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April 29, 2020

Meet the Women of the Anti-Flirt Club in the 1920s

If the Anti-Flirt activists of the early 20th century had gotten their way, cheeky advances and drive-by flirting would today be things of the past.

The Washington-based chapter of the Anti-Flirt club. President Alice Reighly is posed at the head of the staircase. (Library of Congress)

The Anti-Flirt Club was an American club active in Washington, D.C., during the early 1920s. The purpose of the club was to protect young women and girls who received unwelcome attention from men in automobiles and on street corners. The Anti-Flirt Club launched an “Anti-Flirt” week, which began on March 4, 1923.

The club had a series of rules, which were intended as sound and serious advice. These were:
  1. Don’t flirt: those who flirt in haste often repent in leisure.
  2. Don’t accept rides from flirting motorists—they don’t invite you in to save you a walk.
  3. Don’t use your eyes for ogling—they were made for worthier purposes.
  4. Don’t go out with men you don’t know—they may be married, and you may be in for a hair-pulling match.
  5. Don’t wink—a flutter of one eye may cause a tear in the other.
  6. Don’t smile at flirtatious strangers—save them for people you know.
  7. Don’t annex all the men you can get—by flirting with many, you may lose out on the one.
  8. Don’t fall for the slick, dandified cake eater—the unpolished gold of a real man is worth more than the gloss of a lounge lizard.
  9. Don’t let elderly men with an eye to a flirtation pat you on the shoulder and take a fatherly interest in you. Those are usually the kind who want to forget they are fathers.
  10. Don’t ignore the man you are sure of while you flirt with another. When you return to the first one you may find him gone.
February 27, 1923 – Miss Alice Reighly, 1409 Harvard Street, president of Anti-Flirt Club, which has just been organized in Washington, D.C., and will launch an “Anti-Flirt” week beginning March 4. The club is composed of young women and girls who have been embarrassed by men in automobiles and on street corners. (National Photo Company Collection)

A Washington Post article from February 28, 1923, titled “10 Girls Start War on Auto Invitation,” laid out the problem: “Too many motorists are taking advantage of the precedent established during the war by offering to take young lady pedestrians in their cars, Miss Helen Brown, 639 Longfellow Street, declared yesterday.” Brown, the secretary of the nascent Anti-Flirt club, warned that these men “don’t all tender their invitations to save the girls a walk,” and while there were “other varieties of flirts,” motorists were the absolute worst.

Brown, along with the president—a Miss Alice Reighly of 1400 Harvard Street—made their plan of action known. On March 4, 1923, the first-ever Anti-Flirt Week (and only since) would commence.

February 27, 1923 – Portrait of Miss Alice Reighly, president of the Anti-Flirt Club. (Library of Congress)




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