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18 Fabulous Photos of Famous Flappers

This post was planned long ago as a followup to The Rise of the Flapper, which looked at some of the reasons for the iconic lifestyle many young women adopted in the 1920s. Some famous flappers were role models, either in real life or in the movies or other entertainment venues, and others only became famous later, but all looked wonderful in photographs of the era.

Marie Prevost was an actress who spanned the transition from silent films to talkies with ease. She appeared in 121 films between 1915 and 1936, including a half-dozen or so in which she portrayed a flapper. After her mother died in an auto accident in 1926, Prevost began drinking heavily and gained weight, and her career suffered. She went into a cycle of crash dieting and bingeing. In 1937, Prevost was found in her apartment, dead from heart failure due to malnutrition and alcoholism. She had died a couple of days before, and was only found because the neighbors complained of her dog barking.

Barbara Stanwyck made movies for 37 years, but is best remembered today for her TV series The Big Valley in the 1960s and Dynasty II: The Colbys in the 1980s. Her first film role was an uncredited fan dancer in 1927. Stanwyck's roles ranged widely, but she always played a strong woman. In the '20s, she was as cute as a button.

Colleen Moore was probably the earliest film actress to be typecast as a flapper. She made thirty movies between 1917 and 1924. Moore was a valuable silent film actress with comedic moves and expression. Her "look" was an example to Jazz Age girls, with her short hair, skinny frame, and devil-may-care attitude. Moore later became known for the fantasy dollhouse she created, which was featured in an earlier post.

Dorothy Parker wrote poetry, short stories, and essays, and was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of fashionable writers and celebrities who met for lunch and drinks and whose lifestyles influenced the smart set from 1919 to 1929.

Coco Chanel had a brief career on stage in the early 20th century, but will always be known for her fashion designs and the line of clothing and perfume that carries her name. By 1920, the French designer had introduced her "chemise," the simple, short, and loose dress that allowed flappers the freedom of movement to dance the night away.

Zelda Fitgerald was an author and the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Her lifestyle made her a celebrity outside the literary world, and her husband called her "the first American Flapper." The two were notorious for public partying, and their drunken antics were a staple of society headlines in the 1920s. From 1930 on, Zelda was in and out of mental hospitals for the rest of her life.

Gilda Gray was not the first to dance the shimmy, but she made it popular nationwide in the 1920s. The young saloon singer went to New York to perform in vaudeville and joined the Ziegfeld Follies in 1922. By then Gray was known as the Shimmy Queen, and made several Hollywood movies between 1919 and 1936.

Josephine Baker achieved some fame in New York as a singer, dancer, and comedienne, but when she went to Paris in 1925, she became an international superstar. Baker's performances ranged from striptease to opera, and were acclaimed from all sides. Baker became a French citizen in 1937. Her work with the French Resistance during World War II earned her the Croix de Guerre. Baker was also active in the Civil Rights movement in America. However, during the 1920s, she was just the most exotic, sexy, and talented woman in Europe.

Helen Morgan became famous as a nightclub singer in the speakeasies of Chicago during the 1920s. She also had success on the Broadway stage and in film in the 1930s, but alcoholism caught up with her. Morgan died in 1941 from cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 41.

Bessie Smith began singing in minstrel shows and cabarets in 1912. She toured with vaudeville jazz shows for two decades, singing the blues, and more importantly for history, recording music. Her last recording session was in 1933; she died in an auto accident in 1937.

Clara Bow was called the "It" girl of the '20s because she was so photogenic, every young lady wanted what she had -and she had "it." Her career was fast and furious, with 55 films between 1922 and 1933 and almost as many scandals. Bow retired from movies at age 30, married, and lived a quiet life until her death in 1965.

Norma Talmadge was one of the biggest silent film stars ever. Between 1910 and 1930, she acted in 160 films and produced 25! Talmadge was also a smart businesswoman. She and her much older husband, Joseph Schenck, formed the Norma Talmadge Film Corporation in 1917, giving them control over her work. The corporation generated profits way beyond what a film actress of the time could have made.



Edna Purviance was best known as Charlie Chaplin's leading lady. She appeared in 40 films over a dozen years, 33 of them with Chaplin. She was romantically involved with him, but then married another man in 1938. Still, Chaplin kept her on his payroll until her death in 1958.

