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The slang term "flapper" may derive from an earlier use in northern England to mean "teenage girl", referring to one whose hair is not yet put up and whose plaited pigtail "flapped" on her back; The standard non-slang usage appeared in print as early as 1903 in England and 1904 in the United States, when novelist Desmond Coke used it in his college story of Oxford life, Sandford of Merton: "There's a stunning flapper".By 1908, newspapers as serious as The Times used the term, although with careful explanation: "A 'flapper', we may explain, is a young lady who has not yet been promoted to long frocks and the wearing of her hair 'up'".The secretary of labor denounced the "flippancy of the cigarette smoking, cocktail-drinking flapper".Another writer, Lynne Frame, said in her book that a large number of scientists and health professionals have analyzed and reviewed the degree of femininity of flappers’ appearance and behavior, given the "boyishness" of the flapper look and behavior.Americans, and those fortunate English folk whose money and status permit them to go in freely for slang terms ...
It recalls a past which is not yet 'period'.""In all countries, the First World War weakened old orthodoxies and authorities, and, when it was over, neither government nor church nor school nor family had the power to regulate the lives of human beings as it had once done.
Flapper independence was also a response to the Gibson girls of the 1890s. Scott Fitzgerald and Anita Loos and illustrators such as Russell Patterson, John Held, Jr., Ethel Hays and Faith Burrows popularized the flapper look and lifestyle through their works, and flappers came to be seen as attractive, reckless, and independent.
Among those who criticized the flapper craze was writer-critic Dorothy Parker, who penned "Flappers: A Hate Song" to poke fun at the fad.
The rise of the automobile was an important factor in flapper culture, as cars meant a woman could come and go as she pleased, travel to speakeasies and other entertainment venues, and use the large vehicles of the day for their popular activity, petting parties.
In the United States, popular contempt for Prohibition was a factor in the rise of the flapper.