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Millennials Are Flappers? Yowza!

November 01, 2017


When I came across this article in the September issue of the Smithsonian magazine I read it not once, but three times, simply because I thought it was so far-fetched. I have now changed my mind.

This piece has two authors, Linda Simon, for a description of the original flapper and the Roaring Twenties, followed by Paul O’Donnell’s astute comparison of today’s young cosmopolitan women to the “girls” of a century ago.


First, here’s Adea’s take on this era that appeared on April 26, 2917. CLICK HERE for: Let’s Celebrate the Jazz Age.


This female was any girl or woman who defied convention – girls who balked at being chaperoned, suffragists, women aspiring to a career, and those, as the Boston Globe put it, “expert in the arts of allurement.” Tsk, tsk.


Unlike their mothers and grandmothers, flappers tended to go to high school and even college. They even biked, played golf and tennis. Of course, these stylish tomboys were a grave source of worry to parents, educators and clergymen, who feared that sports and higher education would be ruinous. “She is simply a fool,” the Globe said.


Not at all – the scolding and finger waving only enhanced her appeal. Magazines advertised flapper hairstyles and clothing – plus extreme diets and dubious claims for the slimming effects of cigarettes and chewing gum.


A number of impressively talented women were flappers, including the novelist and screenwriter, Anita Loos, the satirist Dorothy Parker and the entertainer Josephine Baker who went on to become a leading civil rights activist.

Entertainer and activist, Josephine Baker


Flappers vanished from American life after the Great Depression (1929-1939) pulled the plug on all the revelry. But today, things have turned again. Many young feminists embrace the flapper’s sassy, independent spirit of seeming to play at adulthood. Let’s take a look.  


FLAPPERS: Thirty years of migration from farms to cities made the U.S. a majority-urban nation for the first time in 1920. City life offered the new arrivals risqué fashions, speakeasies and dance halls.

MILLENNIALS: They like to be near other “creative class” hipsters in a car-free existence informed by blogs like Gothamist. Cities are increasing in population faster than suburbs for the first time since the 1920s.


FLAPPERS: The Jazz Age saw the advent of the motorcar, the airplane, medical wonders like antibiotics and broadcast radio. This made flappers more conversant with technology than their elders.

The Roaring Twenties or “The Jazz Age” ended with the Great Depression that lasted from 1929 to 1939

MILLENNIALS: Growing up steeped in the Internet has made millennials very tech savvy. They’ve also inverted the knowledge-age gap; they now teach their elders how to work the new gizmos.

Millennial females love the digital world


FLAPPERS: They bantered in breezy new terms such as “the cat’s pajamas” for anything that pleased them, or “dimbox” for a taxicab. A divorced man was “out on parole.”

MILLENNIALS: Their text-speak – LOL, OMG, whatevs – were born as thumb-saving abbreviations. The same spirit infects locutions like “Sorry not sorry” (a cheeky non-apology) or the mock anguished “I can’t even.”


FLAPPERS: These women were serious about getting the vote – and their challenge to gender roles also extended to acceptance of homosexuality, cross-dressing and their own androgynous fashions.

MILLENNIALS: This group leads all generations in identifying LGBT. They are more likely to consider gay rights as civil rights. Now, 74% say they support same-sex marriages – the most of any demographic group.

The 10th Anniversary of “March for Women’s Lives”


FLAPPERS: World War I reduced the population of available young men, ratcheting up competition for prospective partners and promoting sexual freedom.

MILLENNIALS: Like the flappers, young millennial women have been criticized for their promiscuity and willingness to flash their flesh – in real life and online. Social scientists point to the increasing overabundance of female college grads and the resulting shortage of like-minded men.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick


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