Time Trippers: The Nights of the Round Table – Some Fun Facts: Women Led The Way:   1 comment

  • Women and Youth were the two most important drivers of social change that made the 1920’s what it was – when ordinary people challenged old ways and when women experienced their first true liberation.
  • The 1920’s were a time of enormous social change and besides Prohibition and Radio, Women and Youth were the prime movers of the decade. The Flapper I penned sitting next to us on the train is the classic icon of the era. While not necessarily typical, she is the standard bearer of the first true women’s liberation.
    • World War One or the Great War, was the catalyst as most wars are, of social change on a massive scale. For the first time, women took over many jobs only men could do before, working in defense plants, as railroad and streetcar conductors and other jobs. In addition, often for wartime efficiency, many cut their hair short for the first time although the bobbed hair was introduced by Irene Castle in 1912 or so as the ‘Castle Bob’ when ragtime was at its peak scandalizing society with its jungle rhythms. While they returned to more domestic chores immediately following the war, that taste of independence was very heady stuff indeed and sewed the seeds of liberation. The war also destroyed the ancient regimes in Europe, killed millions between the war and the Spanish Influenza epidemic, uprooting millions, and led to disillusion with the ‘establishment’ who let such a really pointless war happen in the first place.
    • The Vote – 1920. For the first time, the newly independent woman had to be taken seriously by politicians.
    • Radio – 1920. Starting with KDKA in Pittsburgh, commercial radio exploded across the country spreading culture and jazz like nothing before.
    • Prohibition – 1920. The ill-conceived social engineering experiment was of course a spectacular failure, engendering the opposite effect by encouraging lawlessness on a massive scale, empowering ‘the mob,’ and newly minted bootleggers, corrupting police and politicians and with it, as a matter of convenience and necessity, forced women and men to drink together in public for the first time. It also encouraged binge drinking. It was another catalyst of massive social change and liberation, anther blow to the ‘establishment.’
    • Fashion:    Short skirts, Rolled Stockings and the Little Black Dress:
      Coco Chanel launched the flapper look with the boyish ‘Garcon’ style early on, with simple dresses, very deco, and short page-boy style hair. As a badge of the new liberation, fashion stripped its gears starting in 1920 with mid-calf length skirts sweeping (gasp!) silk stocking-clad legs in high-heeled pumps, not high-button shoes! Silk stockings were getting sheerer all the time as the scandalized father in ‘Cheaper By Dozen’ told his daughter in 1924 that they were “the last of the seven veils!” Granted, short skirts of a sort appeared in 1915 – bouffant styles, but most women wore high-button shoes through the ‘teens and WWI and not until 1918/19 did stocking-clad ankles appear in polite company. Before 1915, the sight of a woman’s stocking was something shocking, as Cole Porter said. The early ’20’s saw the appearance of elaborate silk stockings with decorations, and the modern ‘flappers’ often rolled them down below the knee to facilitate ease of dancing  and not fussing with all those straps. They also ditched the heavy corsets and other ironworks underneath, wearing less underwear than ever, not seen again until the late ’60’s. By 1925, the knee-length skirt appeared and with the rolled stockings, bare knees became visible at times.  Prohibition encouraged enterprising ladies to hide their indispensable hip flasks under the skirts, strapped to garters just above the knees. Between the music, Prohibition and the resultant lawlessness, the spirit of liberation took off and women led the way.
In the book: On the journey from Philadelphia, they meet a real Flapper with a hip flask in her garter – one of Rachelle Meyer’s wonderful illustrations in the book:

18-flapper-flask-FINAL2

There is a most enlightened and remarkable editorial in the leading humor magazine of the era, Judge from April 9, 1927 (There is an excerpt in the book) by editor William Morris Houghton:
“If in the imagination,” writes Will Durant in a recent Century, “we place ourselves at the year 2000, and ask what was the outstanding feature of human events in the first quarter of the twentieth century, we shall see that it was not the World War nor the Russian Revolution, but the change in the status of women. History has seldom known so startling a transformation in so short a time.”  and if you don’t believe him, go and see the new picture, “The Rough Riders,” and watch Mary Astor in the role of the young belle of that period less than thirty years ago. (1898) Between her impersonation and the flapper of today lies a gulf resembling the Grand Canyon. 
This is the identical gulf that divides the Younger Generation from its parent. The girls carved it. If they had remained the same coy, shrinking  softies in trailing skirts and long hair who fluttered their tear stained handkerchiefs to the boys leaving for Cuba, the boys themselves would have remained the reverent romanticists they were.  It is always the women folk who have called the social tune, as always; the men who dance to it.
Women have always been realists at heart.  But it is only since the Industrial Revolution emancipated them from economic dependence on the sentimental male, that is to say, since the Spanish War, that they have chosen to show their true colors. Indeed, they would hardly have been realists had they done so before. Now, however, as Dr. Durant points out, “they smoke and swear and drink and think.” Hence the Younger Generation as we know it. Hence notices to prospective suicides. Hence if you choose, the Deluge. Not a little refreshing, don’t you think?”
To find out more, and have some fun along the way, take a walk back in time with us to the last week of September, 1927 to see Babe Ruth hit his record-breaking 60th home run. Hang out with the incomparably witty Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Harpo Marx. Meet Dorothy’s friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald; run into a young and as yet unknown James Cagney, Ben ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, a certain Japanese Navy midshipman and many others.
If you liked ‘Midnight in Paris’ or ‘Boardwalk Empire’ and enjoy Jack Finney’s ‘Time and Again,’ then you might like this book too! Enjoy! Available on Amazon both Paperback and Kindle editions!

Time Trippers: The Nights of the Round Table Amazon Page

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Posted December 30, 2012 by mikeile51 in The Books

One response to “Time Trippers: The Nights of the Round Table – Some Fun Facts: Women Led The Way:

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  1. Pingback: Time Trippers: The Nights of the Round Table – Some Fun Facts: Women Led The Way: « MichaelAlanMayer's Blog

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