THE UNCERTAINTY OF EVERYDAY LIFE 1915-1945 by Harvey Green

THE UNCERTAINTY OF EVERYDAY LIFE 1915-1945

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Excellent fifth volume in the Everyday Life in America series (Victorian America, by Thomas J. Schlereth, 1991, etc.). Green (History/Northeastern Univ.; The Light of the Home, 1983, etc.) digs into the Crash and the rise of FDR; types of employment; houses and homes in suburb, city, and on the farm; mating, and bearing and raising children; aging and dying; religion; food and cooking; radio, movies, and reading; and leisure time and sports. Despite the new social freedom of the Jazz Age, he says, for farmers, facing falling farm prices, ``the sound of the Roaring Twenties was the howl of the wolf at the door.'' From Emily Post's Etiquette (1915) through Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People (1935), Americans were flooded with guides to behavior and personality growth, while the KKK and bigotry got a massive boost from D.W. Griffith's epic The Birth of a Nation (1915). White-collar jobs grew vastly and WW II allowed women into factories, briefly, and into noncombat military service. Food preparation and storage brought new items to store shelves (factory-made biscuits, quick cereals, frozen foods), while city folk thought bland white bread ``more consistent in texture and easier to store than `immigrant' fare,'' though no foreign-born woman ``would be caught dead with store bread.'' An electrical revolution in household appliances exploded with vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, washing machines, and refrigerators--though most urban homes still had ice delivered until after WW II. Green's liveliest point is that, ``by affirming a special sanitized vision of their nation as a chosen people in a chosen land, Americans unwittingly set a standard for behavior that the people of the present could not attain....'' They assumed that ``history would stop.'' Very special, perhaps the most vital book in this valuable series. (Forty pages of b&w photos--not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1992
ISBN: 0-06-016296-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1992