early 20thC working-class women.

Coney Island 1890s, early 1900s - new urban commercial mixed-sex mass entertainment - dance halls, vaudeville, movies & amusement parks.

Challenge traditional morals - freedom, drop inhibitions;

"Tunnel of Love"- "spooning," "petting."

Almost 60% of all women in NY age 16-20 worked for wages.

Experiment with new social roles.

"tough dances"

"If you want to get any notion took of you, you gotta have some style about you."

"treating" - "Don't you know there ain't no feller going to spend coin on you fer nothing?"

Men and women each "picking up" companion - "Most of the girls quite frankly admit making ‘dates' with strange men."

department store managers advised employees to round out meager wages by finding a "gentleman friend" to buy them clothes & pleasures.

"If my boy friend didn't take me out, how could I ever go out?" boarding house,

Workplace familiarity, sexual harassment.

Subculture - "charity girls"; "you beat me again. My chump only spent $2.50"

Girls who resisted - "I never go out in the evenings, except to my relatives, because if I did, I should lose my reputation and that is all I have." 


WWI - women working in factories, streetcar conductors; overseas as nurses, ambulance drivers, telephone operators;

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

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

Utah bill punishing women who wore skirts more than three inches above ankle with fines or prison;

Flappers - cosmetics, giving up corsets,

F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1920 This Side of Paradise "I've kissed dozens of men, I suppose I'll kiss dozens more." 


1920s "Jazz Age" (slang for sex)

clergyman: "in 1921-22 jazz had caused the downfall of 1,000 girls in Chicago alone."

Charleston, fox-trot, "lewd gyrations".

Ladies' Home Journal: "jazz originally was the accompaniment of the voodoo dancer, stimulating the half-crazed barbarian to the vilest deeds." jazz led to "blatant disregard of even the elementary rules of civilization," "whorehouse music," "music in the nude."


1904-1905, cheap movie theaters - nickelodeons - "nickel madness". 

1907, 200 nickelodeons in Manhattan alone - five per block in Harlem. Chicago two cents a show -

"the poor man's amusement" or the "workingman's theater".

"leisure revolution" - Saturday afternoons off

"Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what we will."

1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire NY - 146 died;

theater escapism, mixed-sexes: "note how the semi-darkness permits a ‘steady's' arm to encircle a ‘lady friend's' waist." Jane Addams warned 1909 easy for movies to become children's "moral guide."

1920s Hollywood coming of age - actresses virgin vs. vamp.

Mary Pickford "America's Sweetheart"

Theda Bara classic "vamp" (vampire) - "the wickedest face in the world, dark, brooding, beautiful and heartless".

Clara Bow, the "It" girl;

Mae West

1925 Broadway play Sex,

1927 The Drag - eight days in jail,

1933 film She Done Him Wrong - "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." 


mid1930s new production code prohibited "vulgar" words, revealing costumes & anything immoral.


- 1924 sociologists Robert & Helen Lynd - Muncie, Indiana; Middletown.

young people world of own - 1920s almost 75% enrolled in high school; 13% college;

car "a house of prostitution on wheels."

New autonomy & mobility; distinct subc.0

0ulture - sexual innovation & heterosocial mixing.

- 1920s contraceptives, experimentation.

- women reaching young adulthood 1920s, rate of premarital sex jumped sharply, to roughly 50% of the group, then relatively constant until late 1960s.

- Emily Post's Etiquette 1927 "the Vanishing Chaperon".

Dating, necking and petting

1920s 92% of coeds engaged in petting; those "rejecting all sex play feel that they are on the defensive."

"A girl can have many friends, but when she gets a ‘steady,' there's only one way to have him and to keep him; I mean to keep him a long time."

differences - rural communities; working young people;

lowest social class of whites, almost one-quarter of births outside marriage.

- 19thC prescriptive literature sex good marriage, emphasis on control & regulation.  1920s emphasize expression rather than control. 

- different ideas of female and male sexuality.

1930s Theodore Van de Velde's Ideal Marriage.

1930, 55 birth control clinics in 23 cities in 15 states. 1938, over 300 clinics; 1942, over 800 clinics across country.

1929 Sanger National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control - 5 congressional hearings. 

1930 federal court permitted shipping and advertising of birth control for legalized uses - boom in condoms.

mid-1930s, largest makers producing 1.5 million condoms per day; drugstores, gas stations, barbershops. 

1936 U.S. vs. One Package federal appeals court overturned anti-contraception provisions of Comstock Law - allowed doctors to prescribe contraceptives for whatever reasons they judged appropriate.

1937 AMA reversed earlier opposition to birth control - med schools no training.

middle-class women taking birth control for granted. diaphragm, class difference. 1940s lower-class women little knowledge of reproductive processes or contraception.

less than half of working-class wives used birth-control, and over one-third of those just "careful in timing of sex.  

Early motherhood, numerous pregnancies, large number of abortions.

Study 10,000 working-class women Sanger's clinic late 1920s showed one of five pregnancies intentionally terminated. 

Half women hadn't had abortions, but those who did averaged two or three each.

"I knew nothing when I got marriage. I always thought you had to see a doctor before you got pregnant. I didn't know the act led to pregnancy."

Lack of contraception both whites and blacks in rural South - fertility rates highest in country.

men "admit using condoms before marriage - but almost no one, apparently, actually employs them after marrying."

women , "I hope you don't find me with another when you come back."

1936 birth control clinic West Virginia reduced fertility by one-third.

racial prejudice - 1938 NC contraception with tax dollars; soon six other southern states.

"On one occasion a health officer didn't think his county needed contraception. When he discovered that the Negroes were accounting for 85% of the births, he quickly changed his mind."


