1919 Carrie Chapman Catt - National League of Women Voters;

Women one-third of votes 1920 presidential campaign.

18,000 new mothers dying each year,

200,000 babies dying before age one;

1921 Sheppard-Towner Act -

First federally-funded health care act,

$1.25 million prenatal clinics & public health centers;

American Medical Association: “socialistic scheme”;

1929 Congress cut off funding;

1920s women GOP & Democratic party conventions (10% total delegates);

Edith Rogers widow of incumbent; re-elected 1926-1958; 

Women governors Wyoming & TX, also succeeded husbands;


1921 National Women’s Party - Alice Paul;

number of states refused to let women sign contracts, serve on juries, serve as public officials, hold certain jobs or work under certain conditions; 

1923 Equal Rights Amendment, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the US…”

philosophical disagreement;

1920s letdown in women’s activism, loss of momentum;


1953: “It was fun to go back and review the fight… It was maddening to think that we somehow didn’t carry on as vigorously as we could have done.  It was puzzling to wonder why. Did the League of Women Voters turn us away from fighting to studying? We should have gone on… if only you and I were young and strong.” 

Younger generation, “We’re not out to benefit society… we’re out for our individual careers and desires.”


birth control -

1800s condoms, diaphragms, sponges;

1870s women's rights movement - "voluntary motherhood";

doctors warn that birth control may cause physical injury, unnatural, encourage prostitution & spread venereal disease, threaten family life.

1860s-1870s – passage of state laws making most abortions illegal;


1873 Comstock law: "Act for the Suppression of Trade in and Circulation of Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use"

Anthony Comstock - head New York Society for the Suppression of Vice;


“Whoever shall sell, lend, give away, publish, or have in his possession any obscene book, pamphlet, advertisement, or any medicine or any article whatsoever for the prevention of conception or for causing unlawful abortion… shall be imprisoned at hard labor… not less than six months… or fined not less than $100.”


Emma Goldman, "Woman's freedom & independence must come from refusing to bear children unless she wants them.”

1919 Goldman deported; 


Margaret Sanger (1883-1966);

mother had 11 children & several miscarriages, dying age 49.

Sanger nursing work on New York's Lower East Side;


1912 "What Every Girl Should Know"

censorship – headline: "What Every Girl Should Know - Nothing, by Order of the US Post Office."

1914 The Woman Rebel:

"I believe that woman is enslaved by sex conventions, by motherhood, by middle-class morality."

pamphlet Family Limitation -

"Birth control must not be set back by the false cry of obscenity.  Women must learn to know their own bodies."

100,000 copies;


"Thousands of women bearing 12 to 16 children request me to send them this pamphlet.  300,000 mothers lose their babies every year from poverty and neglect.  Are the old archaic laws to be respected above womanhood?  The women of America answer, no!"

national speaking tour;

1916 Brooklyn clinic – almost 500 women in 9 days;

1921 American Birth Control League:

network of 300 clinics;

1920s majority middle-class married women used some form of contraceptives;

ABCL 37,000 members;

Katherine Hepburn;

Eleanor Roosevelt favors "planned families"

Sears Roebuck catalog - "preventives";

1942 Planned Parenthood Association;

1920s changing attitudes toward sex;

“companionate marriage”;


the “new woman” - “The Vanishing Lady”;

World War I – experiences in work, adventure;

Automobile - new mobility;

Radio – 1920s “Jazz Age” – Charleston, fox trot, bunny hug;

Movies showed new behavior;

F. Scott Fitzgerald This Side of Paradise (1920) – young girl: "I've kissed dozens of men, I suppose I'll kiss dozens more."

Age of the “flapper”;

New York Times 1920 - women's skirt hems nine inches off ground, "far beyond any modest limitation"; 

president Univ. Florida, "Low-cut gowns, the rolled hose and short skirts are born of the devil and are carrying the present and future generations to destruction." 

Utah bill – fines or prison for women with skirts more than three inches above ankle;

binding breasts – slim boyish ideal;

cosmetics industry;

1921 Miss America pageant;

women bobbing hair;


Women in aviation -

Wright brothers first flight 1903;  

First American woman licenced pilot - Harriet Quimby;

"How a Woman Leans to Fly" 

1912 crosses British Channel - killed three months later;

"Ambitious to be among the pathfinders, she took her chances like a man and died like one." 

Critics -women "temperamentally unfitted" to fly;

1920s & 1930s 500 licensed women pilots;

1929 Women's Air Derby race;

Earhart: "If we can't fly the race and navigate our own course through the Rockies, I won't enter."

"Powder Puff Derby"

"Ladybirds" "angels" "sweethearts of the air"

1935 Bendix cross-country race -1936 victory for Louise Thaden & Blanche Noyes;

“Ninety-Nines” ; group;


Amelia Earhart (1897-1937?)

