From The Harvard Gazette:
When American women won the right to vote in 1919, the logical question was, What next? Suffragists had the answer ready: full enjoyment of civil and domestic life for women, equal to that of men. But suffragists found out that what was next was not much. It would be decades before American women gained anything like gender equality in the home, in the workplace, and in higher education.
And they faced another unsettling fact: Flappers were next. To the dismay of early feminists, these unruly daughters of feminism were driven by an apolitical appetite for clothes, boys, and the outward signs of freedom. The image of the 1920s flapper endures to this day: the frank gaze, the kiss curls and cropped hair, the slender figure, the painted eyebrows and bright red lips. In that era, the “It Girl” was It. But the American It Girl was also the German neue Frauen, the Japanese moga, the Indian vamp, the Chinese modeng xiaojie, and the French garçonnes.
Iterations of the flapper around the world had in common an explicit eroticism and an uncommon power to challenge social conventions. In the interval between the world wars, her iconic image — with regional adjustments — appeared not just in the United States but in all five continents. The history of the modern girl is the fertile territory staked out by six feminist historians from the University of Washington, Seattle. Their Modern Girl Project, now in its ninth year, has opened a many-layered, transnational view of how culture and commodities flow around the globe.