Was the flapper a feminist?

In her twenties, she began to experience some of the same frustrations as her more traditionally feminine colleagues. As a single mother with little in the way of support networks, the struggle for professional recognition and career advancement became painfully evident.

According to sociologists Laura Goggin and Julie Beck, “The movement for women’s suffrage was a civil rights struggle to gain equality with men in the workplace. It was also a battle for equality in the workplace for women.” In order to claim their rights, women had to prove that they were equal to men.

This “census,” also called the American Female Survey, was held every ten years and consisted of two surveys: the survey of the women in an organization and the survey of women working for large institutional organizations. The two surveys took different forms. In the survey of the women in an organization, the respondent answered questions about their gender, their occupation, and the nature of their job. The woman’s primary objective, after all, was to receive her “regular salary and benefits and to be treated fairly.” This survey was designed to produce a census of women in their 30s in an attempt to create a picture of the work environment. For example, “All the data should be collected by the employer,” the survey demanded.

Goggin and Beck argue that “[u]pending and ongoing efforts were directed toward an accurate representation of the gender makeup of the workforce.” This was accomplished by asking women what they were doing at work: “We expected that these interviews would lead to a more accurate picture of the work environment. We wanted to ensure that women knew that they were not being penalized for their personal lives or that they would not be held to a gender standard.”

The female survey question had the potential to provide a powerful message about women’s experience of work.

In a sense, this survey was a kind of anti-sexist test of the gender binary. One of the questions asked the women who participated to state that the reason they did not like their job was that they were doing too many things at the same time. When women were asked about the number of children they had, many of them responded that they had “too many. Too many” as if this was a reasonable answer to the question. This is consistent with women’s “overcrowding” (see above), which is also a commonly experienced negative consequence of motherhood. However, Goggin and Beck’s analysis suggests that this is an outcome of the work environment