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History

Pulling back the curtain on all the great debates and controversies of American History.

August 22, 2016

Episode 28 - Beyond the Flapper: Women’s Magazines, Beauty, and Femininity in the 1920s

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In 1921, the influential magazine Literary Digest speculated on the morality and nature of the modern young woman:

Is the “old fashioned girl”, with all that she stands for in sweetness, modesty, and innocence, in danger of becoming extinct? Or was she really no better nor worse than the “up to date” girl, who in turn will become the “old fashioned girl” to a later generation? Is it even possible as a small, but impressive, minority would have us believe that the girl of today has certain new virtues of “frankness, sincerity, seriousness of purpose”, lives on a “higher level of morality” and is on the whole “more clean minded and clean lived” than her predecessors?

The Roaring Twenties in America are – in popular culture at least – seen as the era of the liberated flapper, Daisy Buchanan, and all night jazz. But is this really an accurate portrayal of womanhood, femininity, and beauty in the decade of “return to normalcy”? Today on American History Too!, we’re joined by the University of Strathclyde's Rachael Alexander to discuss how femininity and beauty were perceived in 1920s America, and what role mass-market women’s magazines had in reinforcing and changing stereotypes.

Thanks, as always, for listening!

Cheers,
Mark & Malcolm

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