Lori Henriksen

author of The Winter Loon




Anecdotes ~ Can be amusing or historical tales, urban myths or legends. There might be a fable, an allegory, a yarn about a character in my book.

During the 1920’s, the U.S. population let out a sigh of relief with the horror of WWI behind them. The automobile increased mobility.

Ruth on car

Radio and motion pictures started a new set of values. Hemlines rose. Loose and flowing clothing, colorful and free-spirited, ushered in the revolution of freedom in dress and morals. Women powdered their nose, rouged their cheeks and bobbed their hair. The Nineteenth Amendment passed giving women the right to vote. Corsets be damned. The archetypal female was now a flapper, not a suffragist.

The Twenties, full of crime and prohibition, introduced the blues and a casualness toward sexuality reflected in speakeasies and avant-garde society until the nonchalance of The Great Gatsby gave way to The Grapes of Wrath.

Hearts and minds closed as the U.S. in the Thirties turned away from a decade of optimism and entered the Great Depression. Hemlines dropped to mid-calf or just above the ankles. More modest, form-fitting styles with high necklines and wide shoulders were designed to enhance the often-elusive tall and slender look of the “ideal” Thirties woman. Surprisingly, during the hard economic times, cosmetic sales doubled.

The 1930s saw the tenth anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, but not equality. Women remained under represented in positions of political power. With a growing number of college graduates, women with degrees were often overlooked in business and academia.

Ada Comstock was the first Dean of Women at the University of Minnesota in 1907 and later President at Radcliffe until 1943. She reminisced in a 1940 speech about her early days as a Dean when, the efforts of women seeking higher education was still regarded more or less as a humorous thing, and an occasion for jokes.

The controversy over women attending college created a dilemma in an era where the proper role would have been marriage and children. Some folks believed that college-educated women made better wives. Almost always totally dependent on their husbands, an educated woman was thought to better complement a man as he progressed in his profession. Others felt that educated women were less likely to marry and would have difficulty supporting themselves with their education. The majority of women seeking to broaden their horizon turned to traditional professions in education, nursing or home economics.


Women who wanted to heed the motto of Smith College: Education is the key to the future, needed gumption. She needed moral support. She needed money.

Ruth and Gisela, characters in my novel The Winter Loon, meet at the University of Minnesota in 1932. Ruth pays her tuition with money she earns as a cowgirl on a traveling rodeo circuit.

27 thoughts on “Anecdotes

  1. Love that old car 🙂 It took awhile for women to appreciate suffrage. A lot of them didn’t vote at first!

    Pioneer Women in Aviation A-Z

  2. Love that old car 🙂 It also took awhile for women to appreciate suffrage. A lot of them didn’t vote at first!
    Pioneer Women in Aviation A-Z

    • So true. So many years of repression is hard to change. Here we are today with candidates courting women’s votes. Back then it must have been hard to get the word out.

  3. I love your writing, your voice. I think about women like Ada Comstock and the challenges they had to overcome to get to that position, money being one of the greatest challenges. I thought it was interesting that cosmetic sales doubled in the 1930’s! Maybe it was because women were still trying hard to please. Looking forward to tomorrow!


  4. This was interesting to read; women have made great strides; still need to make more, but to coin a very old used often phrase “we’ve come a long way.” Years ago when I was working in a medical office for cardiac surgeons, there was a women cardiac surgeon in the group. She was almost a pioneer at the time going into that particular field. Women were usually OB/GYNs, family practice, not cardiac surgery. One of her attending doctors had her wear a sign on the back of her scrubs that said “I’m not a nurse.” Nowadays, women are in every and any specialty in medicine.

    Great start to the challenge!


  5. Nice post, but I, too, am a fan of that first photo!

  6. I love the pictures you’ve used here. It’s interesting to see how far women have come in so short of a time.
    @DoreeWeller from
    Doree Weller’s Blog

  7. I like the photographs that you used to illustrate your post.

    Finding Eliza

  8. Great start! Looking forward to following you.

  9. It’s going to be very interesting to read about these ’30s women. In Australia we had women’s suffrage in 1902 and in some states even earlier. I wonder how that led to differences in attitudes? I think those early women university students showed great courage as I can’t imagine their,lives were easy.

  10. So very many changes in the past hundred years or so! I enjoyed your post very much! Informative and an easy read.
    Revisit the Tender Years with me during the #AtoZChallenge at Life & Faith in Caneyhead!

  11. Pingback: Anecdotes – A.J. Sefton

  12. I love it how fashion often reflected economy and general culture. A lot of people imagine the 20s as some idealized age, but it also had its dark sides… I am looking forward to reading more of your theme!
    Happy A to Z!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    The Multicolored Diary

  13. Dropping by as a result of the AtoZChallenge. Good choice of subject, good luck with it, Joy

  14. I think the position of women in the 1920s and 1930s is particularly intersting. It speaks volumes not only about what women achieved and still needed to gain, but about the entire society.

    Great article 🙂

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