Archive for August, 2008

Broiled Over Bobs: Society’s Reaction to the Shorn Woman of the 1920s

31 August, 2008

For cheeks scarlet and brow alabaster,
She laid on cosmetics like plaster,
And she hennaed her hair,
And bobbed it off square,
Till she looked like a frightful disaster.

–An Artistic Pupil, Mary Meade Jones, 1923

 

After World War I, women increasingly began to bob off their hair. For centuries, wives and daughters had retained long locks in the name of religion, morality, or mere public decency; but in the late Teens and Twenties of the Twentieth Century, “modern” women, concerned about social reform, stripped off the symbol of submission and servitude and donned the short haircut of a man. The style, characteristic of flappers, Hollywood vamps, and feminists, was completely controversial and met with a good deal of both pulpit and popular resistance before being widely adopted by women.

 

It is difficult to mark the moment when women began bobbing their hair in America. As early as 1908, Clara Tice and Frances Gifford, residents of Greenwich Village, a center of bohemianism and sexual freedom, cropped off their hair in imitation of Russian intellectuals (“Vogue of Bobbed Hair” 71). Certainly, Irene Castle, an American dancer, popularized the style when she cut her short, purportedly following an illness. Photographs of Mrs. Castle appeared in popular fashion magazines, and many American women adopted the “Castle Bob”, which inspired a song entitled “Everybody Copies Me.” (“Down with the Bob . . . ” 14). In Felix Grendon’s 1919 novel, Nixola of Wall Street, he writes: “Bobbed hair was permissible, especially since Irene Castle and other stage celebrities had given it a certain vogue. But cropped hair! It was ultra or mannish or inhuman-he didn’t know the exact adjective, but it was something bad” (61).

By 1920, bobbing had become a national trend. A June 1920 New York Times article predicted “More girls than ever are going to bob their hair this Summer.” A month earlier, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. The protagonist, Bernice, decides to cut off her hair in order to gain attention and popularity during a visit to her cousin’s home. Admitting she believes bobbed hair to be “unmoral”, Bernice proceeds to have the haircut with disastrous results:

. . . She flinched at the damage that had been wrought. Her hair was not curly, and now it lay in lank, lifeless blocks on both sides of suddenly pale face. It was ugly as sin-she had known it would be ugly as sin. Her face’s charm had been a Madonna-like simplicity. Now that was gone and she was-well, frightfully mediocre-not stagy; only ridiculous, like a Greenwich Villager who had left her spectacles at home. (Fitzgerald 176, 187)

In the end, she is completely dull and a social pariah. In his story, Fitzgerald aptly captures the unfortunate transformation of so many women who were lopping off their locks.

While many Christian denominations of the period still held to the Pauline teachings on the glory of women’s hair, society also viewed long hair on women as an important totem of social order and general seemliness. It was widely considered unprofessional for women to cut their hair. Miss Helen Criswell, a Long Island City school teacher wanted to bob her hair but intentionally waited until she resigned from Bryant High School to crop her hair in order to avoid controversy (“Vogue of Bobbed Hair” 71). In 1921, F.K. Daniels, president of Aetna Insurance Company, posited that bobbed hair females were “no business women.” Fellow businessman Jerome Apple said: “I would be prejudiced against employing any bobbed-hair young women in this office.” Two women in charge of employment at typewriter companies in Baltimore, Maryland also declared that women with bobs were “not thinking much about business” (“South Draws Hair Line” 8). Marshall Fields, Chicago’s largest department store, dismissed one Miss Helen Armstrong in August 1921 for refusing to wear a hairnet over her bobbed hair until it “grew out.” One sales girl who complied with the new policy said, “They told us bobbed hair was not dignified, and we are supposed to let it grow out” (“Bobbed Hair Barred . . . ” 9). Incidentally, within the week, the department store further disallowed excess powder, rouge, and rolled stockings on female employees (“Rouge, Low Stockings . . .” 2). In 1922, the Eastern Teachers’ Association spoke similarly: “We do not encourage the bobbed-hair applicant for a teacher’s position, nor the one who uses make-up or dresses conspicuously when she tries to register with us. School superintendents will not employ them” (“‘Giddy’ Teachers Taboo . . . ” 5).

