Thursday, September 11, 2014

Jesse Halsey on “Flappers”

14 May 1922
Emma L. Fetta

A minister, Rev. Dr. Jesse Halsey, of Seventh Presbyterian Church was approached about the flapper. Yes, he, too, had seen her, and this is what he had to say about her:

“The flapper is one of our post-war inheritances. She will pass with time. In the meantime she is helping along the depression of moral acuteness that made her possible. No people can survive repeated attacks upon their ideal, and our highest ideals are represented in our traditional (call it ‘puritan’ if you will) attitude toward women. Chivalry is impossible if our girls and women are unworthy of chivalrous treatment, and anything that tends to lower womenkind in the estimation of men is detrimental to morals.

“Men of the better sort inwardly despise the flapper and her class. They will talk of her, play with her, but not marry her. When a young man thinks about his future home seriously he finds the flapper type too shallow—he wants the kind of wife that reminds him of mother.

“The flapper has marked a distinct letting down of American tradition, a minister pointed out to me. In the Colonial days the life in the New England States and that in the South was different, but, if anything, the daughter and wife of Virginia even was more protected than their Puritan sisters. The thing which the flapper stands for to-day in the way of living and thinking is a direct detour from our national standards. Sadly enough, it is not a forward step; a change forward would certainly not be regrettable, but under present interpretation the step can mean nothing more than retrogression.

“Of course there are many fake flappers who are not really so bad as they pretend to be, or as they paint themselves to be literally—and figuratively. There are many fake flappers who do not actually get drunk. The extraordinary thing is that they will lead you to believe they do. Their insinuations about hip pockets and the ‘devilish men’ they know invite their own placement among the lowest class of women.

“Why do they deliberately invite this classification? Ah, there you have asked a question! Hearsay has made up many a mind and hearsay has said it is fashionable, chic, smart, what you will, to be ‘fast.’ So far as I can see it is merely that at which the flapper is aiming. As the ‘Gentleman With the Duster’ said: ‘We are all in the hands of cynicism. All those high and beautiful things which the noblest sons of men have cherished in all generations now stand at the peril of brutality; and no statesmanship along can save them. The one insurance against calamity is a new climate of opinion universal as the air breathe. The mind of humanity must live.”

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