Working in 1920s America

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11047

One aspect of work never changes: People complain about it! How HAS work changed in 100 years? Look back and live it, write about it, then think about what might lie ahead, even in your own lifetime!


United States

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


The people of the 1920s imagined a dark future, like this scene from Fritz Lang's Metropolis Moloch scene rescore, where factories took over the world of work and people became more and more machine-like. Did it really turn out that way?

  • Would you work in a factory?
  • What if the factory offered no physical protection, no vacation time, and only paid 10¢ per hour?

The world of work has changed a lot in the past century. Many jobs people used to do are no longer necessary, and changes in society have likewise created new kinds of work that no one ever imagined before.

This graph, How Work in America Has Changed, from the Demographics Research Group at University of Virginia, shows just how much things have changed.

  1. Examine the graph closely. Look at the title, the dates, and the work types.
  2. In a 6 - 8 sentence paragraph, describe the information and ideas contained in the graph.
  3. Answer these questions, adding your thoughts to your paragraph:
  • How has work changed in America over the past century?
  • Why do you think these changes have taken place?
  • Do you think these changes are good or not? Why?

Discuss your observations with your parents, teachers, or other trusted adults. Kick off the conversation with a simple question: "How has work changed in your lifetime?" You may be amazed at their responses!

To get a better idea how work has changed, continue on to the Got It? section to compare work in the early 20th century with work now.

Elephango's Philosophy

We help prepare learners for a future that cannot yet be defined. They must be ready for change, willing to learn and able to think critically. Elephango is designed to create lifelong learners who are ready for that rapidly changing future.