Downton Abbey-Era Miami: Flappers, Mansions, and American "Royalty"

Categories: Film and TV

vizcaya_1922.jpg
via vizcayamuseum.org
Vizcaya in 1922.
The women of Downton began cutting their hair and adapting to more of a flapper style dress and more progressive attitudes in 1920. Were Miami women doing the same?
Absolutely. There's a quote in a book, "They bobbed their hair short and their skirts and yelled whoopee" and that kind of sums it up. Women's suffrage was going on and that was a major change. They were cutting their hair and shortening their skirts and not having to wear stockings to cover their legs.

As a mother who raised children in a time of change it wasn't always easy. It was the difference between covering yourself up as a Victorian and having your hair piled on top of your head and having your daughter turn into a flapper. I'm not sure there was ever as much of a jolt between generations as there was then. And they also started perms, you've seen those kind of kinky cuts, and they wore makeup and they drank. It was the Prohibition era. And they had cars, and so these girls who had been chaperoned suddenly were going out in cars with guys without their mothers. Women were also going to college more.

In Downton Abbey women were still expected to marry within their station and adopt a traditional role, although it was slowly beginning to change. How were the societal norms for couples in Miami in the '20s?
I think people tended to marry within their station. They would tend to marry each other because that's who they socialized with. Miss Harris School was a private school on Brickell and a lot of these families' children went there. It was a girl's school. The boy's school was Ransom. It started in the Adirondack Mountains for part of the year and the winter was spent in Coconut Grove. That's how the Mathesons found out about South Florida. They came to visit and they liked what they found in the Grove and William Matheson moved really close by. So Miss Harris had the girls and Ransom had the guys.

They really didn't interact with normal Miamiams though. A few might have. Dr. Jackson, the doctor who came down with Henry Flagler, he would have probably interacted as their doctor. But there were few locals who might have. Mostly it was this winter group who were with each other.

Our two cents: Sounds like celebs flocking to Star Island soirees today, doesn't it? Some things never change. And despite some similarities between the two towns, an ocean apart, somehow we suspect life in the tropics wouldn't have agreed with the Dowager Countess. Not hardly.

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1 comments
Kantzler
Kantzler

Murder unresolved?  At this point, the beginning of episode two, in the third season in the series, “Downton Abbey,” there is a serious problem touching on literary justice.  I am referring to Miss. O’Brien’s murder of Lady Cora’s unborn child.  So far, the only price she has paid for this sin has been guilt, almost driving her to make the fatal error of confessing to Cora when she finally learned Cora was not seeking to replace her.

Is this justice?  No.  Of course it isn’t.  So, there must be some fall that is due before the series ends which will bring O’Brien to account.

Since O’Brien became aware of the threat to Lady Mary, posed by John Bates’ wife’s threatened, public revelation of the true circumstances of the death of the Turk visitor in Mary’s bedchamber, and the subsequent shame it would bring to Lady Cora and the House, I believe O’Brien poisoned (or had poisoned) John Bates’ wife in order to prevent the threat from ever materializing.  In O’Brien’s mind, atonement and the relief of guilt for causing the death of Cora’s unborn child would be served.  The discovery of this, and the subsequent prosecution, would at last bring literary justice to bear on O’Brien’s transgressions.

Or, she might remain unscathed... but, somebody, besides the Earl’s valet, Bates, murdered Bates’ wife.  Who better than O’Brien, and who, besides Bates’ second wife, Anna, who it seems would be completely out of character (and plot) as a murderess, had a motive along with the flawed character to carry it out?

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