By Judith Mackrell
Glamorized, mythologized and demonized - the ladies of the Twenties prefigured the Sixties of their selection to reinvent the best way they lived. Flappers is partially a biography of that stressed iteration: beginning with its first stylish acts of uprising in advance of the good conflict, and carrying on with via to the top of the last decade whilst the Wall road crash sign led one other cataclysmic international change.
It makes a speciality of six ladies who among them exemplified the diversity and bold of that generation’s spirit. Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Lempicka have been faraway from standard flappers. even supposing they danced the Charleston, wore stylish outfits and partied with the remainder of their friends, they made themselves popular one of the artists, icons, and heroines in their age. proficient, reckless and willful, with personalities that transcended their category and history, they re-wrote their destinies in amazing, enjoyable and tragic methods. And among them they blazed the path of the recent lady worldwide.
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7 To some contemporary commentators this addiction to style was the mark of a superficial and self-absorbed generation. Samuel Hopkins Adams, in the foreword to his 1923 bestseller Flaming Youth,* anatomized the flapper as ‘restless and seductive, greedy, discontented, unrestrained, a little morbid, more than a little selfish’. As she casually spent her money on a new powder compact or string of beads she also seemed shockingly a-political. She seemed oblivious of the battles that had so recently been fought on her behalf: the right to control her own wealth, to vote and to enter professions like the law.
Those who remained insulated against her electricity criticized Diana as a flirt and ‘a scalp hunter’, and she received anonymous letters accusing her of corrupting the young men around her. In truth, Diana had remained far more chaste in her behaviour than some of her peers. G. Wells’s novel Anne Veronica had highlighted a trend among advanced young women to regard their virginity as a vexing encumbrance to adulthood. When the twenty-two-year-old Enid Bagnold allowed herself to be seduced by the writer Frank Harris, in 1909, she was delirious with relief.
21 To young admirers who sent love letters and queued up to dance, Diana was ‘a goddess’, ‘an orchid among cowslips’. Older men were no less susceptible. One of her suitors was the legendarily wealthy American financier George Gordon Moore, who insisted that on a word from Diana he would divorce his wife. 22 Diana thrived on both the presents and her notoriety. 23 She was also beginning to attract malicious comment. Those who remained insulated against her electricity criticized Diana as a flirt and ‘a scalp hunter’, and she received anonymous letters accusing her of corrupting the young men around her.