The furor has almost been forgotten, but not so long ago, a woman’s haircut was cause for a divorce suit — or even suicide.
In the decade between 1918 and 1928, there were thousands of man-and-woman hours of very deep thinking put in on the subject of Bobbed Hair and womanhood. Laugh, if you will, especially if you are under thirty years old, but such merriment only shows a complete lack of understanding of a momentous and serious subject.
The first World War was drawing to a close in 1918 when women began to drift into the barbershops where they instructed the men wielding the scissors to “cut it off.” Mrs Vernon Castle, the fabulous Irene, had “bobbed” her hair in 1916, but American women were a little backward about following her example.
Still, time, as they say, does march on, and here a little and there a little the bars began to sag a little.
The idea hatched slowly but inexorably in feminine minds that they might continue to live lives of virtue and rectitude without that yard of hair to be wound up, plaited, brushed and carried around — the shampooing of which was an all-day undertaking.
Starting with girls
Many of them experimented first on their little daughters. Short locks meant some surcease from eternal braiding of pigtails or nightly “doing up” on rags to make corkscrew curls. Fathers shook their heads mournfully as they gazed at their Dutch-bobbed feminine progeny, and said they didn’t look like little girls, they were more like boys. Still, they regarded such goings-on as only miniature heresies.
It was when Mother said to herself, “If it’s good enough for Susie, it’s good enough for me,” that they began to sit up, take notice and, having taken it, set off fireworks, with reverberations coming from pulpit, press, courtroom and the business world.
Outrage and court cases over haircuts
Ministers wondered, Sunday after Sunday, what kind of mother, potential or actual, would so shamelessly discard her femininity as to allow her hair to be cut. In Kansas City, Missouri, a clergyman asserted that woman’s long hair was symbolical of the divinely preordained subjection of woman to man.
Over the state line in Kansas City, Kansas, the outraged children of one Mrs Benedict openly censured her as “un-Christian.”
The impact was felt throughout the world. In Manhattan, a Mr Silverman hauled his wife into court for bobbing her hair without so much as a “how about it” to him, and an outraged Mr Iske did the same.
Both gentlemen, however, had their ears pinned back by the judges who told them it was none of their business what their little women did with their hair.