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June 3, 1923

Under the headline “Where is the Girl of Today Bound?” The New York Times reported on a study of 200 Vassar students, “held with the sanction and aid of college authorities,” that sought to sample their opinions on contemporary questions.  Religion was important to some 75%, and churchgoing was to 40%; 141 students thought their “most important job in life” was a successful marriage and family.  Only eight of the students—drawn from all four classes—embraced socialism, and, while 30 more thought it had some good points, 70% called it “impractical.”  Responses to the work of Sigmund Freud were unenthusiastic, with 11 students thinking it valuable, 17 opposing his theories and 50 considering him “overemphasized.”  By contrast, the autosuggestive positivism of Emile Coué attracted 123 of the students, while 26 had a negative opinion of it.

Students’ actual responses to specific questions added texture to the statistics:

For What Tasks Are You Fitting Yourself?

“Marriage and family, but not immediately after college.”

“To practice medicine, vote intelligently, keep house efficiently and raise a family successfully.”

“I want to be able to do something worth while, if I don’t get married. I would rather do that, though.”

Can a Woman Marry and Have a Career?  If Not, Which Would You Choose?

“Many can. I hope I am one of them.”

“Yes, if she had a large enough personality; but few have.”

“It takes an unusual husband to stand for it.”

“Most of us would choose a career, but the marriage habit is a rather well-established one.”

Do Your Believe in Flappers?

“Their self-reliance at least in commendable.”

“Flapperism is over. Girls are going to the other extreme now.”

“The independent, self-confident, innocent flapper is quite harmless. She will get over it and be all the better for the experience.”

“Just a passing type: receiving more notoriety than she deserves.”

The Years