Dating and marriage in the 1920s

With the rise of the entertainment culture, with its movie houses and dance halls and their universal appeal across class lines, dating quickly moved up the socio-economic ladder to include middle- and upper-class men and women, as well as the new urbanites.When one tries to understand how dating has changed over time, and most importantly, how we arrived at the system of courtship and dating we have today, one must realize the monumental cultural shift that occurred during the 1940s, primarily due to World War II.After World War II, due in part to the fact that 250,000 men never came home, for the first time in the United States, women outnumbered men.In June 1945, captioned a photo of a bride and groom descending church steps with: "She got a man, but 6 to 8 million women won't. " Around this same time a half-serious article was published in magazine discussing the possibility of instituting a polygamous marriage system in the United States.Men's popularity needed outward material signs: automobile, clothing, fraternity membership, money, etc.Women's popularity depended on building and maintaining a reputation of popularity: be seen with popular men in the "right" places, turn down requests for dates made at the last minute and cultivate the impression that you are greatly in demand.The courtship experience and ideals of those who grew up before World War II were profoundly different from those of teenagers in the postwar years, and the differences created much intergenerational conflict.

However, by the turn of the 20th century we find the word being used to describe lower-class men and women going out socially to public dances, parties and other meeting places, primarily in urban centers where women had to share small apartments and did not have spacious front parlors in their homes to which to invite men to call.At the center of this 1950s youth dating culture was the act of "going steady," according to Beth Bailey.[I]n earlier days going steady had been more like the old-fashioned 'keeping steady company.' It was a step along the path to marriage, even if many steady couples parted company before they reached the altar.After World War II the norms within the dating system began to change.By the late 1940s and early 1950s demographic realities began to sink in: There was a shortage of men.

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In 1937, sociologist Willard Waller published a study in the .

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