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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Grandma Got Bobbed: 1924

Grandma Got Bobbed: 1924

August 12, 1924. "Dr. Cora Smith King, Mrs. Emma Barnes Smith, Mrs. Sylvia Smith King." Dr. King, who was active in the women's suffrage movement, with her mother and daughter in a photo taken to illustrate a newspaper article headlined WOMAN OF 80 BOBS HAIR. National Photo glass negative. View full size.

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Suffragette City!

Dr. Smith King also carried a "VOTES FOR WOMEN" banner to the top of Mount Rainier in Washington state. "The first to do so," noted Women's Who's Who in America 1941. Conversely, she co-authored a cookbook to raise money for the suffrage campaign.

Grandma's Hands

The first thing I noticed was Grandma's hands. My great grandmother was infamous for holding her hands in the same manner. Still, in 2007, sweet old ladies have the same spotted and wrinkled hands!

Gommer's 97 Year Old Hands

Women's Libation

More flapper-era poetry.

I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I'm under the table,
After four I'm under my host.

-- Dorothy Parker

Grandparents make grand poets

Your grandmother predicted the future, but they bob awfully close.

My grandfather (1901-1990) had this little ditty, he'd recite when lifting his nightly Manhattan:

I've found the perfect girl,
Alas, I cannot hope for more.
She's deaf and dumb and oversexed,
And owns a liquor store.

What Grandma Told Me

If skirts should get much shorter,
Said the flapper with a sob,
There'll be two more cheeks to powder,
And one more place to bob.

Chop that mop

I recently had eight inches cut off my butt-length mop, and while I didn't become "kittenish" I did feel a bit giddy. There's something both terrifying and liberating about a major haircut. I have no intention of getting it bobbed, though. That's just TOO scary.

The Vogue of Bobbed Hair

New York Times, June 27, 1920:

Girls past thirty will sometimes hesitate for weeks before allowing their crowning glory to be decapitated. Then hairdressers sometimes observe unexpected effects. The women become kittenish, playful. It may be that bobbing has taken five or ten years off their appearance. It may be the improvement of their appearance. It may be the defiance of conventionality and the joy of emancipation from pins and pads. Hairdressers don't pretend to explain it.

When a woman has her hair cut in a barber shop she still draws a crowd to the window. At the children's barber shops in the department stores clerks used to crowd in the door and watch when a woman stepped into the chair, but it is an everyday occurrence now.

The Sensible, Comfortable Thing to Do

Washington Post, Aug 12, 1924

Woman at 80 Succumbs to the Bobbed-Hair Fad

"Don't You Think I'm Trying to Be a Flapper,"
Mrs. Emma Barnes Smith Says, Turning to Her Daughter, 50, Who Awaited a Trim.

Mrs. Emma Barnes Smith, 80 years old, of Beverly Courts,sat in the barber's chair at Louis' shop, 406 Twelfth street northwest, yesterday and twitched nervously as the shears cut away her silvery locks.

"Don't you think I'm trying to be a flapper," she warned her daughter, Dr. Cora Smith King, aged 50, who followed her in the chair. "I'm only doing it because you insisted that it would be more comfortable."

When Charles L. Gullette, the tensorial artist, took the apron from her, pronounced her fit with his "now you're a regular dear," and in the same breath said "next," it meant that the three surviving generations of the family had succumbed to the bobbed-hair fad. First it was the 20-year-old granddaughter, Miss Sylvia Smith King, and then came the young woman's mother, Dr. King.

Dr. King had her bob worked on yesterday, but she explained that she had first had it bobbed a long time ago.

"Oh, it is not strange," said Louis, proprietor of the shop: "we have them all ages every day: its the sensible, comfortable thing for woman to do."

But there was a man of the old school recently in the shop, Louis explained, who didn't see it this way. Two of the six chairs were occupied by this elderly man and another man while the other four were occupied by women, ranging all the way in years from the flapper to 35. Louis had considerable trouble in shaving the elderly man because he kept turning to scowl at his fellow customers. His displeasure grew as he continued to look until he became really fretful.

Then the flapper of the quartette nonchalantly pulled out a cigarette case, took a "pill" therefrom and asked for a match.

"Well I'll be damned," the old man said.

The bobbing of Mrs. Smith's hair was the first time it had been cut in 50 years.

Bernice Bobs Her Hair

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about this hot topic in 1920 in his Saturday Evening Post story, "Bernice Bobs Her Hair."

An excerpt:
"Do you think I ought to bob my hair, Mr. Charley Paulson?"

Charley looked up in surprise.


"Because I'm considering it. It's such a sure and easy way of attracting attention."

Charley smiled pleasantly. He could not know this had been rehearsed. He replied that he didn't know much about bobbed hair. But Bernice was there to tell him.


My grandmother said it was a big deal when women started to bob their hair. It was considered "fast."

Because we can

My grandmother had waist-length (or longer) hair her entire post-pubescent life with two exceptions: When she was very old, and when she was in high school and had it bobbed. She loved her long hair, so I asked why she did that. Her answer: "Because my mother forbade it."

Stubborn rebellion is a strong trait in our family.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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