The New Woman

Famous Bolshevik feminist Alexandra Kollontai wrote an article in 1918 about "the New Woman" as a literary character in her revolutionary work The New Morality and the Working-Class. Some of her summaries of different "New Women" in contemporary novels remind me of Goldenbird characters! I haven't read any of the quoted books before, so I hope that this is a sign of "being in touch with the Zeitgeist", not plagiarism...
In Colette Yver's The Princesses of Science (1907), Kollontai finds a Goldie lookalike:
[...] the woman doctor Laucorojelo, the typical single woman, strides with sure step, her beautiful head held high. Science and the practice of medicine constitute the substance of her life. The clinical wards are at once her temple and her home. She fights for recognition and respect among her male colleagues; gently but unyieldingly she rejects all attempts to win her over to marriage. She needs to be free and alone for her beloved activity, without which she cannot live. She is severe in dress, she apportions her time strictly, she struggles to acquire a practice and experiences the triumph of self-love with the victory over her male colleagues as diagnostician.
Mayann is easily recognizable in the summary of Grete Meisel-Hess' heroine Maya in The Voice (Die Stimme, 1919):
The restless, temperamental Maya's impetuously pushes forward. She has an ironical disposition. To her, all experiences are but stages on the way to herself – to the shaping of her personality: struggle with her relatives for independence, separation from the first husband, a brief romance with an Oriental hero, a second marriage [Cut! Cut! Don't spoil the story for us, Comrade Kollontai!] until Maya finally finds the man who exhibits respect for her inner "voice," this symbol of personality, who recognizes her importance and knows how to create an inwardly free love bond about which Maya has dreamt all her life.
[...] Unconsciously, she follows Goethe's counsel: "to begin one's life anew every day, as though it were just beginning ..." "My stronger, more courageous will, which nothing could break, saved me – my unconscious will to self-preservation. It led me through life like a guardian angel," says Maya of herself.
But where's Lou?...
Although Kollontai made an important point about the "New Woman's" independent attitude in relationships with men, this "New Woman" still maintained relationships to men and was defined by them as modern and "single". Even the woman doctor mentioned above had a harmonious long-distance relationship, which transformed her to a "feminine" creature in private life. Thus, there is no place for Lou among Kollontai's "New Women", because Lou essentially refuses to be defined through heterosexual relationships. (She certainly has male friends like Andy, but she insists in treating them according to the rules of "male" friendship, whether they like it or not.) But Lou would never say: "I curse my female body; because of it you do not notice that there is still something else in me – something more valuable", as one heroine exclaims. She dresses in men's clothes to get attention, not to avoid it. This makes her a *real* New Woman in the sense of Kollontai's conclusion:
The influence of women earning their own livelihood spreads far beyond their own circle. With their criticism, they "poison" the minds of their contemporaries, they smash old idols, they raise the banner of revolt against those "truths" with which women have lived for generations.


La Siréne des tropiques

From Josephine Baker's first movie, La Siréne des Tropiques (1927). Josephine played a native girl on a generic tropical island, who falls in love with the young French engineer played by Pierre Batcheff.
Found in an interesting article by Ylva Habel, film historian: To Stockholm, with Love: The Critical Reception of Josephine Baker, 1927-35

"If we adjust our tastes to those of the lower races, it will be the downfall of our culture," thundered an anonymous "letter to the Editor" in Stockholms Dagblad (23 July 1928), when Josephine Baker appeared in person on a Swedish stage for the first time in history. Another preached: "Don't we have enough leg-shows and flirtation in [Ernst] Rolf's and Karl Gerhard's revues [...]? … is there no longer any prohibition in Sweden against showing a woman's entire torso?" They did not stand unchallenged:
Why should our delight over the encounter with this deeply natural human being be interpreted as a sign of the depravation of our times?
[...] those who have the capacity to live in the present and to love its art forms, and in the best cases, its deep sense of decorum, should be glad to have known Josephine Baker, the international stage revue's most loveable child of nature.
(Signed 'Unbiased Theologian' - sounds like Falco, doesn't it!)
The confused but intrigued Stockholmers imagined Josephine as an unspoiled child of nature, although there were years of hard work behind her stage persona and performance. In the 30's, when she developed her look in a more divalike, chansonette-singer direction, some critics accused her of being crafty and manipulative (and indirectly admitted that she was an intelligent adult!). It is sad to note that even her most ardent admirers were affected by exotism that overlaps racism. It is difficult to find articles that gave a "human" image of her as an independent person capable of rational decisions and smart career moves without condemning her for crossing some invisible limit of acceptability.
What I find most interesting is how some reviewers depicted her as a messenger of continental European civilization to a peripheral, puritanical North. For these reviewers, she was not just a charming "primitive" - she was a symbol of Paris, city of lights. And that is exactly what she would become during her long career.


