Written by Mélissa Roy


the role of women in the age of the flappers (1920's and 30's)


Women our days complain about the fact that we are still not as well paid as men, that they have advantages that we don’t.  But if we think of the differences there are between the women of our day and the women living before the flappers, we can see progress.


   A flapper is a woman who rebelled against traditional ways of thinking, acting, and dressing.  Flappers gave women a new sense of freedom.  In England they were called “Bright young things”.  Before that period, women had to be there to prepare the dinner. They had to take care of the kids, do the cleaning.  They had no opinion (of course the had some but they were not allowed to say it).  The flapper changed everything that the world thought was right or wrong for women. 

    The role of women changed a lot after World War II. As Dorothy Parker said in “Big Blonde”,  “men liked you because you were fun, and when they liked you they took you out, and there you were. So, and successfully, she was fun. She was a good sport. Men liked a good sport” (p. 1109). Women were there to help men to forget about the war that just finished and the one that was about to start. They were trying to escape the sadness of their life. To do that they started to go out to nightclubs, wear short skirts and lower waistlines. Before this period, women were not allowed to show their ankles but now they showed everything, arms, neck, legs. Dresses were cut in a way to emphasize their hips. But one of the most shocking things were that they started painting their faces with make-up. It was the roaring twenties! People were enjoying the prosperity of the time, sex, and wild-living. So were the women! Their main role was no more to take care of the kids, prepare the dinner, clean the house, or to obey their husband. “Flappers smoked, drank, caroused in speaqeasies and made love freely, redefining what it meant to be a woman.” (Constance Jones)

   The event that provoked this change in the role women is the fact that men were away at war, so it was the women’s responsibility to replace them at work. It helped them to realise that they were able to do the same things as men. This brought them a taste of independance and freedom. This changed the role for women. Working was now something they felt confident to do and felt they had the right to do it. They were now equal to men.

   It was also the time of the industrial revolution. This meant new objects to make their life easier, to have more free time. Things such as the automobile, irons (electric), vacuum cleaners, and indoor plumbers gave women more time to spend on their other activities .

   Hollywood helped the flappers to grow in numbers. After some some time, most women were dressing and acting like them. Even some traditionalists decided to follow this fashion. The flapper represented youth and that is why people wanted to be part of this revolution. Youth is often followed by rebellion. One thing women did to show they were equal to men was to cut their hair in order to look like them. It shocked many people at first but it became a very popular fashion. Drinking was something else that shocked since it was illegal at this time because of the prohibition.

   Of course not all women were flappers but most of them were. They changed many good things to women of our day. They took their position in a wold consisting only of men, where women where considered to be silent and sweet little things to keep at home and to get children from.

            They opened many doors to women. They were the ones who got women to wear whatever they wanted to wear, no more rules were to be followed on that matter. They also got women to wear make-up and jewels. One of the most important things is that now women can do whaterver they please. They can go out, drink, dance, smoke, drive, go out with boys, and vote. Women are as good as men and intend to be treated the same way. 


                      BEFORE                         AFTER

  Interesting Websites

   Authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Held Jr., and Anita Loos popularized the flapper look and lifestyle through their works, and flappers came to be seen as attractive, although reckless and independent.

   Dorothy Parker was a writer critic and was among the people who rolled their eyes over the flapper. Here is one of her poem.

Zone de Texte: THE FLAPPER
by Dorothy Parker 
The Playful flapper here we see,
The fairest of the fair.
She's not what Grandma used to be, --
You might say, au contraire.
Her girlish ways may make a stir,
Her manners cause a scene,
But there is no more harm in her
Than in a submarine.
She nightly knocks for many a goal
The usual dancing men.
Her speed is great, but her control
Is something else again.
All spotlights focus on her pranks.
All tongues her prowess herald.
For which she well may render thanks
To God and Scott Fitzgerald.
Her golden rule is plain enough -
Just get them young and treat them