Flappers are generally known as the girls who just wanted to have fun, and that may be absolutely true. Still, I think they deserve some credit for the advancement of women.
Flappers were girls who came of age during the 1920's. They were girls born at the beginning of the twentieth century, right smack dab in that hard final push for the birth of the nineteenth amendment giving women the right to vote. They grew up in a world of suffragettes, of seeing women fight for what they wanted. They may have had aunts, sisters or mothers marching in the streets. They may have read about suffragettes being tortured in jail. Or they may have heard nothing about suffragettes at all except for what godless, scandalous, barbaric trouble-making women they were. But they heard about them. They knew they were out there. And even if they only absorbed a suffragette’s creed by osmosis, they knew the times were changing. They knew it was no longer their grandmothers’ world. They knew they could have what they wanted. All they had to do was take it.
By 1920, when the nineteenth amendment passed, many of them would have been teenagers, the perfect age for rebellion. And what did the passing of the nineteenth amendment say to them? We can vote now, just like the men. We’re just as good men. We don’t have to be the women are grandmothers were, or even the women our mothers are. And they weren’t.
They shucked off convention and social mores and, in a mere four or five years, they got women out of corsets and into the workplace. They made it acceptable for women to go out without a chaperone, to have their own apartments, to drive cars and even airplanes. They got women out of God-only-knows how many layers of clothing and into light and sleek and comfortable dresses that didn’t drag on the ground accumulating dust and dirt. They not only showed off their ankles, they showed off their knees. Such a scandal back then.
And they danced. In public. And not those old stodgy waltzes their grandparents danced to. They did the Charleston, shaking and shimmying and showing off their stuff. They made it acceptable for women to drink and smoke and wear make-up, and while we know better now, smoking and drinking were steps forward in the ‘20's. Flappers didn’t care what the older generation thought. They didn’t care what men thought. They did what they wanted because it was fun, and all those “Good women never . . . .” rules came tumbling down. It was that easy.
And that’s probably why they don’t get any credit. It was easy and it was fun. And they didn’t have an agenda. Still, I think we can learn some lessons from those self-indulgent girls of the ‘20's.
Don’t waste your time worrying about what other people think.
Be who you are.
And most importantly, just do it.
Freedom belongs to those unafraid to grasp it.
For some interesting historical articles on Flappers
For a look at the Flappers Dictionary