Headlines from 1920

The Goldenbird story tales place on the exact dates of June 19th-23rd. The story this far has reached June 21st. What happened in the world during those three days? The New York Times free archive gives us some funny and thought-provoking headlines of the summer of 1920.

1920, June 19th
Goldenbird: The gang gathers in the politically disputed, Italian/Slavic resort Ginestra. Falco is scheming, Mayann is busy with her rehearsals and swimming lessons, and Andy and Lou paint the town red in the evening.
Meanwhile, in the real world:
D'ANNUNZIO STATES TERMS. Tells Giolitti He Won't Yield Fiume Till Independence Is Granted. - We all should know d'Annunzio and his Fiume escapades by now...
ITALIAN PRISONERS KILLED. Albanian Attacks Follow Assassination of Essad Pasha. - Some Albanian forces blamed the assassination on "Italian intrigue" and took out their anger on 330 POW's.
AIRCRAFT BUILDERS' TASK; To Convince People Planes Are Safe "... The next generation will know more about airplanes and flying than we do today of the automobile..." - Modern technology revolutionized communications, but Lindbergh's cross of the Atlantic was still far in the future.
ROOSTER FOR DEMOCRATS. Illinois Woman Declares Mule Isn't the Right Party Emblem. - I thought it was a donkey? Certainly wouldn't improve the quality of dirty political puns.
SEAMEN RESENT GERMANS. British Delegate at Conference Clashes with Teuton. - The International Seamen's Conference in Genoa, Italy, was disturbed by quarrels between the former enemies. NYT was slightly biased as well: "... a German delegate, with red upstanding hair and red pointed beard, rose with an arrogant air and delivered his speech in loud tones."
ITALY ASKS ABOUT SUICIDE. Government Wants Facts from Palmer About Red's Imprisonment. - This famous case involved the alleged suicide of anarchist Andrea Salsedo. As a worker for the political newspaper
Cronaca Sovversiva he had been taken in for interrogations without arrest or warrant by the Bureau of Investigations in February 25. There, he was urged to reveal names and details about his comrades. His widow claimed that he had been tortured before he threw himself from the 14th floor on May 3. His case inspired anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti to organize protests, which would incriminate them further in the famous "trial of the century" 1920-1927.

1920, June 20th
Goldenbird: Falco is chased by mountain warrior monks in the Slavic hinterland, while Mayann continues her flirt with the swimming teacher, and Lou realizes her and Andy's adventures have had serious consequences.
Meanwhile in the real world:
WARNS OF FUTURE SHORTAGE OF OIL; Director of Geological Survey Declares That Consumption Has Overtaken Output. - 80 years ahead of his time!
HARDING THE HARMONIZER, GENEROUS AND LIKABLE; Republican Presidential Nominee Began as Poor Boy, Became an Editor, Has Ideal Home Life, Is a Baptist and Believes in Good Causes, But Plays Draw Poker - Warren G. Harding would become the next (and for some time, reputedly the worst) US president soon.
NEW IMMIGRANT TYPE EXCELS PREDECESSOR; Ellis Island Finds Proof in Decreasing Numbers of Undesirable Arrivals. - Didn't stop the US authorities from enforcing racially discriminatory immigration laws for the next few decades.
HARLEM LIBRARIES DRAW THE CHILDREN; Two Branches Crowded with Eager Throngs of Enthusiastic Subscribers. SOME ATTRACTIVE EXHIBITS Clubs and a Large Variety of Books for Youthful Readers Lure Young of Many Races. - Happy news from a part of New York City that would soon be the cradle of a great Africa-American cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.
GERMANS DEPRESSED OVER THEIR FUTURE; Looking Forward with Anxiety to the Outcome of the Spa Conference. PRICES STILL MOUNTING Workers Like the Republic, but Business Circles See Only Hope in a Dictator. Deny Planning Revenge. Sans Souci Beauty Unimpaired. Labor Likes New Republic. Big Crowds at Theatres. - Germans may have been gloomy, but many of the Allies still thought they were recovering a bit too fast, and were maybe even enjoying themselves secretly!
ALAND EXCITEMENT GROWS. - Sweden and Finland were having an argument about the Åland islands, which eventually became the first international dispute that the League of Nations managed to solve peacefully.
SIBERIAN PARLEYS BROKEN OFF; New State and Japanese at Odds Over Scope of Negotiations. - The "new state", the Far Eastern Republic, ended as a Soviet puppet state.
LITTLE THINGS FOR SUMMER; Collars, Guimpes, Scarfs and Bags Become Important Adjuncts to the Wardrobe Belts and Sashes. "... FEMININE wardrobes acknowledge no limit in accessories. And this season, perhaps more than ever before, has contributed beautiful and truly artistic "little things" as parts of the prevailing styles. What can add more freshness or charm to the general appearance of a costume than a crisp new collar or a sash?" - What is a "guimpe"? This? As an accessory lover, I am intrigued.

