Book Review: Flapper by Joshua Zeitz – Term Paper


The book titled ‘Flapper’, which historian Joshua Zeitz wrote, brings the 19th century era to life. The book presents the case of the American sexual revolution with the origin of celebrities and changing women behaviors and their roles. Specifically, the author brings about the new woman of the 1920s who has redefined gender roles. In this regard, this woman not only smokes cigarettes but also dances the Charleston and hikes her hemlines.  Additionally, the 1920 women is displayed as one who earns her own money and is independent. Moreover, she controls her own destiny and secured liberties that were previously a preserve of men. Various people who promoted the flapper are in diverse lots. First, there is the French woman, Coco Chanel who not only defined feminism as well as silhouette but also encouraged women to come out of social restrictions. Additionally, the offspring of Connecticut clergyman Lois long is presented as he the who invents lipstick. California also sees three celebrities namely Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, and Louise Brooks who are stars in the film industry due to their acting capabilities and attractiveness. Many other people have built ‘Flapper’. Indeed, this book presents the beginning of the modern woman.


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This book is premised on the thesis that the 1920 woman is naughty and has no regard for conventions. In this regard, this woman in the modern age “bobbed her hair, smoked cigarettes, drank gin, sported short skirts, and passed her evenings in steamy jazz clubs (322)” This shows that women had been socially controlled and were not allowed to do some of the things just because they were women. However, this changed with women having freedom to wear the types of clothing that they wished and neglecting those social control conventions that only served to deny them their freedom. These women exhibit confidence and are even able to earn a living instead of relying on men for their daily upkeep. This decade could be seen as the one that awakened women and made them take their place on the society asserting confidence and independence.


From the study of the book, the topic is confusing as it talks about ‘flapper’ so that people reading the book would want to see the image of a certain flapper in the book. However, this is not the case as the book is focused on the people who helped create the image as well as promote the characteristics of a flapper. Additionally, the line between men and women in terms of their societal roles is blurred.  Indeed, the evils of the modern age have been clearly shown in the book as many controversies are seen from those who create the flapper.


One of themes of the book is about the changing roles of women in the society. In this regard, women have taken the roles played by men. The second theme that presents from the book is the increase in societal evils. From the various characters who promote the flapper, some of the things that are done such as smoking and showing their legs is a scenario, which shows the level of moral decay in the society. Additionally, the increased confidence in women is clearly a distinct theme of the book. In this case, women are now more confident of doing their activities. For instance, those in the media industry have kept many people glued on their screens due to their confidence in acting. Indeed, the image of the modern American woman is clearly displayed in the book. Specifically, this woman is not the one who was filled with fear and who followed everything set without questioning it.


The author of this book makes a combination of the previous scholarships as well as the primary sources of information in studying the cultural changes in the American women in 1920. In this regard, the author gets this information from various people from different parts of the world. From the lives of Zelda Fitzgerald, Lois Long, Coco Chanel, and Clara Bow, the author is able to show how the American women has changed especially in the 1920s. The lives of these people are some of the sources of information that the author uses. More importantly, studies that have been previously done in this area were crucial sources of information for the author.


This book presents the sexual revolution period in the American history. This is the period when women broke the social controls and constraints and asserted their authority in the society. As such, they could wear want they want, attend social functions and perform those jobs that were previously a preserve of men. The main themes of the book include the changing roles for women, increased confidence, and gender balance. However, the title of the book is misleading as it talks about ‘flapper’ while the content of the book is about the promoters of flapper. Moreover, the information is sourced from primary sources and scholarly review.


Zeitz, Joshua. 2006. Flapper. New York: Crown Publishers.