Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl

Something I've been writing and was going to revise, but never got to do.
Photographs from Paris

When I first discovered these vintage photographs of two women sitting in a Paris café with their coffee and flapper gear a few years ago, I was completely drawn to the pics. As every picture tells a story, these pictures capture a time, a place, and something I couldn’t put my finger on at that time. The two independent and carefree looking women piqued my curiosity. Who were they? What did they do for a living?

You can tell by their flapper hairstyle and outfit that this is a story of two women in the 1920s. Flapper was a term coined for the independent Western women of the 1920s who defy the traditional norms of society. The economic independence that many women gained after the First World War, as a result of replacing male workers who went to war, had paved the way for women’s freedom to express themselves and their greater presence in the public sphere. Alongside the changes in literature and the arts during this period, the flapper lifestyle and culture were part of the brief revolution of the ‘20s which challenged traditional values.
So who were these two stylish women sipping coffee at a Paris café? Of course I looked it up. The woman on the left is Solita Solano (1888–1975) and on the right is Djuna Barnes (1892–1982). Both were American journalists who had moved from New York to Paris following the migration of American writers and artists to France during the 1920s–30s. Paris was a safe haven and where the action was for modernist writers, poets, and artists during that time. American writers found Paris inspiring as the city gave them freedom to express themselves as well as to live an alternative lifestyle compared to the conservative postwar American society.

Solano and Barnes spent most of their productive years as writers in Paris and was part of the writers of the Left Bank circle. With other women writers, they contributed a different perspective to modernism but unfortunately were less recognized in modernist literature than their male peers. So it’s no wonder that looking at the pictures, most people would not know who they are.

Solano touched fame when one of her short stories was adapted for the film, Beyond the Rainbow (1922) and Barnes is well-known for her classic novel, Nightwood (1936). The pictures which were taken around 1922—thanks to the photographer, Maurice Brange—have immortalized these two talented women writers for the world to see. Come to think of it, these pictures of two sharp looking women hanging out in a Paris café tell a story not only about a time and place but a story about change.

Posted in Self promotion on May 10 2019

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