Despite claims by feminists that long hair was “unsanitary,” the health profession scorned bobbed hair, and some even pronounced it unhealthy! As late as 1924, when the bob was nearly universal, nurses were not permitted to cut their hair, and an editorial in the American Journal of Nursing notes: “The most discussed question of today is, Shall the bobbed-hair young woman be admitted to the training schools?” (“Does Bobbed Hair Interfere . . . ” 836). Doctors and other medical professionals were convinced that shorn women would suffer health difficulties including backache and stiff-neck (“Down with the Bob . . . ” 14). Some physicians, taking an evolutionary view of haircutting, declared that women would eventually become prone to baldness. According to one theory, cutting the hair short decreased circulation of blood in the scalp, “starving” hair and inducing baldness (Fendick 37-38; 84).

One young woman, who grew her tresses, citing her husband’s prejudice, who was “hot against” the bobbing trend, revealed much about the masculine mimicry of haircutting when she remarked: “Our opponents never for a moment recognize the fact that they should burst with pride rather than scorn for we are really taking them as our models and slowly but surely their customs are becoming our own” (“Bobbed Heads Unbowed” 55). Ultimately, bobbed hair was an important and unfortunate watershed in the breakdown of biblical and moral gender distinction, paving the way for the adoption of masculine attire and deportment as well as the excessiveness of further “flappery” that crossed all boundaries of modesty and good taste.

Sources:

“Bobbed Hair Barred by Marshall Fields.” New York Times, 10 Aug 1921, pg. 9

“Bobbed Heads Unbowed.” New York Times, 4 Sept 1921, 55.

“Does Bobbed Hair Interfere with the Efficiency of the Student Nurse?” American Journal of Nursing 14 (10), July 1924, pg. 836.

“Down with the Bob, Out with the Ears.” New York Times, 27 Aug 1923, pg. 14.

Fendick, Madame. “Will Bobbed Hair Make Bald Women? Experts Say ‘Yes!'”. Physical Culture 52 (1), July 1924, pp. 37-38; 84.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.” Flappers and Philosophers. (New York: Chas. Scribner’s Sons), 1920.

“‘Giddy’ Teachers Taboo: Boston Agency Bars Bobbed Hair, Rouge, and Short Skirts.” New York Times, 23 Feb 1922, pg. 5.

“Rouge, Low Stockings Banned for Girl Clerks.” New York Times, 13 Aug 1921, pg. 2.

“South Draws Hair Line: Find Bobbed Heads in Business not One Hundred Per Cent. Efficient.” New York Times, 9 Jul 1921, pg. 8.

“Vogue of Bobbed Hair, Of Course Greenwich Village Lassies Wear Short Locks, but Society’s Doing It Too.” New York Times, 27 Jun 1920, pg. 71.

Eudorus N. Bell, Vacillating Vision

16 August, 2008

In 1915, Eudorus N. Bell, General Chairman of the Executive Presbytery of the Assemblies of God, made a staggering decision to be immersed in the Name of Jesus Christ at the Third Interstate Encampment of the Assemblies of God in Jackson, Tennessee. The announcement was headline news in the August 1915 Word and Witness, and Bro. Bell claimed that as he stood on the river’s bank, he felt “the greatest anointing of the Spirit” that he had experienced in months (“Brother Bell Has Been Rebaptized . . .” 2). Bro. L.V. Roberts of Indianapolis, Indiana, who had been baptized in Jesus’ Name by Bro. Glenn Cook, was summoned to conduct Bell’s rebaptism. The Assemblies of God was embroiled in the “New Issue” controversy that threatened the unity of the entire “Finished Work” segment of the Pentecostal Movement, and Bro. Bell’s decision to be baptized in the singular Name of Christ roused alarm amongst the stalwart Trinitarian faction within the fledgling organization. He had already contributed a number of articles to the Pentecostal circulars that attempted to stem the baptismal controversy, and the papers were certainly biased toward a more Trinitarian position in the matter of baptismal invocation.

