There is an opposing view found in the scholarship that contrary to thinness being the preferred female body type at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, fatness or the more pleasing-sounding word “voluptuousness” was popular. In his biography Sophie Tucker: First Lady of Show Business, Armond Fields claims about his subject, “Physically mature for her age, Sophie’s appearance was in keeping with the voluptuous feminine ideal of the day exemplified by such popular stage stars as Lillian Russell, Fay Templeton, Anna Held, and Eva Tanguay.” Perhaps Fields is being kind to his subject. Or perhaps something more complicated is at play. We are dealing with two different classes of women. Show business women were not the women of the higher social classes. In fact, Tucker’s family practically disowned her when she left them to pursue a career on the stage. The Jewish community condemned her and saw her as, “a ‘bad woman,’ for having left her husband, child, and parents.” The females Brumberg writes about are middle and upper class women, and if these women were trying to separate themselves from working class women through their thinness, we can assume that some working class women had larger bodies. The problem of anorexia nervosa seems to have affected middle and upper class women. Thinness became popular with the upper class, not with the masses.
Joseph Kerr, NOBODY LOVES A FAT WOMAN: Portrayals of Female Obesity in Early American Cinema.