One hundred years ago marked the dawn of The Roarin’ 20’s, one of the most exciting and prosperous eras in American history. It remains to be seen how the 2020’s will be viewed as the years crawl past.
This coming year will mark the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment – which gave women the right to vote.
That wasn’t a new issue by any means. As early as 1638 a woman – Margaret Brent of Virginia – demanded the right to vote. But the wealthy business owner’s pleas fell on deaf eyes. Only white men who owned property could vote.
But, by 1920 all the states west of the Mississippi River allowed women to vote. Only nine states – including all of New England – still refused that right to women.
Only one more state needed to approve women’s right to the ballot to amend the U.S. Constitution. That state became Tennessee. And, for those who say one vote doesn’t count, Tennessee passed the measure by a 50-49 vote.
That vote also proved historic in another way.
It marked the first time since the Bill of Rights was passed that the constitution was amended twice in the same year.
Earlier in 1920 the 18th Amendment was passed, ushering in Prohibition. That change to the constitution was less successful as drunk and disorderly arrests shot up by 41-percent. Though there were far fewer cars on the road back then, drunken driver arrests exploded by more than 80-percent!
Another unintended consequence of Prohibition was the profit to be made from bootlegging and rise of organized crime syndicates.
Another crime was introduced to America in 1920.
World War I had decimated much of Europe. That was when an Italian immigrant discovered a glitch in the “international reply coupon” system, which allowed a coupon to be bought in one country and redeemed for stamps in another.
This immigrant realized he could buy these coupons cheaply in war-torn Europe and redeem them for a profit in the United States. He soon convinced others to invest in this scheme. He used money from newer investors to pay huge profits to earlier investors and word soon spread of the fortune to be had by working with this immigrant.
His name was Charles Ponzi and variations of his scheme have been around for a century now.
In November of 1920 the first commercially-licensed radio station began broadcasting and soon the “talking boxes” were everywhere.
Also, unknown to most people, America had its first woman president in 1920. President Woodrow Wilson suffered a severe stroke, leaving him as an invalid for the last year-and-a-half of his term.
First Lady Edith Wilson closely guarded who could have access to the president – and made decisions on his behalf.