Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women


Since the suffrage movement, young women’s actions have been analyzed and decried exhaustively by mass media. Each new bad behavior—bobbing one’s hair, protesting politics, drinking, swearing, or twerking, among other things—is held up as yet another example of moral decline in women. Without fail, any departure from the socially dictated persona of the angelic, passive woman gets slapped with the label of “bad girl.”

Social historian Carol Dyhouse studies this phenomenon in Girl Trouble, an expansive account of its realities throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Dyhouse looks closely at interviews, news pieces, and articles to show the clear perpetuation of this trend and the very real effects that it has had—and continues to have—on the girlhood experience. She brilliantly demonstrates the value of feminism and other liberating cultural shifts and their necessity in expanding girls’ aspirations and opportunities in spite of the controversy that has accompanied these freedoms.

Girl Trouble is the dynamic story of the challenges and opportunities faced by young women growing up in the swirl of the twentieth century and the vocal critics who continue to scrutinize their progress.