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Lobby card for Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), an example of a film which helped create the American public association of chorus girls with gold diggers.

A gold digger is a person, typically a woman, who engages in a type of transactional relationship[1] for money rather than love. When it turns into marriage, it is a type of marriage of convenience.


The term "gold-digger" was popularised as a slang term in the early 20th century. The term originated in Rex Beach's 1911 book, the Ne'er-do-Well, and was occasionally used in other literature during the 1910's, including My Battles with Vice by Virginia Brooks and Muncey's Magazine.[2]

The term became more popularised by the 1919 by "The Gold Diggers" play, which associated chorus girls as wanting to marry rich men, and further reflected in the subsequent film four years later, The Gold Diggers.[3]:143

Both the Oxford Dictionary and the Random House Dictionary of Historical Slang refer to the term as pertaining distinctly to women.[2] The term's gendered nature stems from the early 20th century economy, where women were much more likely to need to marry a wealthy man in order to maintain a level of socioeconomic security.[4]

Peggy Hopkins Joyce was in the 1920s considered an example of a gold digger,[3]:143 with some exclaiming the term was even coined to describe her.[5]

The term made its way to Britain in the 1930s after the British remake of the Gold Diggers film. While the original film was disliked by critics, several sequels with the same title were made.[4]

Use as a stock characterEdit

In 1920s and 1930s American cinema the "gold digger" was the type of femme fatale that gradually replaced the "vamp".[3]:143-144 The character type would be featured, for example, in How to Marry a Millionaire, a 1953 film starring Marilyn Monroe, alongside Schatze Page and Loco Dempsey.

Use in rap musicEdit

In the analysis of rap music it has been theorized that the "gold digger script" is one of a few prevalent sexual scripts present for young African American women.[6]

Kanye West's "Gold Digger" references gold digging.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Rosenberger, Stephen (2014). The Relation Equation. p. 60. ISBN 9781498202671. OCLC 896840085.
  2. ^ a b "Entry from October 25, 2009: Gold-digger". October 25, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Sharot, Stephen (2018). Love and Marriage Across Social Classes in American Cinema. Springer. ISBN 9783319824321. OCLC 1049600007.
  4. ^ a b Thompson, Sharon. "In Defence of the 'Gold Digger`". Onati Socio-Legal Series.
  5. ^ Rosenblum, Constance (2015). Gold Digger: The Outrageous Life and Times of Peggy Hopkins Joyce. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 9781627798242. OCLC 919319036.
  6. ^ Stephens, Dionne P.; Phillips, Layli D. (1 March 2003). "Freaks, Gold Diggers, Divas, and Dykes: The Sociohistorical Development of Adolescent African American Women's Sexual Scripts". Sexuality and Culture. 7 (1): 3. doi:10.1007/BF03159848. ISSN 1936-4822.