1942 Planned Parenthood;

1938 poll Ladies Home Journal 79% of American women approved of contraceptive practice.

Child-spacing - birth control not just female autonomy, but also family stability.



Rosie the Riveter

"I let a sailor pick me up and go all the way… mainly because I had a feeling of high adventure and because I wanted to please a member of the armed forces."

"a real sex paradise. The plant and town were just full of working girls who were on the make."

"khaki-wackies," victory girls, and good-time Charlottes.

"The old time prostitute is sinking into second place. The new type is the young girl in her late teens and early twenties… determined to have one fling or better."


1942 Minneapolis Tribune: "WACs and WAVES and women welders… where is it all going to end?… Is it hard to foresee, after the boys come marching home and they marry these emancipated young women, who is going to tend the babies in the next generation?"  Marriage counselors & psychologists: "Let him know you are tired of living alone, that you want him now to take charge."

returning men wanted women to display "tenderness, admiration, or at least submissiveness."

June-Sept 1945, one out of every four women dropped from factory jobs.


post-WWII prosperity;

1945 poll: 57% of women & 63% of men said that married women whose husbands earned enough to support family should not be allowed to hold jobs even if they wanted to work.


Bill Levitt - Long Island Levittown - 40 houses/day, under $8000; 17,000 houses 82,000 people.


Advertising - housework as distinct calling,

Freudian psychology - women ought to be happy serving family. New York psychiatrist 1950s, "You all know women who lack warmth and tenderness.  They do not want to be homemakers or mothers, but judges of the Supreme Court.  Such a woman could suffer total sexual frigidity or homosexuality by separating herself from all that is considered womanly such as cooking and making a home." 


1947 The Modern Woman: The Lost Sex psychoanalyst Marynia Farnham & sociologist Ferdinand Lundberg.

"natural" role in home.

Feminism a "neurotic reaction to natural male dominance."

Career women "penis envy", rejecting natural womanly instincts. working women & single women as unhappy or psychologically disturbed.


1952 The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet,

Leave it to Beaver,

Father Knows Best - "Princess",

"Leave it to Beaver was not a documentary."

25% of all Americans below poverty line in 1950s. 

20% of all couples described marriages as unhappy;

divorce rates rose.


late 1950s more white married women entering labor force after children entered school (though often part-time work) - growing service sector.

1948 Ladies' Home Journal: "bad housekeeping" and "poor cooking" "direct cause of divorce." 

 "latchkey kids" grew up to become juvenile delinquents



Teenage culture - "going steady." 

1944 Seventeen,

dating do's and don't: "Do point out Johnny's best features.  Say something like: ‘You have hands like a doctor's, strong and efficient'" and "Don't ever let your irritation show on your face. When you're angry, sit still, be quiet, smile if you possibly can, and start [by saying] ‘I'm sorry.'"

40% of women at Barnard admitted sometimes "playing dumb" to catch a man.


1959 Barbie doll,

1953 Hugh Hefner Playboy:

"Playboy philosophy": If you are a man between 18 and 80, Playboy is meant for you… [as] a pleasure-primer style to the masculine taste… We enjoy mixing up cocktails… putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion of Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex…."

nude photographs of Marilyn Monroe. 

1955 Playmates the "girl next door" - "It's natural to think of the pulchritudinous Playmates as existing in a world apart.  Actually, potential Playmates are all around you: the new secretary at your office, the doe-eyed beauty who sat opposite you at lunch yesterday, the girl who sells your shirts and ties in your favorite store.  We found Miss July in our own circulation department, processing subscriptions…."


1946 US birthrates began to skyrocket. 

1957 record 4.3 million babies born -

baby boom - women marrying younger, having kids sooner (first child earlier in life than grandmothers did) - "ideal" number of kids rose from two to four.

by 1960, most US couples incorporated family planning into married life. 

wives age 18-44, 81% used some form of birth control, another 7% expected to use it.

blacks, Catholics, women without high school diplomas less likely to use contraception. 

1960 college women 93% use, grade-school women 72% use.

White women 80%, black women 60%.

Southern black farm women highest level of unwanted fertility and lower rate of contraceptive use;

"postwar America was a society with stop-go lights flashing everywhere. Sex, its magic spell everywhere, was accompanied by the stern warning: don't do it."

double standard:

Sexual availability "bad girl",

"the gap between males and females in the youth culture with respect to sex and love is so marked that there are distinct male and female subcultures."

working class girls as ‘pickups" - "all right for a boy to go as far as he wants, but not with the girl he is to marry or with a girl in his own class."

colleges rule "in loco parentis".


Alfred Kinsey:

case histories of 18,000 men and women.

1950 804-page Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, "Kinsey Report".

sold almost 250,000 copies,

conclusions: masturbation and petting with women almost universal; almost 90% of men premarital intercourse; almost 50% extramarital sex. Over 33% homosexual experience.

1953 Sexual Behavior in the Human Female - over 5000 white females.

90% engaged in petting, over 60% masturbation, half premarital intercouse, 25% extramarital sex.

younger generation more experimentation.

33% of women born before 1900 kept clothes on during sex, vs. just 8% of those born in 1920s.

gynecologist William Masters & psychologist Virginia Johnson - clinical tests in lab measuring human sexual response. 

1966 Human Sexual Response - against idea of woman as merely passive sexual partner.


1957 Supreme Court Roth case (trial of bookdealer accused of selling pornography): "sex and obscenity are not synonymous."  Said Michigan law would "reduce the adult population to reading only what is fit for children."

1966 Fanny Hill case Justice Brennan, "A book cannot be proscribed unless it is found to be utterly without redeeming social value."

1960s Hollywood looser production code;