Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1939: Decades of Promise and Pain

By David E. Kyvig | Go to book overview

7

Carrying on Year to Year: Making a Life

Not only everyday routines but also activities that people enter into rarely or only once go into making a life. Courtship, family formation, childbearing, and dealing with illness, aging, and death head the list of such infrequent but fundamental activities. Acquiring an education, raising children, and dealing with family relationships are ongoing processes rather than singular events but are likewise a series of discoveries rather than repetitions of familiar acts. Whether such activities happen only once or evolve over time, they remain central elements of people’s lives that change from one era to another.

Midway between the everyday and the rare or unique activities of life are those matters that for most people are common but occasional concerns. Dealing with issues of health, or more likely its absence, is one. Addressing spiritual interests, usually through some form of organized religion, is another. Seeking a temporary escape from normal routines through a wide range of activities labeled most simply the pursuit of leisure is yet another. These matters, too, are essential components of daily life that in the details of their practice distinguish one era from another.

The new technologies of the automobile, electricity, and mass communication affected these aspects of life during the 1920s and 1930s. So, too, did the widespread economic prosperity of the first decade and distress of the second. Not all shifts were simply due to external influences. Modifications also took place within the culture of personal relationships, education, health care, religion, and leisure. Whatever the moti-

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