On the eve of the 2020s, the spell of the exciting and revolutionary 1920s looms large. It was an unforgettable era with deep cultural shifts and powerful aesthetics. Women, in particular, sought new ways of expressing and defining themselves in all aspects of society. They present a fascinating topic, though the expansiveness of their experiences may prove a daunting subject to approach if you are unfamiliar with the influential names and their stories.
Here, Women of the 1920s: Style, Glamour, & the Avant-Garde provides a gateway to the world of notable women in the jazz age. In this visually fascinating book, Thomas Bleitner presents the stories of 17 women who were incredibly influential in their fields. The varying areas of culture are split into 5 chapters; Literature and Art, Society and Fashion, Photography and Film, Cabaret and Dance, and Adventure and Sports. Each section contains a brief introduction to that sphere of culture through establishing notable names, locations, and events before laying out short chapters on each woman. Infamous names, such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, and Amelia Earhart are, of course, present. But for those less intimate with the period, a variety of less commonly known women such as Tamara de Lempicka, Lavinia Schulz, and Suzanne Lenglen are also included.
|Tamara de Lempicka|
Overall, the book is a concise 163 pages, sprinkled with photographs and art. The effectiveness of this book lies in the fact that it does not attempt to provide extensive biographies for these 17 women. There is just enough information to capture the reader’s interest in the individual. At the end of the book are a few pages of recommended reading, not just on the subject of the 1920s, but on each woman. The next step in research is laid out for those that want more than an overview.
|Edward Steichen for Vogue, 1928|
As for the biographies, I was pleased to find that the content was filled with contemporary quotes, which helped to steer the discussion clear of the authors personal opinions and assessments. It speaks to their public impact and personal relationships in a way that a modern voice cannot. The academic in me would have preferred these quotes to be followed by citations, but I don’t feel that this book was intended for that purpose or audience. It is the perfect light read for someone who has always been curious about the era, these influential women, and their impact on a unique culture.
*This post contains affiliate links.