The Invention of the Teenager

Jacky Dickman

Skirts became shorter, hair became bobbed; cosmetics were plastered on their faces: all in an effort to be a teenager.


The 19th Century entailed only children and adults, but in the 1920s, the teenage mindset made an impact. With child labor laws decreasing and the oppurtunity for more school years, a new age was born unlike all of the rest. The forcing of marriage was also soon ending, and this age between child and adult was seen again. Although the term "Teenage" was not used until decades later, the teenage stage was definitely a part of their life even though it may have been a suprise to them. The teenager would soon evolve, and continue to evolve, into the term we use today.

From Courtship to Dating

Prior to the 1920s, everyone participated in courtship. Courtship is when a male is comitted to and engaged with a female in order to go out with them; the future was always in the picture. With changing times, courtship turned into dating. This is when a couple is with eachother only to discover and see eachother, not proclaming an intent to marry. The automobile was one of the leading factors in the transition from courtship to dating. The automobile offered freedom from parental supervision, and changed so many things. Dates held before this revolution were limited to an introduction of parents, a family meal and story time possibly followed by a private time on the front deck, if the couple was lucky. Unlike after the teenager was born, all dates were held in one of the couples' homes. The automobile smashed this idea, though. It opened the couple to a world of possibilities: they could drive anywhere not under the eye of Mom and Dad. The were handed privacy, and the oppurtunity to experiment anything. Life had changed; they had become "teenagers."

Schools' Influence

With the help of automobiles, buses could travel a lot farther. In turn, more students could attend school and a longer education became a part of the picture. Along with these ideas, school laws on children increased. Teenagers were often thrown into a common space; new cultural experiences developed in schools very much unlike anything anyone knew of. They were nothing like adults or children of that time, so in turn, a new group was created: the American teenager. They were also defined by things like athletics and extracurricular activities.


Evolution of women:

Works Cited