Dorothy Sebastian went from college to musical theater to Hollywood, where she appeared in films for about fifteen years beginning in 1925. She was married three times (once to Hopalong Cassidy), but was known for her long-term affair with Buster Keaton.

Anita Page started her career in silent films and made an easy transition to "talkies" soon after. She cranked out many films between 1925 and 1933, and came out of retirement occasionally to act again until her death in 2008. At that time, she was hailed as the last silent film star.

Joan Crawford had a half-century career in film, and many film lovers only recognize her in later roles. But in 1925, she carefully crafted her entertainment persona as a flapper with a campaign of self-promotion. She worked hard for each film role, which led to more roles, until her career snowballed -just as she had planned.

Norma Shearer appeared uncredited in the 1920 film The Flapper when she was 18 years old. Between 1920 and 1942, she starred in dozens of films, many under the supervision of MGM executive Irving Thalberg, whom she married in 1927.

Anita Loos was an author, screenwriter, and playwright, best known for writing Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, first as a magazine series, then a 1925 book, a 1928 film, a 1949 Broadway musical, and the 1953 film musical starring Marilyn Monroe. The story was inspired by Loos' observations of Jazz Age love and temptation, and featured a flapper as the protagonist.

See also: The Rise of the Flapper

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History
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
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It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.


A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
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Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.


Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.


New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.


American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
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With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.


Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
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A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.


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Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

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Miss Cellania
10 Famous Birthdays in May
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Some of our favorite historical figures were born in May. We couldn't possibly name them all, so here are just a few of the notable people we'll be celebrating.

1. SIGMUND FREUD: MAY 6, 1856


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Sigmund Freud is known as the Father of Psychoanalysis. The Vienna psychiatrist developed a theory of the unconscious mind, where the id, ego, and superego struggle to balance each other out in the human psyche. Freud attributed his patients' neuroses to childhood trauma, often cloaked in a sexual conflict. His work was at first deemed perverted, but his ideas started to spread after a series of lectures in the U.S. in 1909. After Freud's death in 1939, Freudian theory was hailed as genius in mainstream culture. But beginning in the 1960s, Freud's theories started to fall out of favor in academia and are largely discredited today. However, his attempts to map the psyche gave us the language we still use to discuss personality and mental health.

2. FRED ASTAIRE: MAY 10, 1899


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Fred Astaire began dancing when he was just four years old. Soon he and his sister Adele were in a performing arts school and started dancing professionally. First came vaudeville, then Broadway, and when Adele married, Fred headed to Hollywood. Producers were at first reluctant to cast Astaire as a leading man because of his looks, but his dancing soon won them over. Astaire appeared in dozens of films between 1933 and 1981, 10 of them with with dance partner Ginger Rogers. Although his later films did not revolve around dance numbers, Astaire was seen dancing in an episode of Battlestar Galactica as late as 1979, when he was 80 years old.

3. MARTHA GRAHAM: MAY 11, 1894


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Martha Graham wanted to dance from an early age, but her parents disapproved, so she didn't study dance until college. Her wildly emotional dancing led her to performances in New York, and in 1926 she established the Martha Graham Dance Company. Through the company, Graham promoted modern dance as a spiritual and emotional outlet. Over time, she came to be seen as a genius of the genre. Graham danced until she was in her '70s, and continued to choreograph dances until her death at age 91.

4. KATHARINE HEPBURN: MAY 12, 1907


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Katharine Hepburn caught the acting bug in college and headed to the stages of New York upon graduation. She was spotted in a Broadway production and was offered the lead in RKO's 1932 film A Bill of Divorcement. That kicked off a movie career of more than 60 years, in which she was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won four. Hepburn was a certified box office draw, but off screen she refused to behave like a Hollywood star. She spoke her mind, wore pants, and even appeared in public without makeup occasionally. Hepburn was also known for her devotion to the love of her life, actor Spencer Tracy, who was separated from his wife but refused to divorce her. The last of nine films they made together was Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in 1967, just before Tracy died. Hepburn continued making movies through 1994, when she was 87 years old.

