They had pouty lips and hands on hips.
The flappers of the Jazz Age all look and sound like Betty Boop at first glance. But these winking, wiggling dolls had
an agenda: They were ferocious feminists.
I feel like they were the precursors for what happened in the 1960s," said singer Jane Voss, who adopted a flapper
persona Monday night.
The Aztec-based song-and-piano team of Voss and Hoyle Osborne explored a vibrant time in women's history in their free
concert-lecture I Want to be Bad: The Flapper and Her Song." About 20 people attended the program at Fort Lewis
College's Roshong Recital Hall as part of Women's History Month, presented by FLC's departments of History and Gender
and Women's Studies.
Osborne and Voss sing America's history" as part of the New Mexico Humanities Council's Chautauqua Program, a revival
of a traveling adult-education movement popular in the 1920s. Modern professors would do well to incorporate this type
of living history into a classroom setting. Music is like time travel.
A song is such an intimate, way to understand someone's personal experiences, even from 50 or 100 years ago," said
(Gen-Xers: Imagine Madonna and Twisted Sister playing in senior centers in 2050.)
The program began with a slide show of song advertisements showing flappers in various coy poses. Apparently, the
heavily made-up pixie look was hot back then.
Voss and Osborne performed 10 songs released between 1917 and 1930, which showcased the lively hodge-podge of ragtime,jazz and blues popular in the post-war era. Osborne, dressed in a bow tie and striped vest, played the bouncy tunes
with delight and finesse. His skill and confidence with the genre must have been honed by entertaining at the Diamond
Belle Saloon for more than 20 years.
In spite of a ferocious cold," Voss strutted in a glitzy peacock-print shawl, clearly enjoying her character. Her
voice - even on cough medicine - is a great match for the style, which requires alternately whispering or belting out
the witty lyrics.
The songs can come across as cutesy and schmaltzy, but a shocking cultural shift lies between the lines. Flappers
ushered in a new gender freedom that challenged conventions about clothing, work, relationships and sexuality. The song
Masculine Women! Feminine Men!" by Edgar Leslie says, which is the rooster and which is the hen/ It's hard to tell
'em apart today."
Osborne told the audience that proper skirt lengths were taken up as laws because it made the powers that be nervous."
But in the early '20s, empowered young women had entered the work force, won the vote and endured the horrors of World
War I. These girls just wanted to have fun. They were willing to fight for the right to wear scandalous one-piece
bathing suits in public.
Voss revealed that many of veiled lyrics were quite risqué, including those in the song My Special Friend is Back in
Town," in which a woman describes juggling multiple lovers.
The concert's title song I Want to Be Bad," is about a woman discarding social conventions in order to dance and wear
makeup: If it's naughty to rouge your lips/Shake your shoulders and shake your hips/Let a lady confess, I want to be