FW 2 and 3: Introduction and The Flappers


The Original 1922 Fascinating Womanhood Pamphlets

In the original Fascinating Womanhood Pamphlet #1’s Preface [FW #2 Video], we learned something that most people today don’t know about the 1920’s “flappers.”

If you skip this video you won’t learn all that we discuss in the Preface, “What This Course Discloses,” and “What These Books Can Do for You” which covers a lot of information.

I also go over the Table of Contents (which may seem boring, but it is a sneak peek about what is coming. You can always speed the video up!).

If you ever get behind and want to listen to the videos quickly and in order, type in @beautifulhomemaking channel on YouTube and click on the FW Playlist.

UPDATE! Right after I posted this I learned that Clara Bow was only one inspiration for Betty Boop. Helen Kane actually sued thinking that Max Fleischer created the character based on her, as Helen Kane was famous for the “Boop” song I Want to be Loved by You, but during trial it was revealed that Esther Lee Jones used “boops” in her songs long before Kane. Esther had died before this trial, but take a look at Esther’s picture:

Esther Lee Jones onstage name was “Baby Esther”


[What I’ve written below is a transcription of video #3.] 

Flappers were “anathema” to society.  That means that they were detested.  Shunned.  Denounced.  Accursed.  They were abominable.  And they were believed to be on the road to hell. 

So what changed?  Clara Bow hit the big screen in the 1930s and personified the flappers of the 1920s and she successfully began to re-interpret their role in society.

She first portrayed a flapper in the movie Black Oxen.  Variety said of Clara Bow that “the horrid little flapper is adorably played.”  The LA Times said she was “the prize vulgarian of the lot.”

She was the first to “originate” “devices” to “the modern flapper” by fighting a villain with her fists, without shrinking back in fear.  She would later portray a female boxer.  Her movies were said to “expose” (or was it really to promote?) bootleg liquor, and she always portrayed “an innocent girl who develops into a ‘red-hot mama’.”  Do you know what a “red-hot mama” was back in 1920?  I sure didn’t. The term meant “a naughty, inebriated flapper.” 

Clara Bow radiated sexual appeal and loved to “vamp” any male selected for her to pounce upon.  She could cry crocodile tears in an instant.  She played tomboy and flapper roles, and appropriated androgynous and masculine traits, presenting herself as the “new, confident, modern woman.”

Clara Bow said, and I quote:

“All the time the flapper is laughing and dancing, there’s a feeling of tragedy underneath.  She’s unhappy and disillusioned, and that’s what people sense.”

Clara was the original “It Girl” (which was the title of one of her most famous movies), and Betty Boop was fashioned on her [see my UPDATE above]. 

When she first began acting she was passed over many times for being “too fat.”  (Real men, however, begged to differ.)   It was young women, though, who catapulted her to stardom.

She said that life growing up was “miserable” but it was obvious she loved her father.  I couldn’t find out anything about her mother.  On the silver screen she said she found beauty.  “For the first time I saw distant lands, serene, lovely homes, romance, nobility, glamour.”

At the beginning of her career, Louella Parsons, a journalist, said of her, “She is refreshingly unaffected…hasn’t any secrets from the world, she trusts everyone…she is almost too good to be true.”  She certainly was.  Once she came to Hollywood, she ran wild.

“My life in Hollywood contained plenty of uproar.  I’m sorry for a lot of it, but not awfully sorry.  I never did anything to hurt anyone else.  I made a place for myself on the screen and you can’t do that by being Mrs. Alcott’s idea of a Little Woman.”

One early director said of her, “She was mad and crazy, but what a personality!”  She turned flappers from being hated to being loved due to her child-like innocence (which is a trait both men and women love, and it’s a Fascinating Womanhood trait, but for her it was just an act). 

Likewise, in the book Mantrap, her character was a bad person, but she turned the character into “just a flirt.” 

In the movie It Girl she was vivacious, saucy, funny, smart, and real.  An MGM exec said she was “the greatest emotional actress on the screen.”  She was sentimental, simple, child-like, and sweet.  All of which are Fascinating traits.

When “talkies” came in she transitioned, but she didn’t like it. 

“You lose a lot of your cuteness,” she said, “because there’s no chance for action.”

Her nerves became shot and she began to take sedatives.  By the 1940s she began showing signs of mental illness, schizophrenia, and chronic insomnia.  In her 40’s she attempted suicide.  In 1965 she died of a heart attack at age 60.

Clara Bow’s acting skills are the reason we see flappers today in a good light, instead of how they were viewed by society in general.

Clara was also able to portray on the screen many of the facets of the Fascinating Woman that are alluring to men.

Her real life scandals, however, prove that her fascinating ways were only an act.  Her later mental illness caused her to isolate and become estranged from her husband.

She was the original “It” girl, but overall, she lamented that she had a miserable life.

Surprisingly, in the 1935 version of the transcribed pamphlets by Cynthia Berenger (affiliated link), the Preface changes the word “flapper” to “debutante!”  Since debutantes are supposed to exhibit lady-like behavior at all times, this word cannot possibly be a fit for the same sentence:  “In no respect were these conditions more deplorable than as they found expression in the flapper (debutante), with her seeming disregard of all the social conventions that her elders had held sacred.  She was the target for anathema, ridicule, and reprehension from the press, pulpit, and private individuals.  Her flippancy, her immodesty of speech, dress and deportment, her sacrilegious and supercilious disrespect have all been decried…”

We know that debutantes did not disregard social conventions that her elders held sacred, and she certainly was not a target of anathema from the press or pulpit.  Debutantes were neither flippant nor immodest, nor disrespectful.  Someone, somewhere, changed that word, probably as a joke.  I’ve no idea how many versions of the pamphlets were printed and if the error was ever caught.

In fact, many words, I noticed, were omitted or changed in the 1935 Preface, when I compared it to the 1922 original version, but at least the changes made sense.  So, if you bought the 1935 version, be sure to change the word “debutante” back to “flapper.”



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