1928 "Friendship" – first woman to cross Atlantic by plane  ("on the sidelines when I wanted to play the game itself")

Earhart hoped to "quicken the interest of women in flying - the more women who become pilots, the quicker we will be recognized as an important factor in aviation." 


"There is no fundamental difference between men & women which would prevent women having the same pleasure out of flying that men have."

1932 solo crossing Atlantic, record time.

French Legion of Honor, US Distinguished Flying Cross, National Geographic Society's Gold Medal;

Promotion of flying and feminism – advisor to female students at Purdue;

1935 Earhart first to solo Calif-Hawaii;

new goal - around-world flight at equator -

set off June 1, 1937 - first 22,000 miles OK;

disappeared July 2, 1937  - Howland Island;

New York Times: “She was in rebellion against a world which had been made, for women, too safe, too unexciting.  She wanted to dare all that a man would dare.”

Women sell aviation -

1934 Helen Richey wins air-mail pilot competition - over 1000 hours accident-free flying experience;

Commerce Dept bans women flying in bad weather;

Earhart: "We hear much of woman's 'nerves'.  A woman can sew, watch three things on the stove, keep an eye on four children, and remain unperturbed.  Half an hour in a similar situation for a man completely shatters his nervous system."

stewardesses (nursing training) -

"Taking our home-making instincts into the airlines, we can lend familiar aspects to which travelers may cling."


1920s & 1930s women’s “firsts” -

1920s Hollywood coming of age - female

screenwriters, occasionally directors;

virgin vs. vamp;

Mary Pickford - “America’s Sweetheart” -

$2,000 a week plus bonuses. 


1920 established United Artists Studio (with Chaplin & Fairbanks);

Theda Bara - “vamp” - “the wickedest face in the world, dark, brooding, beautiful and heartless”.

Clara Bow, the “It” girl – wholesome flirtatiousness;

Katherine Hepburn - “I put on pants so many years ago and declared a sort of middle road.  I have not lived as a woman.  I have lived as a man.  I’ve just done what I damned well wanted to and I’ve made enough money to support myself.”


Mae West -

1925 wrote, produced & starred Broadway play “Sex”,

1927 wrote “The Drag” - eight days in jail;

1933 film “She Done Him Wrong”;

role of “Diamond Lil” – bold bad girl with brains & a heart of gold;

“Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”

“Haven’t you ever met a man who could make you happy? “ - “Sure – lots of times.”

“It’s not the men in your life, it’s the life in your men.”

1934 – Hollywood new Hays production code;


Gertrude Ederle 1926 English Channel;

Reporters: “a battle won for feminism”;


Catt: proved that “women’s freedom would go hand in hand with her bodily strength.”

“perfectly proportioned,” “nymphs,” “mermaids,” “pretty plungers”;

Annette Kellermann, Eleanor Holm, Esther Williams;

muscles “profoundly unnatural”;

1928 Olympics - eliminates medium & long-distance women’s races;

1932 Olympics - Babe Didrikson three track & field medals, records in javelin throw & hurdles;

touring with men’s exhibition baseball teams; establishes Ladies Professional Golf Assoc.

Life: “Babe is a Lady Now: The World’s Most Amazing Athlete Has Learned to Wear Nylons and Cook for Her Huge Husband.”

Eleanor Holm, “It’s a great thrill to compete in the Olympics, but the moment I find swimming is… giving me big, bulky muscles, making me look like an Amazon rather than a woman, I’ll toss it to one side.”

Helen Wills, “the American Girl” of tennis;

female athletes who “can meet the male upon even terms”;

“damaged mother” – “the very borderline of the pathological”

Pope Pius XI: need for “reserve and modesty… the ornament and safeguard of virtue”;

1928 exclusion from American Legion baseball;

1938 banned from competiting against men in fencing - “chivalry” - “protect” women;

1924 state girls’ basketball tournament in Des Moines - almost 250 teams;

1925 Iowa High School Athletic Association passed resolution to end girls’ basketball state tournament;

Rural schools organize independent Iowa girls’ athletic assoc.

six-player ”girls’ rules”


Margaret Bourke-White, photographer -

1936 cover first issue of Life; female war correspondent WWII.

Dorothea Lange, photographer – out to “record the essence” of her subjects;

First woman with exhibit Museum of Modern Art;

Georgia O’Keeffe (painter);

Isadora Duncan & Martha Graham (dance);

Edna St. Vincent Millay & Marianne Moore (poetry);

Dorothy Parker (writer)

Aimee Semple McPherson - world’s “most pulchritudinous evangelist”;

audiences of 12,000 each evening for month;

$1.5 million temple; the Four Square Gospel;

“electric quality”;


1920s Calvin Coolidge: “The business of America is business.”

Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden, Madame CJ Walker


Female celebrities showing off what women could accomplish -moving into new realms,

role models;