Talkin' 'Bout Their Generations

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BORN 1860--82


Historians William Strauss and Neil Howe

The Civil War ended during their childhood, and they reached early adulthood with a passion for social causes. They hit middle age with the passage of Prohibition; late in life, they were the architects of the New Deal.

Franklin Roosevelt (b. 1882)

William Jennings Bryan (b. 1860)

'Veteran teachers are saying that never in their experience were young people so thirstily avid of pleasure as now ... so selfish ...'

Cornelia A.P. Comer, then in her 40s, in The Atlantic, February 1911


BORN 1883--1900


Ernest Hemingway's epigraph to The Sun Also Rises in 1926

This generation arrived during waves of immigration and rampant urban poverty. As young adults, they were doughboys and flappers of the Roaring '20s. Crushed by the Great Depression in midlife, they paid high taxes in their later years to help fund World War II.

Mae West (b. 1893)

F. Scott Fitzgerald (b. 1896)

'I have no patience with the modern neurotic girl who jazzes from morning to night.'

From The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie, published in 1923


BORN 1901--24


Tom Brokaw in The Greatest Generation, published in 1998

As children they gained access to education and the protection of child-labor laws. They came of age during the Depression and fought in World War II. Postwar, they built suburbs and highways, cured polio and gave birth to the baby boomers.

Betty Friedan (b. 1921)

Ronald Reagan (b. 1911)

'This generation of americans has a rendezvous with destiny.'

Franklin Roosevelt, in a speech at the 1936 Democratic Convention


BORN 1925--42


Referred to in TIME, Nov. 5, 1951

Children of the Depression, they have been referred to as "the lucky few," a generation smaller than the one before it and which suffered fewer casualties of war. Later, many of them moved into white collar jobs and led society toward the idea of early retirement.

Neil Armstrong (b. 1930)

Carol Burnett (b. 1933)

'Youth today has little cynicism, because it never hoped for much.'

TIME, Nov. 5, 1951


BORN 1943--60


First printed on Jan. 23, 1970, in the Washington Post

They were suburban children who came of age in the Summer of Love. In midlife, they became yuppies who lost fortunes in the stock-market crash of 1987. Many have had their savings dented by the Great Recession and will postpone retirement.

Oprah Winfrey (b. 1954)

Tom Hanks (b. 1956)

'They want to be recognized as individuals, but individuals play a smaller and smaller role in society.'

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