Flappers are we
Flappers are we
Flappers and fly and free.
Never too slow
All on the go
Petting parties with the smarties.
Dizzy with dangerous glee
Puritans knock us
Because the way we're clad.
Preachers all mock us
Because we're not bad.
Most flippant young flappers are we!
-- "Tea for Two" from "No, No, Nanette" by Vincent Youmans
On the other hand, Dorothy Parker wrote:
The Playful flapper here we see,
The fairest of the fair.
She's not what Grandma used to be,
-- You might say, au contraire.
Her girlish ways may make a stir,
Her manners cause a scene,
But there is no more harm in her
Than in a submarine.
She nightly knocks for many a goal
The usual dancing men.
Her speed is great, but her control Is something else again.
All spotlights focus on her pranks.
All tongues her prowess herald.
For which she well may render thanks
To God and Scott Fitzgerald.
Her golden rule is plain enough -
Just get them young and treat them rough.
Literary critics credit F. Scott Fitzgerald, as did Parker, for popularizing the flapper. He had, however, lots of help, most notably from Anita Loos who not only wrote about flappers but also looked the part herself. Her famous line, "I really think that American gentlemen are the best after all, because kissing your hand may make you feel very good but a diamond and a sapphire bracelet lasts forever," inspired the song "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend." The lyrics run:
A kiss on the hand may be quite continental,
But diamonds are a girl's best friend.
The kiss may be grand,
But it won't pay the rental
On your tiny flat
Or help you at the Automat.
Men grow cold
When girls grow old,
And we all lose our charms in the end.
But round cut or pear-shaped,
These rocks don't lose their shape.
Diamonds are a girl's best friend.
Here is part of the entry on Loos from the Encyclopedia Brittanica's Women in American History site:
Anita Loos was born on April 26, probably in 1893 (some sources say 1888), in Sissons (now Mount Shasta), California. She was a child actress, playing on the stage in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, California, as well as in early films. At an early age she also began contributing sketches and articles to various periodicals. The film of her first scenario, "The New York Hat," was produced in 1912 by D.W. Griffith and starred Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore. By the age of 20 Loos was a professional screenwriter, and she eventually worked on more than 60 silent films. "His Picture in the Paper" (1916), a Douglas Fairbanks film, signaled a new departure in its use of discursive and witty titles, and its success convinced Griffith to let Loos write titles for his epic "Intolerance" (1916), and many others. In 1919 Loos married writer-director John Emerson, a frequent collaborator, and in New York City they began writing and producing their own films, notably" A Virtuous Vamp" (1919), "The Perfect Woman" (1920), "Dangerous Business" (1920), "Polly of the Follies" (1922), and "Learning to Love" (1925). They also wrote two books, Breaking Into the Movies (1919) and How to Write Photoplays (1921), and on her own Loos wrote two plays for Broadway, "The Whole Town's Talking" (filmed 1926), and "The Fall of Eve" (filmed 1929). In 1926, a year after its serialization in Harper's Bazaar, Loos's first novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, was published. Its success was immediate and astonishing. The tale of Lorelei Lee, the archetypal "dumb blonde" gold digger from Arkansas, made Loos an international celebrity. Her stage version of the story opened in New York in September 1926 and later toured successfully. More than two decades later she wrote with Joseph Fields the book for a successful musical version, and in 1953 Marilyn Monroe starred in a movie version. Her next book, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1928), was also successful.
We will use the "flap" over the flapper as another jumping-off place for understanding the 1920's. The flapper was yet another "New Woman." The first "New Woman" was the college-educated woman of the 1880s who pursued a career in journalism or worked in one of the new settlement houses. One of her hallmarks was her decision not to marry. She was usually a strong supporter of woman's suffrage and woman's rights generally. She finally achieved that with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. What would the "New Woman" of the 1920s do with her new freedom? It was a question that worried parents, clergy, and editorial writers alike.
The flapper was also part of a self-conscious "generation," the first of many in American history. The "Flaming Youth" of the 1920s were the first to proclaim themselves products of different influences (especially the World War) than those that shaped their parents' lives. They wore different clothes, listened to different music, danced different dances. They "dated," also something new in American life. The flapper used make-up. Prior to the 1920s only actresses and prostitutes, professions not always distinct in the public mind, "painted" their faces. Lipstick and rouge had signalled sexual availability. What did the decision by a whole new "generation" to wear make-up signal? Flappers also smoked. Not all of them, but enough so that another practice associated with "loose" women became commonplace. In the early 1930s Broadway composer Cole Porter memorialized the changes in his "Anything Goes."
In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking
But now, God knows,
Notions of the new freedom of women would inevitably mix with notions of this new generation and its "de-bunking" of its parents' verities.
Anne Shaw Faulkner, head of the Music Department of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, expressed some of the initial outrage at the way the younger generation was carrying on in article in The Ladies' Home Journal of August 1921. Her article is called: "Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?" Her answer was an emphatic yes. Here are two contemporary defenses: "A Flapper's Appeal to Parents" and "Flapper Jane."
- What, according to Faulkner, is sinful about jazz? Be specific.
- What, according to the flapper, do parents need to understand about the younger generation? Again, be specific.
- How did the author of "Flapper Jane" regard the "flap" over flappers?
- What are your initial reactions to the "flapper" in terms of the usefulness of the controversy as a way of making sense of the 1920s in the U.S.
Jessica notes: 1. Faulkner finds that jazz had brought out immoral actions and conditions of young people. The blame is on jazz music for bringing out an evil side to the younger generation. She regards the dancing styles as outrageous and something that would be better done in private settings.
2. According to the flapper, parents needed to understand the younger generation was coming into its own. They were known as the "self-conscious" generation. They were products of different circumstances and events that shaped who they were in contrast to what their parents had experienced. These events shaped the way they dressed, danced, and what types of music they listened to. In addition, the younger generation had begun dating, and flappers had begun wearing makeup. Also, the younger generation felt that their parents could not understand the changes they were going through so they turned to the rest of their youth for support. However, they did ask their parents to continue to respect and praise them and for their patient understanding as they entered a new way of life and culture.
3. The author of "flapper Jane" regarded flappers as not being directly associated with the paint, cigarettes, cocktails, and petting parties that were stereotypical of this type of lifestyle. She basically says that the wild and crazy actions included participants of the age groups between 15-17 years old. Although Jane was described as heavily made up and wearing skimpy clothes, this was not regarded as the flappers uniform. This was the style of the time, women much older were dressing in the same fashion. This was the new style of the 20s.
4. The flapper seemed to describe the younger generations rebellious side, to prove they were coming out into their own. After events such as WWI, people were ready to let loose, they wanted to listen to jazz music and dress provacatively. They may have done this to become noticed or to take the focus off of the harsh realities that were taking place during this time. However, many did not know what to make of all these "outrageous" displays that the younger generation was coming out with.