They drank, smoked, took drugs, had multiple sexual partners, earned their own money, wore short skirts, and rejected traditional female roles.
Nope, 1920s flappers.
In Flappers, Judith Mackrell tells the story of six stylish women who broke barriers and lived large in the 1920s, decades before the feminist movement.
As benefits the “flapper” label, these women partied (seriously!) and primped, but underneath it all was the desire or the necessity to forge an independent life.
After years of two-bit vaudeville productions, Josephine Baker hit is big with “La Revue Negre,” the hottest ticket in Paris in 1925. At the height of her popularity, there were dark- skinned Josephine Baker dolls, Josephine postcards, and Josephine inspired hair products.
With only a smattering of formal art training, Polish-Russian refugee Tamara De Lempicka worked tirelessly on her craft. Through aggressive promotion, she became a rich and fashionable artist of the Paris avant-garde and the sole support of her unemployed husband and daughter.
English aristocrat Diana Cooper, much to the dismay of her family, married an impoverished politician. Her earnings as the lead actress in the theatrical production The Miracle supported his political career. For years Diana toured the United States at a time when actresses and unchaperoned women were still considered “fast.”
In 1923, the Alabama born Tallulah Bankhead traveled to London to pursue her career as an actress and professional provocateur.
British heiress Nancy Cunard settled in Paris where she created a distinctive personal style, embarked on countless love affairs with members of both sexes, and worked as a journalist and poet.
And Zelda Fitzgerald, the quintessential flapper and her husband’s inspiration, also left Alabama behind for a life as muse and writer.
A global depression and looming political unrest contributed to demise of the flapper era. By the 1930s, with the exception of Diana Cooper, who effortless transitioned into her role as a conventional political wife and mother, Mackrell’s women were emotionally and financially exhausted.
But in their prime, these six women burned red hot, laying the groundwork for a later generation of liberated women.
Loved this book!
What Other Reviewers Think
The New York Times Book Review: “Mackrell, a dance critic, loves a romp and tales of her high-flying subjects lose none of their adrenaline in the retelling. Her writing is bright and nimble, but she’s also astute enough to delve beyond the flash and dazzle, the public illusions cast to hide private insecurity, pain, and frustration.”
Who Wrote It
Judith Mackrell is a celebrated dance critic. Her biography of the Russian ballerina Lydia Lopokova, Bloomsbury Ballerina, was short-listed for the Costa Biography Award. She has also appeared on television and radio, and is the co-author of the Oxford Dictionary of Dance. She lives in London.