Speakeasy Minute

FlapperIn preparation for the Speakeasy – Prohibition for a Cause event,

we present this Speakeasy Minute article to share with you what it was like to live in the 1920’s.



Not all women of the Prohibition era were flappers, but there were a good many to be found in Speakeasys. “Flapper” is a nickname given to young women in the 1920’s who defied convention by refusing to use corsets, cutting their hair short, and wearing short skirts, as well as by behavior such as drinking and smoking in public.

The slang word ‘flapper’ describing a young woman, is sometimes supposed to refer to a young bird flapping its wings while learning to fly. However, it may derive from an earlier use in northern England to mean ‘teenage girl’, referring to one whose hair is not yet put up and whose plaited pigtail flapped on her back; or from an older word meaning prostitute. The slang word ‘flap’ was used for a young prostitute as early as 1631. By the 1890s, the word ‘flapper’ was emerging in England as popular slang both for a very young prostitute, and in a more general – and less derogatory sense – of any lively mid-teenage girl.

By 1908, newspapers as serious as The Times used it, although with careful explanation: ‘flapper’, we may explain, is a young lady who has not yet been promoted to long frocks and the wearing of her hair “up”.

Women finally won the right to vote in the United States on August 26, 1920. Women wanted to be men’s social equals. They wanted to be treated as a man and go smoking and drinking. Also, many women had more working opportunity and even taken the male jobs, who became doctor, lawyer, engineer and pilots. The rise of consumerism promoted the ideals of fulfillment and freedom; that encouraged women to have their own thoughts on garments, career, social activities.