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Paperback Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern Book

ISBN: 1400080541

ISBN13: 9781400080540

Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern

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Book Overview

Flapper is a dazzling look at the women who heralded a radical change in American culture and launched the first truly modern decade. The New Woman of the 1920s puffed cigarettes, snuck gin, hiked her hemlines, danced the Charleston, and necked in roadsters. More important, she earned her own keep, controlled her own destiny, and secured liberties that modern women take for granted. Flapper is an inside look at the 1920s. With tales of Coco Chanel,...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

A must-read

This book is absolutely fabulous and was hard to put down. More than just another book about the flappers, it tells a thorough comprehensive story about American culture and society in the 1920s, from so many angles, pertinent to both women and society as a whole--clothing, advertising, cars, smoking, dating, sex, drinking, the movies, literature, feminism, higher education, racism, the haves and have-nots, and illustrators. Along the way we also read about vivid personalities of the era, such as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Clara Bow, Lois Long, Colleen Moore, Louise Brooks, John Held, Jr., Bruce Barton, Coco Chanel, and Gordon Conway (a woman, in spite of the masculine name). It also chronicles the events and social forces in the decades prior to the Twenties, showing how all of these things came together and ultimately led up to the first truly modern era, an era that actually began around the time of WWI, not when the Twenties began, as many people might think. Things such as women wearing more comfortable and revealing clothing, young people going on dates and even having premarital sex instead of having closely-chaperoned "courtships," and pop culture and advertisements assuming great importance in how people saw and created their sense of reality just intensified and became more prominent as the Twenties began. These changes in society and women didn't take place in a vacuum or happen overnight. As a woman and a feminist, I'm eternally grateful to these women for what they did, and for the struggles and sacrifices of the generations that came before them. Yes, many older feminists of the era were dismayed at how so many young women were more concerned with things like fashion, the movies, and attracting men than in being political or social activists, but in their own way, they were helping to change society for the better. And by today's standards, the flappers seem relatively tame; today no one bats an eye at a woman who cuts her hair short, wears a skirt showing her knees, smokes in public, goes on dates with multiple guys before getting married, or works and lives alone. It was also interesting to read about how women's freedom went up and down a bit in the eras that came before the flapper generation came of age; for example, about half of the women who went to college between the 1870s and the 1920s never married, in comparison to about a tenth of the general female population. The book also shows how the Victorian ideals of morality were always tenuous at best, not a realistic portrayal of how most people lived their lives. Apparently people in the Twenties were romanticising the past as much as the neo-Puritans of today, lamenting a world that never really existed at best and that was repressive and oppressive at worst, particularly for women and the have-nots. The chapter "An Athletic Kind of Girl" in particular was heartbreaking, reading about how for over a century, women were kept imprisoned and socially controlled i

Packed full of great information!

I bought this book after reading the reviews of several books covering the Roaring 20s. I needed not just facts and figures, but the feel of the era, since I was researching for a short fiction story set then. Joshua Zeitz did it all, covering both individual experiences as well as the essence of the time. Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern is well worth the price. It's packed with solid research as is also highly entertaining. Get a wiggle on and go buy it!

The Girl That Caused The Twenties To Roar

American born Joshua Zeitz is a lecturer on American History and Fellow of Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge and is a contributing editor at AMERICAN HERITAGE. His book is an impressive mix of history, social commentary and some intriguing storytelling on America's first excursion into sexual liberation, mass-celebrity and the marketing of youth rebellion. Before gangstas and their wannabe wankstas, punks and metalheads, hippies, bikers, beatniks and greasy cornerboys in leather jackets, before even the outlandish zootsuiters of the 1940s, the first identifiable countercultural figure was female: the flapper. These were the young women iconic of the era we call the "Roaring Twenties." Bobbing their hair, discarding the long skirts and high collar blouses and the confining undergarments that went with them, the flapper outfitted herself in sleeveless dresses which stopped at the knees, long pearl necklaces dangling. She showed more bare arms and legs than previously most wives allowed their husbands to see. Freedom of limb and movement was the flapper's goal. From the country clubs of Alabama to Indiana, from the speakeasies of Chicago to New York, whether on the arm of Al Capone or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or going solo, the flapper represented the classless modernity of America. Jazz, accused by the moral and cultural establishment of the time to be the biggest corrupter of young whites, was her soundtrack. The "Charleston," which flaunted her naked legs all the more, was her dance. The flapper smoked and she drank. She could be silly and she was definitely self-indulgent. She was also a wonderfully crazy distraction for a generation returning from the First World War, traumatized by the gas, guns and bayonets of the trenches.

Not to Be Missed

J.M. Zeitz, an American who holds a chair at Cambridge University in England, brings the 20s to life through his story of these "madcap" women. His research into and writing about Lois Long are particularly excellent, but the entire book is stellar. "Flapper" is a must for Dorothy Parker fans and 1920s buffs, but it's also an excellent gift for that feminist in your life. Better yet -- buy one for yourself, and revel in Zeitz's prose and humor.
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