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When a 10-year-old flapper danced the Charleston on the wing of a plane- 2,000 feet in the air

Neil Patrick

This footage is a flapper version of the saying ” Dance like there is no tomorrow.”

In 1927, this 10-year-old, Mildred Unger, danced the Charleston on the wing of this airplane while it was flying 2,000 feet in the air. The flapper stands as one of the most enduring images of youth and new women in the twentieth century, and is viewed by Americans as something of a cultural heroine nowadays.

However, back in the 1920s, many Americans regarded flappers as threatening to conventional society, representing a new moral order. Although most of them were the daughters of the middle class, they flouted middle-class values.

They shrugged off their chaperones, danced suggestively, and openly flirted with boys. “Flappers prized style over substance, novelty over tradition, and pleasure over virtue.”

Ruth Gillettes, a 1920s singer, had a song called “Oh Say! Can I See You Tonight?” which expresses the new behavior of girls in the 1920s. Before the 20s, for a girl to call a guy to suggest a date would be impossible. But in the 1920s, many girls seem to play a leading role in boy-girl relationships, actively asking boys out or even coming to their homes.


Flappers’ behavior was considered outlandish at the time and redefined women’s roles. In the English media they were stereotyped as pleasure-loving, reckless and prone to defy convention by initiating sexual relationships.

Some have suggested that the flapper concept as a stage of life particular to young women was imported to England from Germany, where it originated “as a sexual reaction against the over-fed, under-exercised monumental woman, and as a compromise between pederasty and normal sex”.

In Germany teenage girls were called “Backfisch“, which meant a young fish not yet big enough to be sold in the market.

Although the concept of “Backfisch” was known in England by the late 1880s, the term was understood to mean a very demure social type unlike the flapper, who was typically rebellious and defiant of convention. The evolving image of flappers was of independent young women who went by night to jazz clubs where they danced provocatively, smoked cigarettes and dated freely, perhaps indiscriminately.

They were active, sporting, rode bicycles, drove cars, and openly drank alcohol, a defiant act in the American period of Prohibition.  With time, came the development of dance styles then considered shocking, such as the Charleston, the Shimmy, the Bunny Hug, and the Black Bottom.

Neil Patrick

Neil Patrick is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News