Postcards From the World: Calendar Girl

Postcrossing card CN-3191466, but the caption on the artwork just says, “Lady.”

I received a Postcrossing card in the mail this evening that, for a moment, had me stumped. The sender, Emma, in the northern part of China, began her message on the card by complaining about the hot summer weather. Of course, it’s February. Then I looked at the date, and saw that she mailed this last July. And it just arrived today! That’s 206 days to get a postcard here from China. The average for China is four to six weeks lately (and it was quicker a couple years ago). The mail has been so unreliable lately.

In any case, the card is one of the classic 1930s Calendar Girls pictures. This style of art originated in Shanghai, where calendar posters began featuring colorful images of young, modern women — images that blended traditional Chinese aesthetics with modern cosmopolitan settings and backgrounds. Foot-binding had been outlawed, girls and boys were learning together in school, and upper-class women were no longer forced to keep hidden away from the world. Fashions were changing too, with traditional, loose-fitting clothing giving way to a more glamorous, body-skimming look.

In many such paintings, like this one, the Modern Girl wears contemporary Western dress; this young woman even has a Victrola, a nod to the new consumer culture that was sweeping the wealthier cities of China. The Modern Girls calendars heralded a new era and a new set of social mores.

As for the other side of the postcard, Emma talks about the books she’s reading (The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood, and Brave New World Revisited, by Aldous Huxley). She also says she has several days off after receiving her Covid-19 vaccine. I wonder if it’s common, or even mandated, in China for employees to have several days off work after being vaccinated. I wish it were common here. I know of people in the U.S. who have not been vaccinated because they worry that they’ll be too sick to come to work for a day or two afterward and might lose their jobs.

Emma lives in Shenyang with her three cats. She loves traveling, cooking, gardening, going to movies, and exercising.

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