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Flappers and the New American Woman: Perceptions of Women from 1918 Through the 1920s

Overview

Who was the flapper, and who was the New American Woman? They weren't specific individuals, but rather symbols that defined women in the early decades of the twentieth century. After the country had celebrated the end of World War I in 1918, the Flapper shocked society by flagrantly defying the traditional passive and gentile image of femininity. She danced the Charleston, doing so with bared knees, bobbed hair—and without a corset! The New American Woman also danced—though to a more sedate tune. She represented ...
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Overview

Who was the flapper, and who was the New American Woman? They weren't specific individuals, but rather symbols that defined women in the early decades of the twentieth century. After the country had celebrated the end of World War I in 1918, the Flapper shocked society by flagrantly defying the traditional passive and gentile image of femininity. She danced the Charleston, doing so with bared knees, bobbed hair—and without a corset! The New American Woman also danced—though to a more sedate tune. She represented Mrs. Consumer, more aware of her decision-making ability and her purchasing power than her mother had ever been. And she was, for the first time ever, a fully enfranchised citizen who cast her vote in the polling booth. As the girls and women of the postwar decade asked themselves "Who am I? Who do I want to become?" the media of the times tried to influence their paths. Magazine advertisements showed them how to dress and how to look younger to please their husbands; books advised them on proper etiquette and how to be truly beautiful; and movies offered entree to exotic new worlds. Many, however, looked beyond the stereotypes, using their new-found power and abilities to open health clinics, fight for women's equal rights, and protest Jim Crow laws."
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