Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: The Flapper Speaks to American Women

flapper_magazine
The Flapper – via Wikipedia.


image Life changed quickly in the United States post-World War I. Nowhere was this more evident than in the role and actions of young women emancipating themselves from the corseted way of life to more boldly act in self-expression. The war gave more opportunities for them to come and go as they pleased, work in new jobs, experience nightlife. Women gained the right to vote in 1920, and along with it, began bobbing their hair, smoking, rolling stockings, shortening hemlines, drinking, dancing the Black Bottom, partying, and romancing.

A new term was coined to refer to these mainly young women; the flapper. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary at the time defined a flapper as, “A young girl, esp. one somewhat daring in conduct, speech and dress.” In February 1922, The Los Angeles Times quoted “Bath-house John,” a Chicago First Ward Alderman, describing these young women in somewhat more disparaging terms. “A flapper is a youthful female, beauteous externally, blasé internally, superficially intelligent, imitative to a high degree. Her natural habitat is the ballroom, the boulevard and the fast motor car. She browses about the trough of learning, picking as her tidbits smart phrases which she glibly repeats without sensing their meanings. She comes from all walks of life and has for her main requirement nerve, a face and figure, either actually beautiful or susceptible to artistic effort.”

Popular culture spoke to these young women and helped shape a new consumer culture. Illustrators and movies evoked their sometimes wild and flashy style, and helped launch new idioms of speech. These flappers would help create America’s first sexual revolution, celebrity culture, and what it meant to be hip in the Roaring Twenties.

Many of these young women felt isolated in their communities, looking around for others who shared their beliefs. They searched for validation of their customs and actions, and found it in a 1922 women’s journal called the Flapper. Based in Chicago, Illnois, and published by THE FLAPPER Pub. Co., the little magazine called itself, “the official organ of the National Flappers’ Flock.” The masthead emphasized, “Not for Old Fogies.”

The magazine included stories and items on health, fashion, jokes, poetry, news, advice and movies, mostly humorous in fashion, with Associate Editor Myrna Serviss credited on several. Ads promoted beauty products, musical instruments and jewelry. Photographs scattered throughout the issue featured women dressed as typical flappers or in daring one-piece bathing suits, along with movie stills promoting “The Married Flapper” with Marie Prevost, and “The Country Flapper,” starring Dorothy Gish.

The Monthly Chat column preached that “The Flapper stands for knickers.” A story, “Class for the Thin: Slender, Lean and Slim” was addressed to the “chiclets,” satirically describing ways to put on weight, after the previous month’s column preached taking off weight. One story, called “Flappers Protest Dictation From Paris,” derided Parisian fashion designers trying to impose longer hemlines on American women. Kewpie answered questions mailed to the magazine, mostly in a facetious manner. News of the flapper flocks passed on information about flapper groups organizing around the country, and some of the activities in which they participated, like hiking.

The “politickler” section provided humorous jokes on politics. “We’re in a fine fix—one-half of the people quitting work—another half looking for jobs—and the other half not caring what happens to them.” “We will now join in singing the latest song, “In Come Taxes, Out Goes Bank Account.”

Reader Irene Stanton of Milwaukee, Wis., wrote to the magazine praising its style. “In my opinion, you have the quaintest magazine on the market today, and one which should always be dear to the hearts of those who love the girls of America. The American flapper has arrived and she is here to stay. Without her this would be a monotonous world….You have started something—now keep it up. We’re all with you to the finish.”

The Film Flickers column provided mini reviews of films and general comments on all the flapper films invading theatres. In particular, they promoted flapper films. The magazine also provided a golden rule for silent pictures: “THOUGH THE SHEET BE SILVER, SILENCE IS GOLDEN: Talking movies will never succeed; they set a bad example for the audience.”

Particularly hilarious is the story entitled, “How to Behave at the Movies.” Author and managing editor Thomas Levish lists the nine nutty rules drawn up by “several of the leading movie maggots.” 1. Gum chewing is tolerated if the gum is purchased from special gum devices installed on the back of the chairs. 2. Patrons desiring sleep should visit the “special sound-proof rest room that will be built for their benefit… .” 3. “Those who get in on passes will be permitted to talk louder than those who pay the regular admission price.” A special section is set aside for those who have seen the picture and want to describe it in detail to their friends. 4. Peanut crunchers will wear special rubber attachments to minimize the sound of crunching. 5. “…the management will provide each patron with automatic clappers. A signal light near the curtain will tell them when to commence, and it will flash again when the climax has been reached and it is time to stop.” 6. Hissing is not permitted. 7. Ushers will be instructed to show customers to seats they don’t intend them to sit in, so everybody will be happy. 8. Patrons will be provided cards to affix to the adjoining seat to describe who they would prefer to sit beside: “for a young unmarried lady,” “ for a good looking brunette gentleman,” etc. 9. Let ‘em Pass.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Flapper stopped publication at the end of 1922 with only approximately seven issues released. Young women either returned to traditional women’s magazines or searched out other forms of entertainment, but they remained their own specialized audience, called everything from bobbysoxers to tweens.

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1922, Fashions, Film, Hollywood, Hollywood Heights, Mary Mallory and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: The Flapper Speaks to American Women

  1. Cal and Lulu says:

    The Flappers are “flapping” in their graves as they look down, or perhaps, look up and see the state of the “sexual revolution” in a world they fomented lo those many years ago.
    Good Stuff, Thanks

  2. Undine says:

    I’m a bit shocked the magazine lasted for only seven issues. It sounds like it was great fun!

  3. Eve says:

    I want that magazine SO BAD.

    The word “flapper” actually goes back to at least 1900, and was used by writer Edgar Saltus to mean a flighty, butterfly-like society girl.

  4. aryedirect says:

    “Bath-house John” used the word blasé? A bit high-brow for Bath-house, I would say.

  5. vp19 says:

    One of its issues featured a “flappers’ dictionary.” See all the terms, you bell-polishers and biscuits, at http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/410605.html.

  6. Stacia says:

    Love that article on The Married Flapper. I see the “Superba” advertised quite a bit in old articles, and I cannot get over that name! It sounds like it should be a toothpaste, not a movie theater.

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