CHARLOTTE, NC: Myth Trivia asks do you remember the ads for Virginia Slims cigarettes that used the slogan “You’ve come long way, baby“? Virginia Slims had their coming out party in July, 1968 with a marketing idea designed specifically to appeal to the contemporary sophisticated ideals of working women.
Slims were narrower in circumference than standard cigarettes and also longer than traditional “king-sized” cigarettes giving them a more “elegant” feminine appearance while ostensibly reducing the amount of smoke they produced.
Ironically, less than three years after their debut, on January 1, 1971, at 11:59 p.m., it was a Virginia Slims commercial that aired during The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson became that was the final cigarette advertisement to be broadcast on television before the implementation of the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act that banned radio and television advertising of all cigarettes in the United States.
It got Myth Trivia wondering about other things that were taboo roughly 100 years ago that are completely acceptable today.
Here are ten:
Reading in bed:
Some things just cannot be improved upon, and one such item is the best cure for insomnia ever invented; curling up in bed with a good book at the end of the day. Believe it or not, such an enterprise was once frowned upon.
Not because it was inherently evil but, more likely, because a paper manuscript getting too close to a burning candle could sometimes turn a sleeper into Joan of Arc.
It wasn’t exactly like being stopped for doing ninety in a 65 mph speed zone, but the world’s first speeding ticket was issued to an Ohio motorist in 1904 for going 12 miles per hour. Some people were so frightened by the thought of machines hurtling passengers forward at such reckless speeds, they predicted it could result in everything from immediate asphyxiation to a moral and intellectual decline.
Women in pants:
During the San Francisco Gold Rush, a woman in pants had to lobby her local alderman for permission not to be arrested for not dressing like a prostitute or a maid. Women’s trousers were introduced in 1918 under the liberating name of “Freedom-Alls.” They included a belted tunic over harem pants, which basically meant that women looked like Barbara Eden spewing out of her lamp on I Dream of Genie.
Rumor has it that George Sand is still spinning in her grave today. Ta-rah-rah-boom-de-aye!
During the late 1700s, tomatoes were dubbed “poison apples” because some aristocrats got lead poisoning while eating tomatoes on pewter plates which were especially high in lead content. The undeserved reputation stuck with tomatoes to the degree that even 19th-century poet Ralph Waldo Emerson considered them “an object of much terror.” Just think about all the great pizza they missed.
When The Washington Post reported that a 17-year-old girl had died while dancing the Charleston in 1926, her doctor attributed the death to the “extreme physical exercise” involved in all the kicking and hand gestures of dance. This was “particularly dangerous for young women,” he warned.
Today, of course, women just “whistle while they twerk. ”
The Color Purple:
In 1903, an article in the Boston Globe described purple as “the most dangerous color there is.” It went on to say
“If purple walls and a red-tinted window surrounded you for a month with no color but purple around you, by the end of that time you would be a madman. No matter how strong your brain might be it would not stand the strain, and it is doubtful if you would ever recover your reason.”
So much for grape juice and royalty.
Believe it or not, bathing on a daily basis didn’t become a routine ritual until the mid-20th century! Bathing was for a special occasion. We can thank Madison Avenue and magazine advertising for grooming products that made us aware of the health benefits of soap and water in those pre-coronavirus days.
There was a time in the Victorian era of history when catching a glimpse of a woman’s ankle was just about the equivalent of full-frontal nudity today.
French inventor Louis Réard became the Albert Einstein of swimwear when he attempted to introduce the bikini to the world. Made from just 30 inches of fabric, he hired a 19-year-old stripper to showcase his creation when he couldn’t find a model who would wear it in public.
Modern Girl magazine opined that it was
“inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing.”
Today we even have mono-kinis and butt-floss thanks to Réard’s vision. So much for stealing a glimpse of an ankle.
Women with tattoos:
At the turn of the 20th century, tattoos had a reputation for being associated with sailors, prostitution, and assorted unsavory lowlife characters. Unless a woman was working for the circus or sold her body for money, getting inked just wasn’t socially acceptable.
No mas, senorita. According to a Harris Poll, today women with tattoos outnumber men, 23% to 19%.
Singing the National Anthem before a sporting event:
Standing for the “Star-Spangled Banner” never happened before 1931 because that was the year it became our official National Anthem. Prior to that if you stood up before a ballgame, it was just to get a hotdog or to “getcha col-beah.” (cold beer).
Yes indeed, we’ve come a long way, baby.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.