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Zelda Fitzgerald, The First American Flapper

September 21, 2018

Zelda Fitzgerald, The First American Flapper

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald was born on July 24, 1900 in Montgomery, Alabama. She married F. Scott Fitzgerald in April, 1920, and when he called her, The First American Flapper, it stuck.

Born the youngest of six children, Zelda's mother named her daughter after a gypsy queen in a story she had read. She favored baby Zelda and doted on her.

Zelda was a spirited and lively young girl, which posed a challenge for her father.
Zelda's father, Anthony Sayre, was a successful associate justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. She described home life with him as, "a living fortress" and they fought often. He was frustrated with Zelda's antics, routinely calling her a 'hussy'. Even her friends didn't like to spend time at Zelda's house because of the relationship she had with him, but Zelda wasn't the least bit intimidated.

Anything but dull, Zelda was a wild and unpredictable young woman, known for diving naked into fountains, smoking, drinking and staying out all night.

When World War One broke out, dozens of infantry men flooded into the military camps near Zelda's home. Her mother asked her to perform a ballet dance to entertain the young men. Zelda was a gifted dancer, but she didn't want to perform. However, Zelda adored her mother and wouldn't disappoint her. It was at that dance where she caught the eye of a young officer, named F. Scott Fitzgerald. The two became inseparable, and began a 22 month-long courtship that ended in their marriage in New York City.

Scott's first published book, "This Side of Paradise" came from inspiration he received while away, through Zelda's love letters. Much of Scott's inspiration came from Zelda and her diary, which he sometimes copied word for word. At 22 years old, Scott"s new book was a huge success.

Darlings of the Jazz Age, theirs was a tumultuous marriage, ravaged by jealousy, infidelity and competition. Zelda had writing skills of her own, but her husband was quick to dismiss them.

When she wrote "Save Me The Waltz", her only published book, Scott accused her of borrowing ideas from his book, "Tender Is The Night".  Zelda teased Scott, publicly, that he believed, 'plagiarism begins at home'.

When Zelda was in her late 20's, they were living in France. Many artists, including Ernest Hemingway, had re-located to Paris or The French Riviera to escape strict Prohibition laws at home. Alcohol became supremely popular, thanks to the federal, nation wide ban.

Zelda had always loved ballet, but it wasn't until their move to France that she decided she wanted to become a professional ballerina. She practiced everyday, incessantly, until she suffered a mental breakdown in 1930.

Zelda spent the 1930's and 40's in and out of mental institutions, keeping herself busy, painting and writing. 

Zelda Fitzgerald Painting  
Zelda Fitzgerald's, "Fifth Ave" via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

She was diagnosed with schizophrenia, although she was more likely bipolar, suffering ongoing cycles of mania and depression.

Artistic genius/madness seem to frequently intertwine. It's been said that these restless souls create, in order to find escape.
Lucky are we, who are left with their gifts, but none of their torment.

Zelda was talented in so many ways. I've read that her pictures don't do her justice.
That there was a charisma to her that couldn't be captured and she was so much more beautiful in real life because of it.

She was outrageous, fearless and left an everlasting impression. She never let the ties that bind, immobilize her; even during a time in history when many other women did just that.
Most women gave up everything to serve their husbands. Zelda didn't sacrifice herself to F. Scott. Even in the wake of his greatness, she kept on creating, and marching along to her own beat.

By the 1940's, her and Scott were living apart. She was writing a novel and living, off and on, at a mental hospital in North Carolina. In 1948, a fire broke out in the hospital kitchen, and Zelda perished on March 10th, along with 8 other women.

It was well-known that Zelda loved her desserts and was immortalized in 2013, by Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.
Jeni launched a limited release of delicious ice cream flavors, that were as unique as their namesake. She called it The Super Limited Zelda Collection. And yes, the 1980's video game was also named after her.

Long Live The Legend of Zelda; The First American Flapper.




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