No other president had served more than two terms. Roosevelt's New Deal was a

turning point in American history. It marked the start of a strong government role in the nation's economic affairs that has continued and grown to the present day.

Until his death in April 1945, Roosevelt before became even more popular as a positive and capable war leader and is still regarded as one of the most successful US Presidents in history.

World War II began on Sept. 1,1939, when German and Soviet troops invaded Poland. France, Great Britain, and other nations (the Allies) went to war against Germany. At first, America stayed out of the war. But on Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese planes bombed the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The United States declared war on Japan on December 8, and three days later Germany and Italy, Germany's chief ally, declared war on the United States.

On May 7, 1945, after a long, bitter struggle, the Allies forced the mighty Ger­man war machine to surrender. Vice President Harry S. Truman had become presi­dent upon Roosevelt's death about a month earlier. The Allies demanded Japan's surrender, but the Japanese continued to fight on.

Truman then made one of the major decisions in history. He ordered the use of the atomic bomb, a we-a pon many times more destructive than any previo-us weapon. An American aeroplane dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6,1945. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9. Japan formally surrender­ed on September 2, and World War II was over.

The Hiroshima bomb left

f After the War, the Soviet Union and China took strategic decisions to spread Communism to other countries. The United States, as the world's most powerful democratic country, took on the lead role as the opponent. The contarn|nenf of Communism became the major goal of U.S. postwar foreign policy. The postwar struggle between the American-led non-Communist nations and the Soviet Union and its Communist allies became known as the Cold War.

Both the United States and the Soviet Union built up arsenals of nuclear weap­ons. The nuclear weapons made each nation capable of destroying the other. The threat of nuclear war made both sides cautious. As a result, Cold War strategy em­phasized threats of force, propaganda, and aid to weak nations. The United Na­tions (UN), founded in 1945, provided a forum where the nations could try to settle their Cold War disputes.

The Korean War resulted from the Cold War friction. On June 25,1950, troops from Communist North Korea, equipped by the Soviet Union, invaded South Ko-

rea. The UN called on member nations to help restore peace. Truman sent American troops to aid South Korea, and the UN sent a fighting force made up of troops from many nations. The war lasted for three years, ending in a truce on July 27,1953.

Joseph McCarthy (1908 - 1957) was an American politician of the Republican Party. McCarthy served as a U.S. Senator from 1947 to 1957. During his ten years in the Senate, McCarthy and his staff members became notorious for aggressive accusations against suspected Communists in the U.S. government duri­ng what came to be known as the Second Red Scare.

McCarthy during a hearing right

His controversial actions resulted in the word "McCarthyism", which specifi­cally described the intense anti-communist movement that occurred in America from around 1948 to the mid-1950s, when people in the media, in the motion pic­ture industry, politics, the military and elsewhere suspected on disputed evidence of communist sympathies were subjected to what were regarded by many as ag­gressive "witch-hunts", that is, trying to fix guilt on people without evidence. The term "McCarthyism" has since come to mean a government-led witch-hunt seek­ing to punish unapproved thoughts or political stances.

The shortage of goods during the war and other factors combined to create a vast market for American products. A population boom increased the number of consumers. Between 1950 and 1960 alone, the population of the United States grew by about 28 million. Trade unions became stronger than ever, and gained high wages and other benefits for their members. Wage laws and other government regulations also helped give workers a greater share of the profits of business. These develop­ments also meant that more Americans had more money to spend on goods.

A new life style resulted from the prosperity. After the war, millions of people needed, and were able to afford, new housing.

Construction companies quickly built huge clusters of houses in suburbs around the nation's cities. Vast num­bers of Americans moved from cities to suburbs. The suburbs attracted people for many reasons. They offered newer housing, more open space, and-usual-ly-better schools than the inner cities.

Left a typical suburban home in New Jersey

Prosperity and technological advances changed American life in other ways. Television became a feature of most American homes during the 1950's. This won­der of modern science brought scenes of the world into the American living room at the flick of a switch. New appliances made house work easier. They included automatic washing machines, driers, dishwashers, and waste disposal units.

