What was meant by the term "new woman" in the 1920s?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This term was used to refer to the fact that the role of women in society was changing.  Most importantly, it referred to the fact that women were becoming much more of a part of public life than they had previously been.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was a general feeling that the place of woman was in the home.  Public life was considered vulgar and unladylike.  By the 1920s, this was changing.  Women were more involved in social reform movements.  They were able to vote.  They were starting to go out in public more on social occasions.  This was the time of the flappers, the young women who were willing to be seen drinking and smoking in public and who wore clothes that were scandalous to more traditional people.  All of this new freedom characterized the "new women" of the 1920s.