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Social Issues of the 1940s
Transcript of Social Issues of the 1940s
In October of 1929 the U.S. stock market crashed which lead to the Great Depression. During the Great Depression 1/4 of America was out of work because jobs were so scarce. The effects of the Great Depression were still affecting many citizens in the early 1940s.
Even by 1941 8 million people were out of work. Another 8 million made less than the legal minimum wage. Nearly 40% of America lived in poverty. The median salary was less than 2,000 dollars per year.
Many thought that the war would spur the economy, but because of war shortages for things such as rubber and metal the American people still suffered from lack of basic goods. After the war, inflation caused many problems with the economy, and by the end of the decade 1/3 of Americans still lived below the poverty level.
In Germany, the effects of WWI left many in poverty. Nazis blamed this on the Jews who were often bankers and intellectuals. By the 1940s, the Nazis had helped boost Germany's economy, but did it by taking property away from others, especially the Jews. The impact this had on society was that as the economy grew people agreed more with Nazi policies and forced Jews and other cultures into poverty and work camps.
Poverty was a social issue because many people were affected and suffered greatly. The high amounts of poverty caused problems for society by straining its resources.
prejudice and racial issues
A huge factor of racial discrimination was against the Jews in Germany. After the Nazis passed laws that restricted Jews in many ways, they began to round them up and put them in concentration camps to systematically exterminate them. This was part of Hitler's "Final Solution." Even those who tried to help the Jews were often murdered for their efforts.
Nazis also discriminated against other
groups such as mentally and physically
disabled people, slavic people (gypsies),
communists, and religious and intellectual
leaders. They put many of these groups in
work camps where they died from starvation,
beatings, and harsh conditions.
This impacted German society because an entire race of people was wiped off the face of the Earth as well as others who were also targeted and persecuted. This was because the Aryan Germans thought they were better than everyone else.
In America, racial issues against African Americans was very high. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) would hang black people even before a trial. Laws also made it very difficult for black people. Schools, water fountains, movie theaters, neighborhoods, and hospitals were segregated so that the races could not mix. Race riots were also a big problem.
The Japanese Americans were also discriminated against because Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. They were placed in their own camps to prevent any traitors from helping Japan.
This impacted American society because whites were seen as the dominant race and that if you were not white you were often discriminated against.
Prejudice and racism are social issues that strongly affected many cultures throughout the world. Cultures such as the Jews and the African Americans were looked down on and tormented because the "dominant races" believed that they were better than everyone else.
The end of WWII led to some Civil Rights reform for many of these cultural groups. Sorrow over the Holocaust led the Allies to create Israel, a state of refuge for the Jews. Many African Americans fought as soldiers during the war. When the war was over, and they had to go back to the same awful conditions they realized how unfair this was and began to push for more rights. Japanese Americans also had their Civil Rights returned to them when they were released from the camps.
In America, before the 1940s, women were expected to have the traditional role in the family: the husband earned money and the wife cared for the house and raised the children to earn her keep. This all changed during WWII when the men went off to war because the women then had to take over factory jobs and other jobs meant for men. Some even joined the armed forces through the WAVES, the WACS, and the SPARS.
Many women enjoyed working out of the home and earning their own money for a change. When soldiers came home after the war, women were expected to quit their jobs and go back to their original role. Many did not like that idea. This led to the women's right movement in the 60s when women fought for equal rights in the workforce.
In the Soviet Union, women were expected to work outside the home helping in factories and lower level jobs. They were still expected, though, to perform all the domestic duties including raising children and household chores. Soviet Russia enforced the idea of a family so divorce was not allowed unless you were really rich.
Women's rights in the Soviet Union remained controlled by the government but because there were not enough men coming back from the war, women were given more job opportunities other than house-keeping. Women impacted society because they kept the Soviet Union going when no one else could. True Civil Rights reform were not present in the Soviet Union until the fall of the Communist Empire in the late 1980s.
Women's rights were a social issue throughout the world in the 1940s because they were given new opportunities to help serve their country.