In a piece that was picked up by Chicago’s Flapper magazine in 1922, 19-year-old Myrtle Heileman offered a rousing defense of the forward-thinking girls of her generation. The gist of her argument is that, as Will Smith would so eloquently put it fifty years later, parents just don’t understand. Flappers, she posits, are no more frivolous or rebellious than any previous generation.
“Is she expected to go around in mourning, look upon dancing and going to parties and receiving compliments from admiring sheiks as evils? She hasn’t one-third the foolish notions that some older people try to shove into her brain. She does respect her parents and she obeys them just as well as her grandmother did hers, but she has common sense and she knows when it’s time to use her own judgment and exercise her own authority.”
Fair enough! But in case you weren’t convinced by her (totally relatable!) teenage eye-rolling, Myrtle brings out the big guns: historical appropriation.
“[T]he flapper isn’t anything new. Eve was a flapper, only she didn’t have as much common sense as the modern girl. Dear old Cleopatra was a flapper, and she used exactly the same methods as we have today to vamp Anthony, Caesar, and all the rest that strolled the Appian way… Joan of Arc was a flapper. Oh, yes, she was! She was pure and divine… but Joan, the little dear, knew what she wanted to do. She wanted to wear armor and ride a charging steed as much as any girl nowadays wants to wear knickers and ride in a flashy roadster.”
How much of a splash did Myrtle’s thesis make? Her former elementary school, at least, was very impressed; they included a notice of her fledgling career in the town newspaper nestled in among such hard-hitting news as which seventh-graders had perfect attendance and what the fifth-graders are doing in art class.
Snark aside, Myrtle seems like the kind of gal we’d get along with: confident, progressive, and a total history buff, if a slightly revisionist one.
Feature image via Wikimedia