It is historically unclear whether Bell’s rebaptism signaled his alignment with Oneness Pentecostals. Most Pentecostals had begun equating rebaptism with the acceptation of the doctrine of the Mighty God in Christ, and certainly Bro. Bell could not have been ignorant of this growing stereotype within the Assemblies of God. He was a close associate of J.R. Flower, the secretary-treasurer of the Assemblies. Flower strongly opposed the Oneness movement and is widely known for telegraphing G.T. Haywood to warn him not to accept Glenn Cook’s message on Jesus’ Name baptism during his Indiana campaign.

Bro. Bell testified that he had been impressed by the Lord that he must accept baptism in the Name of Jesus during the camp meeting. Undoubtedly, this conviction must have been very strong for Bro. Bell to risk identification with the Oneness pariahs. A purported full testimony from Bro. Bell was published extolling both his heartfelt confidence in the apostolicity of the Jesus’ Name formula and its spiritual efficacy. However, according to Bro. Frank Ewart’s history, The Phenomenon of Pentecost, the Word and Witness version was pared to the point of mutilation (103).

In September 1915, Bro. Bell published an article in the Weekly Evangel tellingly entitled: “Who is Jesus Christ? Being Exalted as the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the True God of the New. A New Realization of Christ as the Mighty God.” Except for his claim to hold a Trinitarian view of God, which he admits he does not and cannot comprehend, the article is essentially a Oneness exposition of the doctrine of Jesus Christ as God Himself. While he is clearly suspended between a new vision of Christ and Trinitarian traditionalism, his opening description illustrates the experiential revelation that he articulates in the article:

I can say to-day [sic], before God and all men, that His joy is rolling in my soul now as never before. As I write His glory convulses my whole physical frame, and I have to stop now and then and say ‘Glory’ or ‘Oh Glory’ to let some of it escape. Night before last, as I lay on my bed, I heard in the Spirit the sweetest, most soul-thrilling song of the wonderful name of Jesus I ever heard since I was born. If people knew what God is putting in my soul by a brand new vision of Jesus and the wonders hid in His mighty and glorious name, they would begin to shout and help me praise the Lamb that was slain who is now beginning to receive some honor and praise, but who will eventually make the whole universe-sea, earth, and sky, reverberate with the universal praise and honor to His great name. Hallelujah to His Name forever and ever. (Bell)

This is most assuredly the testimony of a man who has not only taken on the Name in baptism but has experienced the radical joy of the truth of Jesus really is. He continues to expound on Christ as Jehovah, Father an dCreator, revealed and uses a batter of traditionally Oneness texts to buttress his arguments (Is. 9.6, Jn. 10.30, Col. 2.9, and Rev. 1.17) (Bell, “Who Is Jesus Christ?” 1). Interestingly, he continually superimposes a Trinitarianism, which would be considered heretical by orthodox subscribers to the doctrine, in an effort to connect his new understanding with the creedal position of many of the Assemblies’ leaders. In short, this article reveals E.N. Bell as theologically conflicted.

In any event, Bro. Bell’s enthusiasm on the issue of his baptism was short-lived. In a letter to Bro. J.C. Brickey, dated 20 August 1920, Bell stated that prior to his reimmersion at the Jackson camp meeting, he had been greatly troubled because he had been baptized as a Baptist and not by a Spirit-filled minister. He claims that this may have been a strong impetus, in his mind, for rebaptism; however, it seems unlikely that he would have requested that the baptism be administered in the singular rather than trine formula if he had not been assured of its veracity. He does write that he had no difficulty with the Jesus’ Name formula as Biblical but could not be associated with other “false doctrines” held by Oneness believers (Bell, “Letter . . . “).

