The Unluckiest Generation – The Lost Generation

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Here at the Mad Scribbler, we are not what you would call ‘optimistic.’ Maybe this is because we are Millennials and people keep saying we are the unluckiest generation ever. To be fair, we have lived through some shit (i.e., astronomical cost of college, housing market crisis of 2008, Global pandemic, etc.) That being said, we are NOT the unluckiest generation – that would be the Lost generation.  


The lost generation, made up of people born from 1883-1900, came to age during World War 11. For those who fell asleep during history class, this was a four-year global war that was called “the war to end all wars.” WWI led to the mobilization of more than 70 million troops, making it one of the largest wars in history. 2 It also was one of the deadliest conflicts in history,3 with an estimated 8.5 million combatant deaths and 13 million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war.4 

This devastation and loss of life led to people saying, “the flower of youth and the best manhood of the peoples [had] been mowed down.” 5 Remember, this generation didn’t just live through the war, they fought in it leaving many young men with severe mental health issues and crippling physical disabilities. Furthermore, being a member of the unluckiest generation meant mental illness was not openly accepted nor spoken about in society (because apparently keeping a stiff upper lip was all you needed to do to recover from the absolute horrors you just participated in). 


The unluckiest generation was not only comprised of men. Women, who had previously been expected to stay home and care for the children and household, were now called on to support the war efforts (while still caring for the family and household on her own) anyway they could. This included working in factories, heavy industry, and even non-combat military roles. Many women lost their husbands in the conflict which frequently meant losing the main breadwinner of the household. 

On the “plus” side (if one could call it that), war widows often received a pension and financial assistance to support their children. However, even with some economic support, raising a family alone was often financially difficult and emotionally draining. Furthermore, women faced the preposterous fear of losing their pensions if they remarried or were  accused of engaging in (gasp) frowned upon behavior. In some cases, grief and the other pressures on them drove widows to alcoholism, depression, and/or suicide. (6,7,8)  I don’t feel this was the best way to say well done to a generation of absolute badass women 😠 who achieved more than society thought they could.

Certified Bad-Ass

World War 1 killed far more than simply men – it killed a way of life as it was known to that point in time. The death of traditions, order, and the American dream as it was known was similarly mourned in the concluding days of World War 1.

Widows were left with fragments of the nuclear family, and a litany of events that were going to test the bedrock of the American dream was on the cusp of existence. The widespread failure of these women would cripple the economy post-war, leaving America vulnerable. That’s a decent bit of pressure, on top of trying to feed the remnants of a family every day.


No, we’re not talking about COVID-19. This time it’s the Spanish Flu. Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time – in four successive waves. The death toll is typically estimated to have been somewhere between 20 million and 50 million, although estimates range from a conservative 17 million to a possible high of 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. [9,10,11]   

And it’s not like they had Amazon to order food, supplies, movies, etc. They didn’t have cell phones to FaceTime their family. They couldn’t get world wide news (or even local news) instantly. They also didn’t have the ability to just work from home until it was over. Jobs were lost, family members died, it was terrifying.  


OK, so you live through the war and the global pandemic. The roaring twenties are in full swing, and you think that the worst is finally behind you.  NOPE! Here comes 1929 and the Great Depression! 

Lasting through the 1930’s, it became the longest and most severe financial downturn ever experienced in western industrialized history. 12 However, in many countries, the negative effects of the Great Depression lasted until (Spoiler Alert) the beginning of World War II. [13] Personal income dropped, international trade fell by 50%, US unemployment rose to a staggering 23%. 

I can already hear the critics, “But Mad Scribbler, we lived through the Great Recession!” That is true, and it for sure sucked ass. However, worldwide GDP (Gross Domestic Product) fell by less than 1% during the Great Recession. Compare that to the 15% drop between 1929 and 1932. Unemployment peaked at 10% in October 2009.16 Unfortunately for us, this was when many of us were trying to get into the workforce. But hey, it could be worse because guess what happened next for the unluckiest generation ever??? 


Here comes another global war! When World War II broke out in 1939, the lost generation faced a major global conflict for the second time in their lifetime. But instead of fighting it themselves, they now had to watch their sons go to the battlefield.[14,15]  World War II was by far the deadliest conflict in human history, and resulted in 70 to 85 million fatalities, a majority being civilians. Tens of millions of people died due to genocides (including the Holocaust), starvation, massacres, and disease.17


Now don’t get us wrong, we are not belittling the events that we have lived through. It is true that our generation has it worse than our parents’ generation. We are just trying to put some perspective out there. We may be an unlucky generation, but we are NOT the unluckiest generation. 



1 Actively Learn. (n.d.).

2 Keegan, John (1998). The First World War. Hutchinson. ISBN 978-0-09-180178-6., general military history 

3 Willmott, H.P. (2003). World War I. New York: Dorling Kindersley.ISBN 978-0-7894-9627-0. OCLC 52541937 

4 Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Killed, wounded, and missing. Encyclopædia Britannica.

5 Rosa Luxemburg et al., “A Spartacan Manifesto, The Nation, 8 March 1919, pp. 373–374 

6 War Widows”. Retrieved 8 June 2021. 

7 “How the First World War affected families (War Widows)”. “War Widows • How the First World War Affected Families.” War Widows • How the First World War Affected Families • MyLearning,. Retrieved 8 June 2021. 

8 “Widows and Orphans”. Bette, Peggy. “War Widows.” New Articles RSS, 15 Dec. 2015, . Retrieved 8 June 2021 

9 Pandemic Influenza Risk Management WHO Interim Guidance” (PDF). World Health Organization. 2013. p. 19. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 January 2021. Retrieved 7 December 2020. 

10 JSpreeuwenberg P, Kroneman M, Paget J (December 2018). “Reassessing the Global Mortality Burden of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic”. American Journal of Epidemiology. Oxford University Press. 187 (12): 2561–2567. doi:10.1093/aje/kwy191. PMC 7314216. PMID 30202996

11 Rosenwald MS (7 April 2020). “History’s deadliest pandemics, from ancient Rome to modern America”. The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 11 April2020. 

12 John A. Garraty, The Great Depression (1986) 

13 Garraty, Great Depression (1986) ch1 

14 Wells, Anne Sharp (2014) Historical Dictionary of World War II: The War against Germany and Italy. Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. p. 7. 

15 “The First World War generation – later lives”. “The First World War Generation – Later Lives.”. Retrieved 8 June 2021. 

16  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (January 1, 1948). “Civilian Unemployment Rate”. FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Retrieved January 16, 2019.

17 International Programs – Historical Estimates of World Population – U.S. Census Bureau”. 2013-03-06.

Image Credit – Austrian National Library | Segusino, Italy – A church bombed in World War 1

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