Harnett, Kerry A. “Appearing Modern”, Boston College, 2009. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/686.
This thesis explores the paradoxical role of American women in the 1920s. The Twenties was a decade of rapid industry and progressive liberalism that generated the birth of the “modern” woman. As a group, women gained significant power in political, economic, and educational domains and ushered in ideas of female independence, individuality, and free will. Yet it was also a period of superficial exploitation and objectification of female bodies. Women could express their individuality, but only within the bounds of what was deemed acceptable by the male-dominated commercial beauty culture. While women had increasing control over their lives, they used this control to scrutinize and regulate their own bodies to achieve standards of feminine beauty. The combined experience of the American woman’s new independence and power, the growing beauty culture, and new understandings of the body as a site for change was both liberating and restricting. Ultimately, this thesis shows that the Modern Woman liberated and empowered the modern American woman, while submerging her further into the strangling grasp of self-regulation and societal constructs.