Exercise 5: "Fashions in Morals"
In a 1925 essay for the New Republic the writer Bruce Bliven detailed the salient characteristics of the modern woman, or “flapper.” Reflecting on the flapper’s apparel choices and dating practices, Bliven also highlighted the evolving nature of morality. “Few any more are so naïve as not to realize that there are fashions in morals and that these have a limitless capacity for modification,” he mused.
New “fashions in morals” shaped the perspective and experiences of the tippling lady as well as the flapper. Their histories help illuminate a critical transformation in the American cultural landscape in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as a growing number of women discarded the conventions of Victorian morality and embraced new standards of public behavior.
After reading Bliven’s “Flapper Jane,” consider the following questions.
- What distinctive fashions in morals do you see emerging from Bliven’s description? Were new fashions in morals also emerging among Chicago’s tippling ladies?
- Does Bliven’s flapper share any attitudes or values with the lady tippler?
- What does Bliven suggest was driving moral and cultural change? Were these same forces at work among Chicago’s tippling ladies, or were other factors more significant?
- Bruce Bliven, “Flapper Jane,” New Republic, Sept. 9, 1925, pp. 65—67, available at http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113130/bruce-bliven-interviews-flapper (Local PDF copy)