Flap on… Flap off… The Flapper: Roaring 1920s Windsor



Ain’t I the bees’ knees? 

Before the start of World War I, the Gibson Girl was all the rage. This elegant, willowy image of feminine beauty was inspired by the drawings of illustrator Charles Dana Gibson. She wore her long hair loosely on top of her head and wore a long straight skirt and a shirt with a high collar. She was feminine but also broke through gender barriers as her attire allowed her to participate in sports like golf, roller skating, and bicycling.

Gibson Girls did not date; a girl waited until a proper young man formally paid her interest with suitable intentions (i.e. marriage). However, nearly a whole generation of young men had died in the war, leaving almost an entire generation of young women without possible suitors. Young women decided they were not willing to waste away their young lives waiting idly for spinsterhood; they were going to enjoy life.

Let’s hear it for the “Flapper”!

In the 1920s, a new woman was born. She smoked, drank, danced, and voted. She cut her hair, wore make-up, and went to petting parties. She was giddy and took risks. She was a flapper.

The term “flapper” first appeared in Great Britain after World War I where it was used to describe young girls, still somewhat awkward in movement who had not yet entered womanhood. In the June 1922 edition of the Atlantic Monthly, G. Stanley Hall described his efforts to understand the term. By looking it up in a dictionary he learned it a flapper was:

 …. a fledgling, yet in the nest, and vainly attempting to fly while its wings have only pinfeathers; and I recognized that the genius of ‘slanguage’ had made the squab the symbol of budding girlhood.

The twenties were the first decade to emphasize youth culture over the older generations, and the flapper sub-culture had a tremendous influence on mainstream America; many new words and phrases were coined by these liberated women and many of these are still used today.

Pictured above is an anonymous Windsor, Ontario flapper (photo courtesy Charlie Fox) perched on her Big Six’s (flapper slang for a strong man borrowed from auto advertising for the new and powerful six cylinder engines) sporty new roadster, or perhaps it’s actually her Dapper’s (aka dad’s) family car.

We may never know, but we can definitely tell she’s all dressed up and has somewhere to go.

Read more about the wild and wonderful days of the “Roaring Twenties” as well local tales of rum running and Prohibition on our archive site, walkervilletimes.com here. The above photo and 130 other fascinating old photos of Windsor appears in our new local history book: “Windsor Then” available at Juniper Books on Ottawa Street near Argyle, the Art Gallery of Windsor gift shop, the University of Windsor Bookstore, From the Heart Gifts on Ottawa near Hall,  Page 233 in Amerstburg, Unique Gifts in Essex, or through me: elaine@walkerville.com, or online here.

Research for this story came from:

http://history1900s.about.com/od/1920s/a/flappers.htm

http://local.aaca.org/bntc/slang/slang.htm

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About Elaine Weeks

How history was taught in my day: memorize lots of boring dates and facts, watch corny old black & white history films. There was one bright spot, however. Grade 9 history at Walkerville Collegiate with Miss Falls (Georgina) when she taught a section on local history and took us on a field trip to explore some of Windsor's built heritage. Due to a peculiar series of events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, (partner is Chris Edwards,) Walkerville Publishing Inc., launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999, which in due course became "The Times Magazine". Our goal was to make history real. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, masters track & field competitor (when I have time), glass is nearly full person.
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