5. PIERRE CURIE: MAY 15, 1859


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French physicist Pierre Curie is often overlooked in favor of Marie Curie, his brilliant student and later wife. Together they discovered radium and polonium, and did extensive research into radioactivity. Pierre, Marie, and Henri Becquerel jointly won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics for their research. Curie might have gone onto many further discoveries, but he was killed in 1906 when a horse-drawn cart ran over him in Paris. If he had lived longer, Curie might have also succumbed to illness caused by radiation, as did his wife, daughter, and son-in-law—all Nobel Prize winners.

6. MARY CASSATT: MAY 22, 1844


Mary Cassatt via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Renowned American painter Mary Cassatt wanted to become an artist, but her parents objected and her Philadelphia art school didn't take women students seriously. So she went to Paris and studied privately under teachers from Ecole des Beaux-Arts, as the school did not admit women. Gradually, Cassatt's works sold and her reputation grew. She drew the attention of Impressionist Edgar Degas, and worked with him for years. By 1886, she left the Impressionist movement behind, and afterward refused to be defined by any art genre. Cassatt's body of work often featured women and children in their everyday lives. Her most memorable painting, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, broke with tradition by portraying a child in a naturalistic, casual pose instead of a formal portrait.

7. SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE: MAY 22, 1859


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Arthur Conan Doyle is best remembered for his many short stories and novels featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. But Conan Doyle worked full time as a medical doctor until an illness convinced him he had to choose between writing and medicine. Years later, Conan Doyle volunteered with the British army to fight in the Second Boer War, but because of his age (40), he was only allowed to serve as a medical doctor. Upon his return from South Africa, he entered politics in Scotland, but he lost his only race. In 1907, Conan Doyle became involved in a real criminal case in which he helped George Edalji, a solicitor of Indian heritage, beat an animal cruelty conviction by employing the observational technique that Sherlock Holmes used. The fallout from that case led to the establishment of the appeals system in Britain. Conan Doyle also wrote a science fiction novel The Lost World, published in 1912. It was so successful that he wrote four sequels.

8. MARGARET FULLER: MAY 23, 1810


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Born in Massachusetts in 1810, Margaret Fuller was a precocious child who learned several languages but was not welcome at college because of her sex. She became friends with both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who admired her philosophical thinking. Fuller became a literary critic for the New-York Tribune and a well-known intellectual.

In 1845, Fuller made history with Woman in the Nineteenth Century, often considered the first major feminist work published in the United States. This groundbreaking book began as an essay in Emerson's transcendentalist journal The Dial called "The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women," in which Fuller argued that men and women must see each other as equals before they can transcend to divine love. Fuller reasoned that ignoring our commonality was the base of much of America's sins, from the slaughter of Native Americans to the slavery of African Americans.

Fuller went on to become a foreign correspondent and the first American female war correspondent, covering the Italian revolution. She also fell in love with an Italian man and had a child with him. On their return trip to the U.S. in 1850 aboard a merchant ship, a hurricane struck the ship near Fire Island, killing all three. Only Fuller's 20-month-old son was found.

9. SALLY RIDE: MAY 26, 1951

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In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel into space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Ride was a nationally ranked tennis player when she was a teenager. Billie Jean King urged her to turn pro, but Ride went to Stanford University instead. She earned both a bachelor of arts in English and a bachelor of science in physics in 1973, and a PhD in physics in 1978. Ride then immediately applied for NASA's astronaut program. She flew two shuttle missions, in 1983 and '84, and was scheduled for a third, but that mission was canceled after the Challenger explosion in 1986. After leaving NASA in 1987, Ride devoted her life to encouraging students to study science—especially girls. She founded the organization Sally Ride Science for just that purpose, and wrote five children's books encouraging interest in science. Ride died of cancer at age 61 in 2012.

10. "WILD BILL" HICKOK: MAY 27, 1837


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James Butler Hickok was a farmer, soldier, stagecoach driver, spy, lawman, scout, sharpshooter, gambler, and Wild West showman. Many of those occupations came after "Wild Bill" Hickok gained publicity for killing three men in an 1861 shootout. The newspapers followed his exploits from that time on, often embellishing the details until Hickok was more of a legend than the adventurer he was. His various occupations took him to different parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Hickok was playing poker in Deadwood, South Dakota, when Jack McCall shot him in the back of the head and killed him in 1876. The hand Hickok was holding at the time—a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights—became known as the "dead man's hand."

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