In spite of the general prosperity, millions of Americans still lived in poverty. The poor included members of all ethnic groups, but the plight of the nation's poor blacks seemed especially bleak. Ever since emancipation, blacks in both the North and South had faced discrimination in jobs, housing, education, and other areas. A lack of education and jobs made poverty among blacks widespread.

The period of American history since 1960 has been marked by a continua­tion of many postwar trends. For much of the period, the country's foreign policy remained focused on the containment of Communism. The economy continued to expand, despite recurring periods of inflation and recession. The movement of peo­ple from cities to suburbs continued steadily. The 1970 U.S. Census showed that, for the first time, more Americans lived in suburbs than in cities.

The number of such crimes as murder, robbery, and rape soared during the 1960's. The crime rate was especially high in the central cities but also increased rap­idly elsewhere. Sociologists blamed such factors as the weakening of the family, pov­erty, mental illness, drug addiction, and a feeling of hopelessness and alienation. r"T The Vietnam War brought further turmoil in the 1960's. The war had begun in 1957 V as a battle for control of South Vietnam between the non-Communist government and Communists. In the late 1950's and early 1960's, presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy sent military aid and advisers to support the South Vietnam government. Soon after Johnson became president, the Communists threatened to topple the government.

Johnson responded to the threat by send­ing hundreds of thousands of American combat troops to help South Vietnam fight the Com­munists. By the mid-1960's, the United States was deeply involved in the Vietnam War.

The picture right of running children burned during a napalm attack was published all over the world, but banned in the USA

A majority of Americans supported the war effort at first, but others bitterly op­posed it. In the late 1960's, opposition to the war grew. The war critics argued that the United States had no right to interfere in Vietnamese affairs. Throughout the nation, university students and others staged antiwar demonstrations.

Johnson, discouraged by the criticism of his Vietnam policy, refused to run for reelection in 1968. The people elected Richard Nixon, partly because he pledged

ro end U.S. involvement in the war. But as the 1960's ended, U.S. troops were still it. Vietnam. The chief U.S. foreign policies in the 1970's were aimed at ending the Vietnam War and easing world tensions. Nixon removed America's last ground forces from Vietnam in 1973.

Nixon also took steps to reduce tensions between the United States and China and the Soviet Union, the two leading Communist powers. In 1972, he visited these countries. Nixon reached agreements with the Chinese and Soviet leaders that seemed to improve U.S. relations with the Communist powers.

Richard Nixon is unfortunately best remembered for the Watergate scandal (or just "Watergate"), an American political scandal and constitutional crisis of the 1970s, which eventually led to the resignation of the Republican President Nixon. The affair was named after the hotel where the burglary that led to a series of in­vestigations occurred. The events were exposed and chronicled by the Washington Post newspaper. A failed attempt to install wire-taps at the Democratic Party Con­gress led to a series of cover-ups and illegal involvement by the FBI and the CIA on behalf of Nixon. Further lies and media manipulation resulted in the impeachment of Nixon and eventually his resignation.

The economy became the main concern of President Ronald Reagan, who suc­ceeded Jimmy Carter in 1981. Reagan wanted to slash the inflation rate and balance the federal budget. Inflation slowed again, largely due to a recession that began in mid-1981.

To stimulate the economy, Reagan proposed the largest federal income tax re­duction in U.S. history. Congress approved the tax-cut programme, which sched­uled cuts in 1981,1982, and 1983. But high interest rates continued to limit spending by consumers and investment by business. The recession worsened, and the nation experienced its highest rate of unemployment since 1941. An economic recovery began in 1983, and unemployment fell sharply. Inflation remained low. But the tax cuts and heavy government defence spending helped bring about record deficits in the federal budget.

The former actor Reagan struck a chord with the American nation and he and his ultra-conservative "Reaganomics" policies are remembered with great af­fection by many in the USA.

Ronald Reagan left is very much the face of Ame­rica in the 1980s.

Since then, the USA has tried to stamp its authority on the world with a series of wars, most recently Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. The only light relief seems to have been Bill Clinton and his series of affairs with female White House staff, most notably Monica Lewinsky.