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Who Was She?

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Summer Travel Number., Digital ID 824776, New York Public LibraryOnce upon a time, long before Hilary, there lived a woman during the Art Deco era of the 1930s. She was a famous actress like Katherine Hepburn, with a face recognized by people the world over. But this woman was exceptionally notorious. Why? She made a habit of wearing trousers in social situations at a time when women simply didn’t do so—not without causing a scandal. The outrage aroused by her actions might seem remarkable to us today, but—trust me—she generated real hostility.

And her reaction was only to do more. She appeared in a film one time in a man’s tuxedo, and later on kissed a woman on the mouth. Her run-in with French police over her public appearance in a trouser suit (the forerunner of the pantsuit) made newspaper headlines across the globe. By 1939, however, her wearing of pants in a film actually brought a sea-change in her studio executive bosses. They decided that her androgynous look was beneficial after all.

Who was this groundbreaking woman? I’ll provide the answer in the next post. Hint: we have a lot of great pictures of her in our Digital Gallery!

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