chapter  3
Prosperity and Wealth Arrive
Boom Times and Women’s Suffrage in the 1920s
Pages 25

This chapter explores celebrity tales of the 1920s boom years suggest that wealth is readily attainable to all Americans, even women, and failure to achieve or maintain wealth is a product of personal failure rather than the result of structural conditions. The Puritan ethic of hard work, self-restraint, and delayed gratification might have become less central to the American Dream during the boom years of the 1920s. Publicity stories no longer constructed celebrities as living simple lives, having risen from subsistence to middle-class comfort. The industry's critics might have been upset by movie content, but the changes in the status of women likely underscored calls for a more wholesome Hollywood. Historian Stephanie Coontz recounts that marriage's transition from a primarily economic arrangement to one based on romantic love and personal fulfillment took place through out the last century. Celebrity culture became an important vehicle in maintaining the fantasy of upward mobility when most people were headed in the other direction.