Exactly 90 years ago today, these women were celebrating, and understandably so. Why? Because the 19th Amendment had just become law, allowing American women the right to vote in all 48 states. Prior to that, the matter was handled by individual states, and many of them -- including all those west of the Rockies -- had given women full suffrage. In contrast, Indiana, where Elizabeth Peters (Carole Lombard's mother) had resided before moving to California in 1914, only gave women the vote in presidential elections. Here's a map showing the state-by-state breakdown at the time the 19th Amendment was passed:
Few, if any, women are currently alive who were denied the right to vote specifically because of their gender; they'd have to be at least 111 years old. (Of course, many elderly black women in southern states were deprived of the ballot into the 1960s through poll taxes and other chicanery.) But in August 1920, when Jane Alice Peters was 11 and watching movies, not performing in them, the matter was a big deal -- especially considering the feminist beliefs of Elizabeth Peters, beliefs she passed down to her daughter.
We've run items on Carole professing her thoughts on feminism (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/111181.html), and here's something else along the same lines. It's from Motion Picture magazine of August 1935, entitled "Be Modern Or Be A Wallflower." Lombard embraced, and in many ways personified, the tenets of "modern" womanhood, and she makes it evident in this interview. This was tracked down by Carla Valderrama for her site, carolelombard.org, although she couldn't find the conclusion of the piece. To anyone who has it -- please get in touch with us.
BE MODERN OR BE A WALLFLOWER
The girl of today, says the ultra-popular Carole, must have a variety of interests and keep up with the times. She must be modern enough to stay ahead of the parade instead of lagging behind -- a forgotten wallflower.
By WILLIAM F. FRENCH
We WERE talking about what it takes to put a girl up where every girl wants to be, when Carole Lombard -- fresh, healthy and confident, after two weeks rest in the mountains -- aired her outlook on it all.
“No,” she replied, “I don’t think luck has much to do with a girl amounting to anything worthwhile. I think it’s more a matter of alertness, of being wide-awake and alive. These days a girl has to be modern or else be a wallflower. The year 1935 hasn’t time to stop and pay its respects to the old-fashioned girl who is sitting quietly in the corner. Instead of waiting to be asked, a girl has to get out in front of the parade, where she’ll be seen. The time is past when a girl can attract attention being a passive verb, so to speak. She must be active, and in time with the times. She must be modern.”
“Modern girls don’t have to get noisy and boisterous and cheap to get into things. They don’t have to be fast to live fast. A hundred sensible, constructive, progressive interests are open to them. They no longer have to clamp the lid on their energy until it explodes into unhealthy channels. The up-to-date girl has a variety of interests. She rides, she drives, she plays bridge, she reads, she follows the latest plays, she studies, she goes in for sports with a zest. She doesn’t putter. She doesn’t do things half-way. She does things with a will, never half-heartedly. Norma Shearer is an excellent example of being modern. There is nothing half-hearted about her, with her determination to progress and her score of interests. Joan Crawford is modern, knowing what she wants and going after it. Katherine Hepburn, with her independence of spirit, is ultra-modern.”
“Determination, independence, health, intelligence, zest, alertness and a variety of interests. Mix well and season with a happy sense of humor, and you have what it takes to be modern. But don’t forget that seasoning. It is the thing that makes all the others possible. And you must learn to stick with a thing until you whip it. These days a girl simply must go in for sports, both for health and for popularity. Men expect girls to swim with them, ride with them, play tennis with them and even, perhaps, go fishing or hunting with them.”
“I GO IN for athletics and sports as intensively as I do for work. When I took up tennis I had an instructor and, even now, though I’m rather good at it, I still coach. I’m taking up flying because I think it’s part of a present-day education, and because I think we will all be flying before long.”
“I can’t afford not to keep up with new things. And neither can any other girl, whether she is in society or in a bargain basement. She can find time and means to keep in step with the times. She simply must learn to dance well, to swim, to play golf and bridge. There are ways to accomplish this if she has the will. And if she hasn’t the will, and isn’t willing to pay the price and effort, she will never get the things her heart just aches for and longs for.”
“Don’t believe, girls, that you don’t have to do the things the movie stars do in order to get what you want. You do have to. Because life demands the same of you as it does of them. When you hear what a casting office asks of a girl, don’t marvel. That office asks: ‘Can you swim, can you dance, can you drive, can you play tennis, can you wear a gown attractively, do you know how to walk, can you make yourself interesting?’ Your employer and your friends may not be asking you those questions quite so bluntly. But they are finding the answers to them in their own way. And if you fall short you’ll get as little as little notice from them as the unprepared movie applicant gets at the casting office.”
“In the past fifteen years, women have gone a long way, and have claimed a lot of privileges, for which all women must pay. The progressive ones have crowded so far ahead that the ones who lag at all are left behind and forgotten. We, as women, asked to be included in men’s sports, interests, activities and even in their political problems. We got our wish. And to live up to it, we must be modern. Perhaps it is unfortunate that all girls must keep up with the pace set by the most successful ones. But I, personally, don’t think so. Instead, I think it is forcing them all into broader, happier, more useful lives.”
“TODAY, the girl in the Iowa village, or the Pennsylvania hamlet, must keep up-to-date on styles and on manners, because the movies are constantly showing her friends how she ought to act, how she ought to look and what she ought to be able to do. She can’t hide from progress, no matter where she goes. The small city judges the girls on its local beach by the same standards as the world judges the stars at Malibu. And it has a right to do so. Don’t say that you haven’t a chance. Two out of every three stars in Hollywood didn’t have a chance either -- once. They worked in department stores, restaurants, and even factories. They were home girls, chorus girls and starving extra girls. But they were modern, and made their ‘break’.”
“Being modern doesn’t mean going in for fads, wearing ultra-modern or spectacular clothes, or doing strange things. The girl of today has too many interests, too much to do, to waste her time that way. She centers on efficiency. She must! But she keeps up with the latest in everything. She reads the newest and best books even if she doesn’t like..."
Alas, that's where it ends, for now. Somewhere, someone must have this article in its entirety, so we can find out all Carole has to say (assuming she actually said it; even if she didn't say it verbatim, much of it was likely either transcribed or she signed off on it). Interesting to see her salute Shearer, Crawford and Hepburn, too.
To 90 years of women's suffrage, while saluting a woman who denotes modernity even today: