Suggested Reading: 'The Great Gatsby' Still Gets Flappers Wrong


In 2013, and for a very long time, when someone says 'Flappers' the images conjured are of the dancing girls of the jazz age. That image is, mostly, wrong. They were far more than arm candy, gangster molls and dancing girls. The flappers were more accurately an early wave of feminism.

Although they didn't have Rosie the Riveter women also filed into factories and other jobs normally held by men during World War I. The flappers were the first generation of women to be financially independent in the west, they were the first generation of women to vote and they had values that differed from generations before. Marriage and family weren't their top priority. They were independent, sexually liberated, young and did their best to enjoy being young and independent.

The reason that our culture got the stereotypes so wrong is that most of the accounts of the flappers were written by men. CollectorsWeekly has a nice long piece about the Great Gatsby, who the flappers were and why they were so misunderstood.
"Through their writings, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald—the young, glamorous literary couple du jour—defined the Jazz Age as we know it. Scott declared his Southern belle wife, whom he married in 1920, “the first American flapper.” The inspiration for Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby,” Zelda was known for her wild antics, like drunkenly jumping, fully clothed, into the fountain at New York’s Plaza Hotel. Even as a kid, she was always creating a scene: She stole a car when she was 8; she went swimming in a flesh-colored bathing suit in her teens. (Read more about her in this excellent bio at The Gloss.)

In her June 1922 piece for Metropolitan Magazine called “Eulogy on the Flapper,” 22-year-old Zelda only hints at the radical edge of the flapper movement.

“The Flapper awoke from her lethargy of sub-deb-ism, bobbed her hair, put on her choicest pair ofearrings and a great deal of audacity and rouge and went into the battle. She flirted because it was fun to flirt and wore a one-piece bathing suit because she had a good figure, she covered her face with powder and paint because she didn’t need it and she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring. She was conscious that the things she did were the things she had always wanted to do. Mothers disapproved of their sons taking the Flapper to dances, to teas, to swim and most of all to heart. She had mostly masculine friends, but youth does not need friends—it needs only crowds.”

Read the rest!

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