1920, June 21st
Goldenbird: Falco is back in town. After a skirmish with a pointy-eared Russian anarchist and Dr Shapiro, he is ready to face the greatest challenge of them all: Mayann the red-hot jazz baby.
Meanwhile in the real world:
OVERALL PARADE IN PARIS. Poets and Actresses Devote the Day to the Wearing of Blue Jeans. - They didn't have the vote yet, but they had the threads...
COLLEGE MEN URGED TO LEAD; Dartmouth Students Told of America's Mission In the World. - While Wilson's plans for an active US foreign policy were torpedoed by a widespread isolationist opinion, the theoretical idea of a universal mission takes hold - "a mission given by God for the sake of humanity".
OIL PRODUCERS SAY PRICES MUST RISE; Further Advances Are Needed if Healthy Competition Is to Remain. DEMAND EXCEEDS SUPPLY. - It has returned to haunt us...
WELCOMED MEXICAN INVASION; Thousands of Families Crossing the Border to Till the Soil and Otherwise Build Up the Southwest 100,000 in the Northward Movement. Replacing the Drift to Cities. Entering the Sugar Beet Field. Qualities to Be Reckoned With Bilingual New Mexico. - More happy news, but we cannot escape the sad:
2 DEAD, MANY HURT IN CHICAGO RIOT; Sailor and White Civilian Killed and Colored Policeman Wounded by Negroes. AMERICAN FLAGS BURNED Police Reserves and Rifle Squad at Scene of Trouble Started by Parading Abyssinians. In the shadow of the horrific Red Summer of 1919, race riots continued to flare up locally in America. The mysterious "Abyssinians" of the article were a "return to Africa" movement inspired by Marcus Garvey, possibly "The Star Order of Ethiopia".


"Characterology - An Exact Science"

L. Hamilton McCormick (author, inventor and scientist, 1859-1934) supplied his law and architecture studies with extensive travelling in America, Europe, and Northern Africa. He married an English lady and his three sons were all officers in the Great War. An inventor, art collector and sculptor, he also participated in the war effort as a government adviser on various topics (financial matters, but also submarines).
Among his most peculiar and perhaps most futile efforts was a book and educational course on "Characterology" (Chicago, 1920). The character analysis system, "an attempt to produce a scientific, objective system to assess an individual's character", was based on physiognomy and phrenology, the notion that physical traits reflected inherent and acquired traits in the human character. One of McCormick's novel principles was that the human faces could be divided into two basic categories, the convex "masculine" face (sloping forehead, protruding nose, receding chin) and the concave "feminine" face (protruding forehead and chin, small and upturned nose). All people exhibited mixtures of these extremes, and achieving the perfect balance through careful selection of spouses was one of McCormick's main ideas.
This sounds all cute and entertaining, of course, but McCormick managed to spice it all up by adding the usual racial stereotypes into the mix. The extremely detailed classifications of different nose shapes, for example the "Roman", the "Aquiline", and the "Semitic", are infused with moral judgments, but the author saw no need to supply any empirical evidence to prove his claims.
Because I am a pictorial artist and hobby caricaturist, faces and body shapes are very interesting to me. McCormick's book is fun entertainment and a typical sign of its times. When I read it, I realized how much I have been using these physical stereotypes, which have been perpetuated in the last 100 years' explosion of mass culture. Here are some examples of how McCormick's analyses fit the characters of Goldenbird. The physical features are listed according to McCormick's ranking of their importance for the character.