In the end, the episode concluded with Bell’s veritable renunciation of the central importance of baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ. He returned to the fold of the Assemblies of God and disassociated himself with many of the Oneness brethren. While it was unfortunate that Bro. Bell either never stood by his conviction about baptism or fully embraced the revelation of the Mighty God in Christ, the enigmatic story reveals the powerful influence of Oneness doctrine and the vitality of spiritual vision and revelation in the early Pentecostal Movement.

Sources:

Bell, Eudorus N. Letter to J.C. Brickey. Springfield, Missouri, 20 August 1920.

Bell, Eudorus N. “Who is Jesus Christ?” Weekly Evangel, No. 103, 14 Aug 1915, p. 1

“Brother Bell Has Been Rebaptized in the Name of Jesus Christ.” Word and Witness (12) 8, August 1915, p. 2.

Ewart, Frank. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. Hazelwood, MO: Word Afalmes Press, 2001.

First Baptist Church, Anticipators of Pentecostal Revival

4 August, 2008

First Baptist Church of Los Angeles

Bro. Frank Bartleman, a journalist who meticulously documented the spiritual happenings in Los Angeles around the time of the Pentecostal revival, often frequented meetings at First Baptist Church. Bartleman, who was himself given to zealous evangelistic work and much prayer, described the environment at the church:

 

I found this meeting of an exact piece with my own vision, burden, and desire, and spent two hours in the church in prayer, before the evening services. Meetings were being held every day and night there and God was present. (Bartleman 16)
 

This prayerful church began attracting souls from all over the metropolitan area; and in July, Bro. Bartleman published articles in The Way of Faith, The Christian Harvester, and God’s Revivalist publicizing the expectant atmosphere at First Baptist. While the meetings predate William Seymour’s introduction of the Apostolic Faith, God was surely preparing the city for revival. Bartleman wrote: “The fear of God is coming upon the people, a very spirit of burning. Sunday night the meeting ran on until the small hours of the next morning. Pastor Smale is prophesying of wonderful things to come.” He closed the article with the plea: “Pray for a ‘Pentecost.'” (Bartleman 19). Even the secular press accepted Bartleman’s articles on the revival at First Baptist, and his article “What I Saw in a Los Angeles Church” was printed in the Pasadena paper, The Daily News (Bartleman 22-23).

 

In September 1905, First Baptist became embroiled in controversy when some of the church officials presented Smale with an ultimatum: ” . . . either stop the revival, or get out.” Choosing to leave rather than stifle the move of the Spirit, Smale formed the New Testament Church (Bartleman 28-29).
 
The church, which met in Burbank Hall, continued to seek the Lord.

When the Holy Ghost fell in April 1906, Smale was reluctant to receive the manifestation; but by June, he had fully accepted the message. First New Testament became another center of Pentecostal revival in the city. A July article in the Los Angeles Times sensationally describes services at Smale’s church much like the meetings at Azusa Street Mission:

Believing they have the “gift of tongues” and are chosen of God to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, members of Pastor Joseph Smale’s First New Testament Church worked themselves into a wild religious frenzy at a meeting last night in Burbank Hall. (“Rolling on Floor” . . . II1)

Saints in the church reportedly rolled on the floor, screamed, screeched, jumped, and spoke in tongues.

While Azusa Street has assumed a central place in the Pentecostal story, the Apostolic revival may owe a great debt to the seeking souls of Pastor Joseph Smale’s assembly whose quest for a spiritual outpouring prefigured the Azusa meetings and certainly prepared the city for the widespread outpouring of the Holy Ghost and fire. Revival never comes without prayer and expectation, and Joseph Smale and the First New Testament Church were hungry for the “real Pentecost” that came to Los Angeles in 1906.
 
Sources:
 

 

“Rolling on Floor in Smale’s Church.” Los Angeles Times. July 14, 1906. pg. II1.

 

 “A Wave of Religion Spreads Over Wales.” New York Times. 18 Dec 1904, pg. 4.