Women with cigarettes in the 1920s

Women with cigarettes in the 1920s

  • Cigarette.

    LEBASQUE Henri (1865 - 1937)

  • Marie de Rohan-Chabot, known as Princess Murat.

    ABBOTT Berenice (1898 - 1991)

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

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Title: Marie de Rohan-Chabot, known as Princess Murat.

Author : ABBOTT Berenice (1898 - 1991)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Before 1932 Photographed by François Antoine Vizzavona.

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Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Vizzavona / Franck Raux

Picture reference: 00-028361 / VZC63676

Marie de Rohan-Chabot, known as Princess Murat.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Vizzavona / Franck Raux

Publication date: September 2011

Professor of contemporary history IUFM and Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1.Head of University for all, Université Jean Monnet, Saint-Etienne.

Historical context


The image of a woman with a boyish hair twitching her long pearl necklace on a dance floor and Charleston music typifies the stereotype of female empowerment of the Roaring Twenties. Books (Boyish by Victor Margueritte, 1922; The budding wheat de Colette, 1923), fashion magazines (Women of today, Vogue, Your beauty), cinema (Greta Garbo), the place occupied by women in the progress of aviation or sport (tennis with Suzanne Lenglen), would reflect this emancipation. This "new woman" obviously concerns only a thin section of the elite of fortune, the nightlife or the art world, who feel a thirst for pleasure after the difficulties of the war. As a whole, women are more the victims of a forced return to the home and a brutal takeover of men (anti-contraception laws, ban on the right to vote, etc.).

Image Analysis

Smoke it to appear woman

The cigarette accompanies, as ever, the female body in advertising imagery. The Gitanes brand, created in 1910, takes a feminine form. Especially American cigarettes arrive in Europe, and “[their] delicate and unblemished scent will evoke our contemporaries, who are sporty, resolute and enterprising, and who admit a lighter and a checkbook in their small bag, near the beauty accessories. ”(Lucky Strike advertisement, 1927).

Without advertising message, the post-impressionist painter Joseph Henri Lebasque makes his daughter smoke in a southern atmosphere, closed shutters, subdued light, multicolored colors, rocking chair. Then twenty years old, Hélène, known as "Nono", wears a light dress which shows her arms and her calves, a long necklace, a bracelet, matching earrings, an elegant wrist watch, a cloche hat on hair cut short. She holds, in a very natural posture which undoubtedly denotes a habit, a cigarette with her left hand. Wise and modern, that's the idea, in short.

Vizzavona, specialist in fine art photography, portrays Marie Rohan-Chabot (1876-1951). The wife of Prince Lucien Murat, descendant of an illustrious family, claims to be "a woman desperate for freedom". A writer, she also runs a painting gallery and produces portraits and landscapes herself. Here again, there is no sign of "madness": the painter woman is wisely seated in an armchair. But her gaze, her boyish hairstyle and her cigarette show a certain liberation from previous social conventions.


The "roaring twenties" of some historians are rather wise. The use of cigarettes to translate female emancipation seems slim. In the 1920s, the image of the woman who smokes simply tends to become commonplace. “Good manners” are changing, but slowly.

  • bourgeoisie
  • women
  • tobacco
  • 20s


Christine BARD, Les Garçonnes, Fashion and fantasies of the Roaring Twenties, Paris, Flammarion, 1998.Marylène DELBOURG-DELPHYS, Le Chic et le look.History of women's fashion and manners from 1850 to the present day, Paris, Hachette, 1981. Salomé MURAT-CHALANDON, Marie Murat. A woman overwhelmed with freedom, Colmar, Soferic edition, 2007. Didier NOURRISSON, Cigarette. History of a tease, Paris, Payot, 2010.

To cite this article

Didier NOURRISSON, "Women with cigarettes in the 1920s"

Video: Kent old cigarette commercials - 1950s, 1960s - part 1