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Grace Carlson

People Can Change

(7 September 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. 10 No. 36, 7 September 1946, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“But you can’t change human nature!” Every one who has argued for Socialism has heard this chestnut, which is supposed to be an annihilating answer to “impractical” radicals.

But people do change. The human being is a much more flexible creature than our capitalist-minded friends would have us think. It would be possible to list thousands of facts from history, anthropology, sociology and psychology to prove that human beings have changed their habits of thinking and acting over the years. Let’s examine only one more or less entertaining set of facts – the revolution in fashions.

Frederick Allen has collected some interesting facts about the changes in women’s clothes in his Only Yesterday which he calls An Informal History of the Nineteen-Twenties. Only 26 years ago a fashion writer reported in the N.Y. Times that “the American woman has lifted her skirts far beyond any modest limitation.” This meant that skirts were then nine inches above the ground!

Dress reform committees sprung up all over the country in an attempt to deal with this dangerous situation. A bill was introduced into the Utah legislature in 1921 providing fines and imprisonment for those who wore on the streets “skirts higher than three inches above the ankle.” At the same time, a bill was pending in Ohio which aimed to prevent the sale of any “garment which unduly displays or accentuates the lines of the female figure” and to prohibit any “female over fourteen years of age” from wearing “a skirt which does not reach to that part of the foot known as the instep.”

President Murphree of the University of Florida was tremendously agitated about the whole situation. “The low-cut gowns, the rolled hose and short skirts are born of the Devil and his angels and are carrying the present and future generations to chaos and destruction,” he boomed.

Part of President Murphree’s predictions were correct. The generation born in the Nineteen-Twenties did grow up “to chaos and destruction,” but hardly anybody thinks that short skirts had anything to do with it. Most people believe that the atomic bomb and the other imperialist war weapons were more effective.

And the generation that saw the revolution in fashions and the revolution in warfare may see the Socialist Revolution. Because people do change!

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