Should Daughters Be Allowed to Go to the Beach?

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

June 18, 19, 20:  These days are filled with uneventful proceedings not worth mentioning.

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Source: Ladies Home Journal (August, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

The summer doldrums continue—and it looks like Grandma didn’t even write in the diary for a couple days, and then just summarized her ennui on the 20th.

Did Grandma ever wish that she could take a fun holiday trip—say to the Atlantic Ocean?  . . . and did her mother worry about “young people today”?

Here’s a fun article I found in the August, 1913 issue of Ladies Home Journal:

How Much of This Do You Want Your Daughter to Share?

An Editorial in Pictures

The pictures on this page are taken from photos at the “bathing hour” on various public beaches that dot the Atlantic coast from Cape May to Cape Ann. They accurately indicate the free- and easy-familiarity that is continuous on these midsummer playgrounds from the opening of its season to the close.

Are the situations such as you would wish your daughter to have a share in, such as you would even have your daughter see? Where do you think such easy familiarity between the sexes—between the young of the sexes—leads?  Nowhere, do you say?  Would you be willing for your daughter to take a chance of such familiarity, leading—nowhere?  Yet that is precisely the chance thousands of American parents take when they permit their daughters unrestricted indulgence in the attraction of our public bathing beaches.

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36 Responses

  1. Perish the thought of letting a daughter be free and easy on the beaches. How times have changed!

  2. These things are so funny… we have cone such a long way in allowing women independence that even the old Virginia Slims ad is irrelevant…thank goodness! I am reminded of more recent restrictions, such as Annette Funicello having to hide her belly button in the beach movies of the 60s, or the controversy over Mary Tyler Moore playing a single gal who found herself with a career after she opted not to marry the “eh” boyfriend. It is nice, though, how these days a woman can be both feminine and feminist simultaneously, if she so chooses. And most of the time, she isn’t scolded for going out in public unchaperoned. :)

    • It’s amazing how much things have changed since the 60s and 70s. From one day to the next, it seems like there is little change; but when I think about it by decades I realize that very gradual changes lead to big changes over time.

  3. Wow – times indeed have changed…..! Neat old photos.

  4. Imagine how horrified the poor writer of the article must be when she was to travel in time and landed on a sunny day on the beach nowadays ;0) Her warning words did not have much effect: young girls (and men) still play on the beach! (thank goodness)

  5. I’m glad those days are over look how much more sensible the man’s swim attire was compared to the woman’s. I love water and beaches and summer. I would have had a broken heart in those days. :(

    • Diana, I was thinking the same thing! The boys’ suits allow for activity and the girls’ make it only slightly easier to walk through sand but do absolutely nothing else to acknowledge activity. The stockings are everyday wear and a few of the hats look like what they wore to any public event…even though the kerchief style would keep their hair cleaner and neater in the windy sea air.

    • I also love the water and beaches. I agree that the guy’s attire is more practical. I especially can’t figure out why some of the girls were wearing elaborate hats with flowers.

  6. It’s so much fun to look at these old photos. I love the last one. A young man trying to impress a young woman. Some things never change :) Annie

  7. This is so awesome– we’ve come a long way, but maybe we show too much now?

  8. Great old photos. Times have changed, but we do still worry about our daughters!

  9. I remember being five and my grandmother telling me about what they wore to the beach (she was born in 1912, so younger than yours), and how it was different. She wanted to convey how times had changed.

  10. The first photo is funny as it appears as if the handsome young man has a third hand. There are three people in that photo and appears to be the same group in the other photos. Fun pictures.

  11. What a charming look at beach wear 100 years ago! All those bodies scantily clad must have driven parents crazy worrying about wild kids.

  12. a trip down memory lane… such a treat to see these pictures and the fashion ;-)

  13. I love Helena’s diary entries – and all the history you add with it.

  14. Wonder what they’d think if they could see what is worn to the beach nowadays. I thought the term “bathing hour” was curious.

  15. Oh my! Scandalous! Love the old photos. I was looking at a youtube videos of some 70s bands and realizing just why my parents didn’t approve. Every generation has its issues with the younger generation’s permissiveness, I think.

    • I agree. As the mother of adult children, I’ve been surprised at which things changed across the years and which haven’t.

  16. Their concerns may have had some validity, even back in their day. I’ve seen the odd story from spring breaks on different entertainment shows. Nothing lady like about some of the antics or behaviour. As a parent, I’d be plenty worried.

  17. I love the pictures! Though, honestly, it didn’t look like parents had anything to worry about back then. All the girls in those photos were fully covered! (Wonder what they’d think of today’s beaches…)

  18. Slippery slope, beach wear.

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