Family was central to a teenager’s life in early 20th century Germany. Many households were multi-generational, with grandparents, parents, and children living under the same roof. Typically, a young girl was expected to contribute to household chores, including cooking, cleaning, sewing, and caring for younger siblings.
Education: A Rising Tide
Education for girls during this period was evolving. While the traditional view was that a woman’s place was in the home, societal attitudes were slowly shifting. The 1900s saw an increased emphasis on female education, and more girls started attending schools. However, the focus remained largely on domestic subjects, preparing young girls for their future roles as wives and mothers. Subjects like cooking, needlework, and housekeeping were common, but academic subjects like literature, mathematics, and languages were gradually being included in girls’ curriculums.
Fashion: Long Skirts and High Collars
Turning our attention to fashion, this era was marked by modesty and elegance. The Edwardian influence was prevalent, even in Germany. Teenage girls often wore long skirts that touched the ankle, high collars, and large hats decorated with ribbons or flowers. Corsets were still in vogue, worn to achieve the fashionable “S” shaped figure.
Social Life: Dances and Debutante Balls
Social life for a German girl during this period often revolved around family and community. Social outings like dances and debutante balls were popular. These events were not only fun but also served a practical purpose – they were places where young people could meet potential suitors under the watchful eyes of their elders.
Changing Times: The Stirrings of Feminism
Though the early 1900s were largely traditional, the winds of change were starting to blow. The women’s rights movement was gaining momentum, and in 1908, women were allowed to join political parties in Germany. This was a major step in the long battle for women’s suffrage, which would come in the following decade. Even though teenage girls were not directly involved in these movements, these changing tides would eventually shape their futures in profound ways.
Leisure and Pastimes: Books, Bicycles, and Embroidery
As for leisure, reading was a common pastime. Many girls enjoyed novels and women’s magazines, often sharing and discussing them with friends. Outdoor activities like bicycling were also popular and were seen as a liberating activity. Many also spent their free time doing embroidery, a skill that was considered essential for a young girl.