Falco Peregrini
* BRUNET type: "Dark skin, hair and eyes refer to passive love or the desire to be loved, and to an acute sense of taste and appreciation of flavors, and for this reason brunets make excellent cooks." (He hasn't had the chance to show off those skills yet, if he has any...)
* FACE: broad at the top, narrowing down ("wedge") - "memory, bookishness, power of imitation, the facile acquisition of languages, and the love of acquiring knowledge from all sources" (Certainly applicable.)
* EYES: "The keen, sparkling 'black' eye is as aggressive among eyes as the Roman nose is among noses; its glance is so penetrating that it might almost be likened to the thrust of a sword-blade. The 'villain in the play' is represented with a swarthy complexion, piercing black eyes, heavy, coarse eyebrows and coal black hair." (Maybe this is why some of my readers have initially "read" Falco as a villain character, although he hasn't really been up to any wickedness until now...)
* NOSE: aquiline; "arched, so that from root to tip it exhibits a gradual and continuous outward curve... if large and forceful denotes many of the traits which belong to the Roman (aristocratic, commanding, aggressive) and Semitic (suave, clever, calculating) varieties but it is usually more refined..." - "Small men frequently have large, forceful noses, and thus the weakness attendant on a diminutive physique is compensated for by aggressiveness and strength of purpose exhibited by the large size of the nose; for strength of purpose is more potent than physical strength in most contentions in life." (Falco would attribute that to the grace of God, not his nose...)
* HAIR: "Black hair, like all brunet signs, suggests Southern descent, the Phlegmatic temperament, passive affection, memorizing power and love of music; it also signifies religious tendencies, love of brilliant colors, judgment of flavors, lethargy, lack of initiative, a tendency to follow rather than lead, and to accept the views of others but not to originate." (Etc., etc... You be the judge.)
Andy Kurikka
*BLOND type: Although McCormick usually describes blonds as "forceful and assertive", the Scandinavians are an exception to the rule: "the extremely cold climate ... develops lethargy... due to the inactivity which accompanies the long winter months." (Poor Finn, he can't get anything right, can he!)
*FACE: A square face expresses wilfulness, perseverance, and obstinacy. "Pronounced breadth of jaws indicates an unchangeable, stubborn mind, and is hence contrary to reason and sound judgment". (If Falco represents the over-civilized Southerner, Andy is clearly the primitive Northerner. Not unintentionally...)
*EYES: Small eyes see less but comprehend more. "Blue eyes are original, energetic, and practical ... they evidence a selective or poor memory and also concentration of purpose, energy, reasoning capacity, shrewdness and sound judgment. Blue and black eyes are antagonistic between members of the same sex but are attractive to the opposite sex. ... Grey eyes ... lack the depth and warmth of the black and the sympathy of the blue. People who possess this variety are inclined to be calculating, systematic, and matter-of-fact." Eyebrows: "Thick, bushy eyebrows ... bespeak masculine traits, as well as a severe, uncompromising nature and conceit."
*NOSE: The "Retrousse", upturned nose, "a feminine type of nose, is often associated with a high vertical or projecting forehead or a projecting chin... the high forehead referring to memory, conscientiousness, and an absorbing mind, the projecting chin to wilfulness, obstinacy, economy, passive or receptive affection, and memory, the prominence of the chin balancing the lack of force suggested by the concave nose. ... When the phlegmatic temperament is present, the Retrousse refers to a serious, non-demonstrative, reserved and non-energetic character."
Is Falco the charismatic little tyrant, and Andy the stubborn but docile foot-soldier? I think they are the most obvious stereotypes in my character gallery. In another post, I will take a look at Mayann and Lou. Read McCormick's book here, if you can stomach it.


Berliner Polizisten

Berliner Polizisten, originally uploaded by punalippu.

Berlin cops, 1930's style. I love this uniform!

By Walter Trier, from the children's book Pünktchen und Anton by Erich Kästner.


The Europe of Goldenbird, Part 2

I can't sleep anyway, so... here goes.
Yellow star: Location of Ginestra, the stage of Goldenbird.
Red stars: Hometowns Paris, Warsaw (Goldie's), Tampere (Andy's).
Blue outlined stars: Where I want to set more stories. France, Berlin, Istanbul, the Crimea, Helsinki, Moscow, secret Finnish military bases in Petsamo...

The Europe of Goldenbird

Europe after the Great War, originally uploaded by punalippu.

Europe after the Great War. From Illusionernas årtionde by Rütger Essén, Bonniers (Stockholm 1940)


The Poet-Dictator and his Legionaries

From "Världen sedan 1914" by T. Vogel-Jørgensen (Swedish edition), Natur & Kultur 1939

No bucket jokes, please...