According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the phrase is American in origin, and its first known use dates back to 1941.
We had to do a little digging, but we did find the original 1941 reference.
Or so we thought.
It was in an Ohio newspaper, The Sandusky Register. Page six of its October 8th issue was entitled “Society Events of City and Vicinity.” Listed there was a schedule for the Modern Priscilla Club’s upcoming events, including a review of a short story by Paul Gallico in The Saturday Evening Post.
Ah-HAH. So this short story was the culprit!
|Our very own Glamour Puss, Miss Allie.|
But before we found this, we simply had to know: what was a Modern Priscilla?
Modern Priscilla clubs were evidently quite the rage back in the day. The name crashed together two different concepts:
1) The "old," embodied in a well-known Victorian miss, Priscilla Mullins, who came over on the Mayflower, and
2) The "new," the 1920’s Modern Woman.
That settled, we went on to look at The Saturday Evening Post story reviewed by the Modern Priscillas. We didn’t have to go far to find the first use of glamour-puss. It was right in the title: “the Sub-Deb and the Glamour-Puss," published July 14, 1941.
(Okay, confession time: then we had to go find out what ‘Sub-Deb’ meant. Turns out this references a debutante before her coming-out party. Wow, we’re finding loads of words no longer in use in today’s post!)
Sadly, you’ll have to go to your local library to read this tale. We found no free copies of The Saturday Evening Post to share with you on the internet.
As far as the inspiration behind the phrase Paul Gallico coined? We assume the “puss” part comes from the same origin we discovered while researching Sourpuss back in November: it’s slang for "face" or "mouth" in many different languages.
(By the way, if you haven’t read “Sourpuss” - boy, are you in for a fun surprise!)
Gallico’s new phrase caught on like wildfire, and was a popular phrase used by American soldiers in World War II. There was even a military aircraft that used the phrase as its nose art. But if you google it, be prepared to be scandalized. The modern versions are a bit more revealing than the original, seen in a photo here (you'll need to scroll down & biggify to see).
The most famous woman to be labeled a “Glamour-Puss”? According to our search, that would be Ginger Rogers.
So now you know!
Mayflower History: Priscilla Mullins
University of West Florida's e-newsstand
The Sandusky Register October 8, 1941
“The Subdeb and the Glamourpuss” by Paul Gallico published in Saturday Evening Post, June 14, 1941 (page 22)
The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English: A-I By Eric Partridge
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary's definition of glamour-puss
Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang edited by John Ayto, John Simpson