Into the darkness of a new decade

Ruth Griffiths

In his 1939 Christmas Day broadcast, King George V quoted part of a poem by Minnie Haskins:

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”

Great Britain was at war and desperately needed to face the future with hope. The King’s message might have helped Britain and her Allies rally for a common cause as they entered a new and uncertain decade.

We too are on the brink of a new decade. We tut-tut U.S. politics and moan about rising personal debt. Again we stand at the gate of the year.

The year 2020 seems like something out of science fiction or the Back to the Future film series. How can I possibly be living in “the Twenties”?

The third decade of the 20th century was nicknamed The Roaring Twenties. It was a period of economic prosperity The Twenties was a decade of change. It started with a roar and ended with a crash.”

The Roaring Twenties led us down the Rabbit Hole into the Great Depression. But before we hit rock bottom, the period of prosperity following the First World War provided an opportunity for great social change, particularly for young women. The Flapper with her short hair and shorter skirt is the most recognizable image of the Twenties. She was a fast-talking, cigarette smoking social butterfly. Women in the United States finally got the vote in the 20s. (Most Canadian women were granted the right to vote 1917–1919; Prince Edward Island in 1922; Newfoundland in 1925; Quebec in 1940; 1960 for Aboriginal People without requiring them to give up their status as before.) Even though they were equals at the ballot box, women lacked equality in the workplace. Married women rarely worked outside the home and single women still worked mainly in domestic roles.

What will be the nickname for this coming decade? What changes will it bring? Will it roar in like a lion and go out with a whimper as did the 1920s?

Perhaps the King’s message holds true: “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.”