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The “Flapper”

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By 1913, the “flapper” replaced the Gibson girl and became the new icon for women in the twentieth-century as the new woman. Drinking and smoking, dancing, exposing skin, were some of the traits that came with being a flapper girl. They were thin, flat-chested, and boyish-looking that defied old-fashioned norms. They took after theater’s “it” girls such as Bessie Smith and Clara Bow.

In the United States, popular contempt for prohibition was a factor in the rise of the flapper. Legal saloons and cabarets closed, back alley speakeasies became more popular. Jazz women who took on the look of the flapper were seen as reckless, independent, and attractive.

Flappers also began to work outside the home and challenging women’s traditional societal roles such as advocating voting and women’s rights. Eventually, dance styles came to follow that were considered shocking like the Charleston, Shimmy, Bunny Hug, and Black Bottom. Flappers were also considered a challenge to the Victorian gender roles. Increasingly, women discarded the old, rigid ideas of the roles and embraced consumerism and personal choice. Flappers became an artifact of larger social changes– women were able to vote in 1920 and religious society had been rocked by the Scopes Trial. Dorothy Dunbar Bromley, a liberal writer during the 20s, summed up the flapper as “truly modern”, “New Style” feminists who “admit that a full life calls for marriage and children” and also “are moved by an inescapable inner compulsion to be individuals in their own right.”


Written by A New Generation of Women

April 28, 2011 at 1:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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