The authorities, the law and the spanked flapper

27Jul11

A couple of years back we had a post on spanking the flapper, which seemed to have been an international sport back in the 1920s. Well it seems we only just found the tip of a proverbial iceberg.

The interesting thing is the number of spanking cases that seemed to have ended up in the courts, usually with the same inevitable result: a spanked flapper. This should be no surprise on either count. The flapper was in a sense the first independent woman who argued that staying out all night, taking drugs, getting drunk and having sex was her business and did not deserve the sanction of a spanking. Strangely the parents of such girls seemed to have disagreed.

Part of the problem seems to have stemmed from the age of the girls concerned. The culture at the time very much viewed the under 21s as being in need of a firm authoritarian hand, but with so many 16-20-year-olds trying to get in on their big sister’s act there was bound to be tears at bedtime.

Take for instance Evanston College USA. In 1922 the Dean was so dismayed at the behaviour of the new breed of flapper girl at his school that he posted new regulations.

To make matters worse for the girls, the Dean was also the local Justice of the Peace, so he was able to call upon local law enforcement in the shape of one Policewoman Georgiana Jerell to both apprehend and on occasion carry out the sentence of from between five and 25 swats with a paddle for girls caught on or off campus.

The regulations were clearly defined and different for offenders over and under 21.
Don’t wear sloppy or unbuckled galoshes.
Don’t swear in public unless 21 or over.
Don’t use cigarettes unless 21 or over.
Don’t spoon (snog) in an automobile where the public can see.
Don’t get dormitory decorations by stealing souvenirs.
Don’t take someone else’s auto for a joy ride.
Don’t fly ride on running boards, radiator or tire carriers on automobiles.
Don’t hook bobsleds or sleds on automobiles.
Don’t roller skate in the downtown district.
Don’t be a rowdy in an ice-cream parlour.

One Mildred Richard’s a student of Evanston even decided to put the rules to a test when she threw popcorn in a Chicago cinema.

The self-proclaimed flapper who was later also arrested for indecency on account of having her stockings rolled down. She was found guilty and sentence to a court spanking at the hands of Justice Witower, the punishment being photographed and published in the Chicago Herald. See picture above.

The law did not always take the authority figure’s part, however. In 1928, Christine Woodside, who was described as part Indian (Native American), was a mother who was arrested for spanking her 18-year-old (in some reports 16) daughter, Lorraine, with a wooden coat hanger. A divided press went wild with headlines about the spanked flapper and many posed the question: ‘should flappers be spanked.’

The judge suggested that although the mother had a right to spank her daughter, perhaps the punishment should be more moderate. Although his measured response was taken only after the phones were deluged with calls from angry mothers who complained that their daughters were now declaring that they would take no more spankings.

After reassurance from the judge that spanking was still legal the rebellion was put down and one wag suggested that barely a teen daughter in the county was left sitting.

Perhaps the strangest aspect of the case was that at one point in proceedings, Christine agreed to take a whipping from her daughter for being too harsh as long as it was understood that she had a right to spank her wayward daughter for her crimes.

This all proved too much for a repentant daughter and eventually Christine and Lorraine were reconciled with the 18-year-old apparently requesting a spanking for all the trouble she had caused.

Also in 1928, Mrs M J C asked Dorothy Dix, the agony aunt of the Pittsburgh Press her opinion on spanking flappers.

“Not long ago a mother told me that she had recently given up on her 20-year-old daughter after appeals to her better nature and prayers had been in vain. Then she chanced upon an old hairbrush and after putting it to good use she found that her daughter does not leave the house without her consent.”

She continued:

“I have two daughters of 19 and 17, I recently spanked the eldest of them and it worked wonders. I am going to spank the younger as soon as she returns from a dance that she went to without my permission.”

Dorothy Dix replied that in an age where the mother’s influence on the flapper was waning, that the proof was in the pudding and sometimes a girl needed to be lambasted on to the straight and narrow.

The law intervened against flappers again in 1926 when Amy Spencer, wife of one John Spencer, fed up with being spanked by her husband for crimes such as cutting her hair in a bob, wearing short skirts and all manner of other flapper behaviour, ran away with travelling salesman J P Curtis Brown.

The couple did not get far before being arrested in a stolen car. Amy, already regretting her decision to run away, denied all knowledge of the crime and asked to be reconciled with husband.

Apparently the court released her into the custody of her husband on the condition that she was spanked at the hands of the JP himself and agreed to accept all future spanking from her husband. Amy was only too happy to agree and they both lived happily ever after.



3 Responses to “The authorities, the law and the spanked flapper”

  1. 1 Karl Friedrich Gauss

    Well it seems the putdown of the 1920s teen rebellion didn’t have a very long lasting effect, considering the sort of things teens have been up to in more recent decades.

    A nice compilation of material there, Damien, for our perusal. Thanks.

    BTW, here are some more newspaper spanking letters from way back when: http://chross.blogt.ch/forum/read.php?3,7931

    Karl Friedrich Gauss

  2. 2 paul little

    why cant we spank modern teenage girls with hairbrush lets have mothers disipline in 2011 like they had in the 1920s!!!!

  3. If I travel back in time I shall take care not to wear sloppy galoshes. Come to think of it, that’s good advice for today, too. That, and the reminder not to get rowdy in an ice cream parlor.

    I think girls in the twenties deserved to be spanked if they went around in unkempt footwear while misbehaving with ice cream. Or car radiators. Still, a nice hand spanking might have been sufficient. A wooden hanger can really hurt.


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