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Young woman sitting at her mirrored dressing table facing the camera.

Elaine Wormser at her dressing table, Chicago, 1930. Photography by Alvina Lenke Studios. Private Collection

Verbal Description


Hello, my name is Lindsay Williams and I am a Visitor Services Assistant at the museum. I will be reading the Who Was the Modern Woman? section for Unlocking an Art Deco Bedroom by Joseph Urban.

From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, women’s opportunities for education and employment expanded steadily, though unequally. By the 1920s, the increased availability of consumer goods and the rise of film and radio produced a popular culture that both celebrated and, at the same time, undermined the independent, educated, and sexually expressive young woman. She was encouraged to be savvy, confident, and outgoing, but only to the extent that she remained attractive and unthreatening to men. Everywhere she turned, Elaine Wormser would have encountered conflicting depictions of the "modern girl" in films, advertisements, and life. Perhaps, gazing at her reflection in the polished glass walls of her modern bedroom, she considered these conflicting ideas as they related to the woman that she was becoming.

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